'I feel gagged': Cr Bonfield

TWO years worth of frustration with changes to council meeting procedures saw Cr Jennifer Bonfield explode at last week’s Coffs Harbour City Council meeting.

In questions with notice, Cr Bonfield had put on notice four questions about recommendations from the city’s International Stadium Board.

Cr Bonfield asked: ‘How are (the board’s recommendations) acted upon? What authority does the board have in allocation of funds? How is the stadium funded? What is council’s financial involvement and liability?’

In response, general manager Stephen Sawtell handed Cr Bonfield a sheet of paper, saying he could also email the information to all councillors.

Cr Bonfield, who had asked at the previous council meeting why there was so little reference to the International Stadium in the council’s Draft Open Space Strategy, which is now on public exhibition, was annoyed by the written response.

“We have a number of different facilities which council owns and runs,” Cr Bonfield said.

“In my 12 years (on council) there have been less and less reports and information on what happens at these facilities.

“Meetings are getting slack. We have to put questions on notice.

“The whole point of council is we are elected to represent people.

“I raised these questions because I did not think some councillors were aware of how the stadium fits into the scheme of things. Handing me a piece of paper is making the point.

“The Wednesday meetings (in camera meetings held by councillors and staff the day before the public meeting) are not adequate to bring councillors up to date with what is happening in the city.

“I am disappointed about where local government is going; I feel gagged; I am not able to express myself. This has been a smouldering furnace for the past two years.”

Cr Bill Palmer suggested a question on the Local Government Association conference agenda.

Cr Mark Graham added he would like to move toward reinstatement of questions without notice.

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