There's plenty of hot air in the Geelong Council meeting this week when one item was voted five for, five against, then the mayor cast a vote. It's all about that budget of $2 million for Christmas decorations - six months away from now, particularly that bling Christmas tree meant to float on the water and bring zillions of dollars to Geelong in tourism. I don't think so! So far there's no data and as one councillor reckons, it's 'secret men's business'.
Cr Michelle Heagney, who is responsible for
the Central Geelong and planning portfolios, expressed frustration about an
apparent lack of transparency in the council chamber, adding she found it “very
Cr Farrell moved that the item — listed at
number 16 on the agenda — be discussed openly as no preferred supplier had been
identified and the matter had been broadly discussed in public arenas
previously. Cr Farrell did not reveal what the confidential item was but said
she was concerned the scope of the project was being extended and that shouldn’t
happen in secret.
the process “secret men’s business’’. Etc
And the Age also ran the story today:
Geelong's $2m Christmas display 'wrong message'
for axed workers
Geelong council will spend $2 million on
Christmas decorations and lighting after mayor Darryn Lyons overruled a vote
for the funding details to be made public.
Alcoa's Geelong smelter will shut in August,
with 500 jobs going. Alcoa’s rolling mills, which employ another 500, will also
shut by the end of the year.
On Tuesday night councillors engaged in
a fiery debate over the $2 million Christmas project for the coming festive
Cr Jan Farrell, who represents the Beangala
Ward in Geelong, sought to defer the $2 million allocated to the Christmas tree
and lighting until the project was investigated by an independent external
auditor. Citing concerns - shared by five other
councillors - over initial and recurring costs of the project, Cr Farrell said
she disapproved of spending $2 million on Christmas decorations at a time when
many Geelong families would be feeling the pinch. ‘‘I have talked to the good people of
Bellarine, and they are not supportive of spending $2 million in the [Geelong]
CBD on a tree and lights,’’ she said.
Cr Farrell said the initial proposal for the
project stated that the tree would remain up all year and not just for the
amended time of six weeks. It is understood that when Cr Farrell also
moved a motion to publicly release a report regarding spending on the Christmas
tree, mayor Lyons used his casting vote to keep the report confidential.
Another councillor, Andy Richards, who also
voted to defer the $2 million, said it was wrong to spend $2 million on
Christmas “when people are unemployed and other costs are increasing”. “It just sends all the wrong messages,” he
said. “That money could be better spent on
employment invested through Enterprise Geelong, because what’s most important
right now is that people have a job to put food on the table.”
Cr Richards said he had not supported the
Christmas tree idea when it was first proposed to the chamber, because it was
“too much money for too little result, has no business plan and no report to
tell ratepayers what you get for the money”.
“The key issue in Geelong right now is jobs
and employment,” he said.
Fairfax Media tried to contact mayor Lyons
several times on Wednesday, but he did not return the calls.