Mayors support push to ban developers from councils
LISMORE and Ballina mayors say they both agree with a new push to ban real estate agents and property developers from running for council.
Ballina mayor David Wright said, "it should have been in forever" and Lismore mayor Isaac Smith said, "it's past time these developer conflicts were removed as an issue for elected members".
The ban has been proposed by NSW Labor, which hopes to introduce a bill to parliament this week to disqualify property developers and real estate agents from civic office.
This will be Labor's second attempt in three years at implementing a ban, after the government voted down a similar upper house bill in May 2017.
In three decades on council, Cr Wright has worked with a number of developers who were also elected as councillors.
"A lot of the people on council were developers 20 or 30 years ago," he said.
"It's not fair that someone could use their position on council to make money.
"Especially up here, there's a lot of money you can make by rezoning land."
He said that while there are checks and balances in place regarding declarations, much of it relies on an honesty policy.
"It's an honesty system," Cr Wright said.
"If I had a worry I could hand that to the general manager, and there's a panel there (Independent Commission Against Corruption) to see if there have been any breaches."
He said the actions of corrupt councillors can impact the entire elected body.
"That's how councils get dismissed," Cr Wright said.
Cr Smith pointed out that most local councillors juggle civic duties with a day job.
"That's why there needs to be safeguards to stop conflicts where possible," he said.
"Council is so close to the community, there is too much opportunity for abuse of power and conflicts. This is most evident in development applications where local decisions impact streets, suburbs and cities."