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10 July 2019
By Colin MacGillivray
John Robinson will decide on his future as a Horsham Rural City councillor before the council’s next ordinary meeting on July 22.
Cr Robinson this month penned an open letter stating he would ‘stand aside’ from council duties because of what he believed were governance issues.
His grievances stemmed from the calling of a special council meeting to deal with his motion of rescission against a council resolution to publicly display a 20-year masterplan to redevelop the city.
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Cr Robinson was unable to attend the special meeting because of a specialist appointment.
In his absence the motion was defeated by four votes to two, with councillors David Grimble and Josh Koenig voting in favour of rescission.
Cr Grimble described the process as ‘lawful, but undemocratic’.
Despite flagging his intention to stand aside, Cr Robinson said he had made no firm decisions on his future. He said he felt his ‘capacity to support the community and do what I was elected to do has been very limited’.
“Balanced against that, I’ve had such a huge swell of encouragement to stay on council,” he said.
“If me continuing on council works against the community wishes, then clearly I shouldn’t be on council, but that’s not the message I’m getting.
“One way or another I will know by the next ordinary council meeting, which is where my rescission motion should have been addressed.”
Debate over the City to River Draft Masterplan – a visionary 20-year document aimed at redeveloping Horsham’s central business district, riverfront and sporting precincts – being publicly displayed was the catalyst for Cr Robinson’s rescission motion.
Cr Robinson argued elements of the plan were unworkable and should not be displayed to the public.
Sports and recreation groups, including Horsham Lawn Tennis Club, Horsham Croquet Club and Sawyer Park Miniature Railway, were angry because they were not part of the planned redevelopment of Horsham Botanic Gardens.
But mayor Mark Radford said the project represented a guiding vision and was subject to change after the community had its say.
“Do I agree with everything that is shown or not shown on the concept plan? No,” Cr Radford said.
“Do I think the work done so far is a great step forward in providing a leadership plan for a growing regional city? Yes, absolutely.”
Councillors Pam Clarke and Alethea Gulvin also spoke in support of displaying the plan publicly and gathering as much community input as possible. Council chief executive Sunil Bhalla said Cr Robinson needed to clarify his intentions with the council.
“Cr Robinson has suggested he wants to step aside, but I don’t really know what that means,” he said.
“There is no provision within the act for a councillor to step aside.
“If a councillor doesn’t attend four consecutive council meetings, they are disqualified from their position under the act.”
Some community members have spoken out in support of Cr Robinson, including Horsham Amateur Basketball Association president Owen Hughan.
Horsham businessman and former councillor Robin Barber is also critical of the process and plan.
“I agree as much as anyone that we need ideas out in the community – but only after expansive consultation and exploration have established realistic outcomes,” Mr Barber said.
• The plan is now available for public comment and can be viewed online at bit.ly/CitytoRiver.
The entire July 10, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!