Johnstone Shire Council dismissed

By Staff Writer

The Innisfail-based Johnstone Shire Council in far north Queensland has been dismissed by vote of the Queensland Parliament.

Local Government and Planning Minister, Andrew Fraser, announced the dismissal yesterday afternoon (February 8), saying the council had been at the center of highly public allegations of in-fighting and bully, and had financial problems. The council had conducted a protracted legal battle to stave off dismissal.

"This is not a decision I have taken lightly or indeed taken any pleasure in, however, the situation within Johnstone Shire Council simply cannot be allowed to continue," he said.
"It’s true that since being placed on ‘notice’ in August last year, the council has shown slight improvement but the unsavoury atmosphere that has pervaded its every day affairs has continued at the cost of good and effective decision making.
"The council has underlying financial problems and this ahs been magnified by its inability to effectively govern and make decisions which are in the best interest of the shire’s ratepayers."

Former Burdekin Shire chief executive officer, Graham Webb has been appointed the Johnstone Shires’ administrator. An election for councillors will be held during the next scheduled local government elections in March 2008.

Johnstone’s dismissal comes the day after Douglas Shire Council, also in Queensland’s north, was asked by the State Government to show cause why it should not be dissolved, following two separate investigations finding the council to be often dysfunctional.

The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) was fully briefed by the State Government on its grounds for dismissing the Johnstone Shire Council.

LGAQ president, Paul Bell, said in statement that he believed due process had been followed, the process was undertaken thoroughly and there were multiple grounds for the council’s dismissal.

"The Johnstone Shire Council will continue to be a member of the LGAQ and we will work closely with the state government-appointed administrator," he said.
"With the dismissal of Johnstone Shire Council and the issuing of a show cause notice on the Douglas Shire as to why it should not similarly be dismissed, this is not a red letter day for local government.  I do not believe that these developments reflect either a hardline crackdown or political interference by George Street in our state’s system of local government.
"In some ways, both councils have been the authors of their own misfortune and the state’s patience finally ran out.  I am also convinced that the LGAQ has done all it could to help both these councils.

Cr Bell said natural justice will apply Douglas Shire Council and the council will have 14 days to develop a response as to why it should not be sacked.

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