Prison services heat up council debate
ACCUSATIONS of bullying and a dissent motion coloured Clarence Valley Council's decision to help ensure services are ready for the families of prisoners coming to the region's new jail next year.
Tempers became heated during debate of Cr Debrah Novak's notice of motion calling for the council to ensure there was affordable housing and other services in the region to cope with the expected influx of families of the 1700 prisoners who will arrive at the Lavadia site south of Grafton in mid-2020.
Cr Andrew Baker argued strenuously for the council to avoid the issue.
"I think (the) council should run a mile from this," Cr Baker said.
"It's none of our business. We've got enough business we don't do well enough without running out and getting more."
But it was Cr Baker's questioning of Cr Novak's voting record which raised the temperature of debate.
"Cr Novak has voted against 640 dwellings to be approved in the Clarence Valley which would accommodate more than 1500 and now is finding some sort of crisis in affordable housing," he said.
Cr Novak called for a point of order, accusing Cr Baker of bullying her.
Mayor Jim Simmons ruled the comments out of order, but Cr Baker disagreed and called a dissent motion.
Cr Baker said it was a matter of record how Cr Novak had voted and it was valid to contrast this with her motion in support of affordable housing.
But Cr Simmons said Cr Novak's reasons for voting on other matters should not be brought into this debate.
The dissent motion was lost.
Cr Baker argued the council should be a contributor in the matter, but not the leader.
Cr Greg Clancy supported the motion, urging the council to work with other agencies to find ways to provide these services.
Cr Simmons also thought it was a good opportunity for the council to be involved in one of the big changes for the community.
"We're going to have 1700 prisoners and the family members they bring to the region," he said.
"I've heard it said that not as many will move here as people think and it may not have the expected impact.
"But there is nothing I have heard in that that reassures me it will be so."
The vote was 4-3 in favour.