Councillor says developer link no issue in wave pool support
A Noosa councillor has supported a contentious Noosa North Shore wave pool after declaring a perceived conflict of interest with the project’s developer.
Cr Amelia Lorentson was allowed to take part in the application discussions, and the vote, after telling a meeting on Monday of a “personal relationship” with the applicant, Sunshine Beach builder Mark Bain.
The councillor said her children were friends of the Bain children who had attended school together and also surfed together with the Noosa Boardriders Club.
However, she said the Bains were not close friends and the two families seldom socialised together other than to say hello on the beach.
“During the election, I had an election sign at Gympie Tce petrol station with the approval of the business owner and Mark Bain, who was the landlord of the property,” Cr Lorentson said.
Cr Lorentson said Mr Bain had also been part of a video used in her election campaign supporting a return to councillor divisional representation.
She told Mayor Clare Stewart she had received “absolutely zero” funding support from Mr Bain during the election.
The councillor said she had been at a surf competition just after she had put her hand up to run for council last year and a friend put together the video of her gauging responses from the parents whose kids surfed.
“I asked them if they could answer some questions in relation to divisional boundaries, at no stage was I asking them to vote for me,” Cr Lorentson said.
“I stood very proud on my platform of independence to the point where I took zero financial assistance from everyone.
“I was 100 per cent self-funded and my mantra was ‘I have no IOU's’.
“I was not related to any real estate agent, I wasn’t part of a development group.”
The councillor said she was voted in by Noosa residents because she would not compromise her integrity and her reputation by betraying community trust.
“I believe wholeheartedly that I can consider this item impartially and in the public interest,” she said.
“I’m not going to risk a fine, misconduct because someone allowed me to put a sign up, that’s not who I am and what I do,” Cr Lorentson said.
She believed in the 12 years she had known the Bain family they had come over for dinner to her place three times.
Their most recent social gathering was a shared birthday party of their children.
“Have we met each other on the beach, and been at the same school events and surfing events, absolutely,” she said.
“I need to put that at the table.”
Council CEO Brett de Chastel said the ultimate test for the council was to determine if the councillor with the declared conflict could put the public interest ahead of their own personal association with the person.
“You make that decision,” Mr de Chastel said.
All the councillors supported Cr Lorentson staying in the room except for Cr Wilkie who believed she should follow previous advice to Noosa councillors of “when in doubt, get out”.
Cr Wilkie said in this case the applicant, who had appeared in an election campaign video, had a matter before the council with “potentially millions at stake”.
He said Cr Stewart and Cr Karen Finzel previously had set a fine example by withdrawing from the council discussions when a development applicant they’d known since the start of the election campaign had a matter decided.
Cr Wilkie said to his knowledge this would be the first time a councillor with a declared association with a developer would be allowed to stay in the room and vote.
Cr Brian Stockwell moved the motion for her to stay, which was seconded by Cr Stewart.
“It’s best to have as many councillors in this room as possible and we expect councillors to have strong connections with the community,” Cr Stockwell said.
He said the community had been made aware of the level of Cr Lorentson’s connection and that there was no funding involved and on the pre-election video Mr Bain was only providing a policy opinion and not actively advocating for any candidate.
Cr Stewart said she appreciated Cr Lorentson being so full and frank with her disclosure.
“Clearly there’s not a close personal relationship,” she said.
She said Mr Bain’s presence in the video was “purely by circumstance” … he had been at the same surf event and had not been sought out by the candidate.
“It could have been Winnie the Pooh standing there, he would have been in the video,” Cr Stewart said.