Melchert hits back at Council Administration

Friday January 23 2015, 4:15pm

Councillor Terry Melchert of the Douglas Shire Council has posted a lengthy comment in response to a previous Newsport article regarding his attempt to have the fine directed at Haunting of Oak Beach organiser Richard Lavender waived. 

That article detailed claims and counter-claims between Cr Melchert and Douglas Shire Council CEO Linda Cardew that council's administrative branch was not passing along matters concerning small businesses to councillors for review. 

Newsport has reproduced the comment here for easier reading:


"From my perspective the manner in which Mr Lavender has been treated is but one, although important, example of small business and community groups being dealt less than helpfully by some areas of the Council Administration. 

It is an indication of just how important it is for Council as a whole to take a closer look at this section of its operations.

Examples of concern raised with me are:-

Builders having difficulty in negotiating building setback dispensations which in most other Local Government areas would be readily approved

A reduction in approved new house driveway widths from 6 metres to 3 metres.

A small developer who bought a development block on which a subdivision had been approved a few years ago under the current planning scheme, only to find that when he reapplied he was overtaken with so many requests for information he withdrew the application and went to another nearby Shire to carry out small development opportunities.

A motel owner who took down a 35 year old plus sign for refurbishment only to find the Council would not allow her to re-erect it.

A well-known Port Douglas family who sought to improve the amenity of its small duplex for their tenants and were knocked back for a building siting dispensation even though relatively recently a similar dispensation had been granted for one of the duplex units

A community group planning a major facility in the Shire who when they went to Council to obtain preliminary face to face planning advice were told to go to Council’s web site.

(none of the above, as far as I am aware, have been discussed at a Council meeting or briefing session – the decisions have been made by the Administration without reference to Council and as a result the community as a whole misses out on a lot of business and employment opportunities at a time when business activity is relatively low and unemployment, in particular youth unemployment, is historically high..

I am sure we can do better, and in most all other areas we are providing good, reliable and cost effective services to the community.

Returning to the Lavender matter the following are the questions about the activity I documented prior to the most recent Council meeting, and although Council’s meeting rules support this approach, the Mayor would not allow me to present at the meeting.

In my view the reason for the Mayor's approach will be readily identified for anyone who has the opportunity to read these questions as set out below.


Cr Terry Melchert



“In accordance with the Douglas Shire Council General Policy – “Standing Orders for Council Meetings” and in particular Standing 14.2 I give notice of my intention to request the following further information from the Chair after I have read the motion and before it is seconded:-


(i) Origin and Qualification of Legal Advice

The comments of the CEO published in the Agenda provide certain legal advice. Has the CEO been admitted to practice as a Solicitor in the State of Queensland and therefore the CEO is providing the legal advice to Council? If this is not the case could Council please be advised who the legal officer is who provided the advice and if this person could be given the opportunity, in closed session if necessary, to discuss their advice with Council?


(ii) “Temporary Entertainment Event ” – Isn’t the case that as at 26th September 2014 Council staff were unclear as to whether the Halloween activity required a TEE permit and at least one officer suggested that as the activity occurred annually consideration of a Material Change of Use permit would be more appropriate. Further is this uncertainty the reason on 24th October 2014 (just one day before the activity) when Council emailed Mr Lavender the advice to him indicated he MAY (the emphasis is mine) require a TEE permit rather than insisting he had to obtain a TEE permit? 


(iii) “Role of Authorised Person” – Isn’t the case that before entering upon the private property to conduct an investigation “authorised persons are required to introduce themselves to the property owner and the reason for entering the property? If so did Council’s “Authorised Persons” undertake this requirement when they entered upon Mr Lavender’s property on 25th October 2014(the night of the event)?


Further isn’t the case work undertaken by Council employees/ “authorised persons” under the Local Laws and State Legislation is undertaken for and on behalf of the Council/Administering Authority? 


(iv) Council has no Legal Power to direct or interfere with the carrying out of duties by an “Authorised Person”


Isn’t the case that under the relevant State Legislation the Council as Administering Authority does in fact have the Legal Power to withdraw a PIN (Penalty Infringement Notice)?


Further when a program Manager directs an “Authorised Person” to issue a PIN in circumstances where that “Authorised Person” is concerned and has formal information suggesting the PIN has been issued inappropriately does this constitute interference with the “Authorised Person” carrying out their duties?


(v) Haunting of Oak Beach – determined to be a Temporary Entertainment Event (TEE)


Isn’t the case that the relevant “Authorised Person” had on 26th September 2014 advice from other staff which cast real doubt over whether the activity was a TEE, and the “Authorised Person’” had real concerns as to the appropriateness of requiring a TEE permit?



(vI) Community Support for Event


Is it the view of the Mayor and Senior Staff that community support for an activity or event is irrelevant to Council involvement?


While many, including Cr Melchert, have advised Mr Lavender of the need to formally manage and regulate the activity to ensure the safety and well-being of visitors to the site, isn’t the case that both the Divisions of Workplace Health and Safety and Electrical Safety have advised they have no jurisdiction over the activity?


(vii) The adoption of the above motion will be a clear indication of Council’s intention to proceed in this direction


Isn’t the case that the background to the motion actually reads:-


“I have received many representations suggesting that the community generally supports the Halloween activity and Council should work with Mr Lavender in assisting him in staging the activity in a safe, enjoyable and successful way.


The adoption of the above motion will be a clear indication of Council’s intention to proceed in this direction” and the CEO’s comment on safety is irrelevant if the two paragraphs are taken in context?


(viii) Actions of the Council Administration which effect small business, the community generally and others 


Isn’t the case Councillors and Senior Staff are aware of the issues raised by a number of business operators including a local family and the owners Port Douglas Motel concerning the need for Council to implement an improved and inclusive approach to dealing with Development and Business licensing applications?"