FIERY: Councillors traded barbs during heated debate on whether or not the council should pursue legal action over its proposed amalgamation. NEWCASTLE City Council finally resolved to move forward with a possible legal challenge to its proposed merger with Port Stephens after thefifth extraordinary meeting called to debate the matter.
The council voted at its June 28 meeting to investigate legal action against the state government over the amalgamation, but arescission motion was lodged the same night by Liberalcouncillors Brad Luke, Sharon Waterhouse and Lisa Tierney.
Four previous extraordinary meetings called since July 4 to debate the rescission motion had to be abandoned when the council failed to reach quorum.
The rescission motion was voted down by Labor and Greens councillors on Tuesday night, but not before an at times heated debate that included one councillor beingasked to make an apology to another for what was deemed to be an offensive remark made across the table.
Cr Lukethreatened to leave the meetingearly in the debatewhen his attempt to question interim chief executive officer Frank Cordingley about who called the first extraordinary meeting on July 4 was thwarted by points of order from other councillorswho said it was irrelevant to the issue being discussed.
Arguing in favour ofrescinding the council’s resolution on courtaction, Cr Luke said it was potentially costly to ratepayers andnot only authorised council to seek legal opinion, but delegatedauthority to the lord mayor, deputy lord mayor and Mr Cordingley to pursue a case without taking the matter back tothe full council.
Cr Declan Clausen, speaking against the motion, said it was a “grubby tactic” to use rescission motions to “bog down” council administration.
“The majority of Newcastle councillors have supported a position to seek legal advice and, if possible, take legal action where there is a clear case,” he said.
Referring to a comment made byCr Luke aboutrescission motions during the previous councilterm, he said, “The fact that this meeting has dragged on for five different dates is, to quote Cr Luke, ‘incredibly poor form’.”
Themotion was defeated by six votes to three, with two councillors absent and two ineligible to vote due to conflict of interest.