Councillors call for grain debate to be public
ANGRY councillors have called on the council to discuss the Allora GrainX situation in the public arena, as the facility shapes up to be a contentious election issue.
Discussions about the Southern Downs Regional Council's memorandum of understanding with GrainX operators over environ- mental nuisances have been held behind closed doors at the past few council meetings.
The issue was again discussed in the confidential section of last week's council meeting in Warwick.
For the second month in a row Cr Jamie Mackenzie called on councillors to discuss it out in the open.
Cr Mackenzie said he had no problem with it being discussed publicly.
"I have spoken to members of the consultation committee who said they were struggling with it being confidential," he said.
"GrainX operators are happy it's being open and transparent."
For the past few months the council has been engaged with a consultation committee.
The committee is made up of council officers, community representatives, GrainX representatives, Mayor Peter Blundell and Cr Neil Meiklejohn.
Several councillors said they had concerns about an open discussion.
Cr Blundell said he did not believe the committee would have a problem with open discussions, but they should be notified first.
"They would not be aware the report is being considered for open council," he said.
"All involved would be aware there are issues that are commercially in confidence."
The mayor also said he did not believe it was appropriate for a councillor to speak to a committee member and report back to the council.
"There's been no move to make the minutes etc public," he said.
"The issue is more that members of the committee aren't aware it could be discussed publicly."
Cr Jo McNally agreed and said the committee should be given notice that what they said would no longer be confidential.
Only Deputy Mayor Ross Bartley and Cr Vic Pennisi supported open discussions.
Cr Bartley said keeping the issue confidential would brew more community intrigue.
Cr Mackenzie also proposed a special meeting to be held in January.
He was voted down by fellow councillors.
Cr Mackenzie said he was disappointed in the result.
"Why is this matter dragging on?" he said.
"The operator raised no problem with discussions in open council so I do not understand the need for secrecy - what is there to hide?"
In his proposal, Cr Mackenzie suggested the GrainX operators front a special meeting of the council to discuss items such as landscaping on the Herbert St frontage of the site and operating hours.
"We need a harmonious 'win-win' solution for the benefit of residents, the council and the operators" he said.
"The last thing we need is for this to be resolved through lengthy and expensive legal action."
GrainX operations have been the subject of debate over three years.
Residents have complained about noise and dust from the facility, with the council and operators working together to find a solution.