Mayor Sage issues formal apology to fellow council staff

Grant District Mayor Richard Sage has issued a formal apology in relation to decisions made by council.

It was alleged Mayor Sage made comments blaming chief executive Darryl Whicker and council staff for decisions regarding local mining company Sandyridge Holdings.

Councillor Gillian Clayfield said she felt Mayor Sage’s comments were out of line and requested an apology.

“As a council we make these decisions and regardless of our personal beliefs must follow and support the direction agreed upon,” Cr Clayfield said.

Mayor Sage read his written apology at a recent council meeting, apologising for “blaming council staff and the CEO in relation to the decision of council regarding Sandyridge”.

“This issue has come out because of a scathing letter from irate ratepayers who live within 400m of the Sandyridge proposed mining expansion,” he said.

“As we’re aware the mine has been in existence for well over 50 years and this expansion is for another 100 years.

“Council staff were questioned about whether they had approached the joint landowners before the presenting of the report to council on March 21 for those residents who live within 400 metres.

“In fact, it had been left up to the Department of Energy and Mining to inform the landowners of the application for the extension of another 100 years.

“The landowners at the time were unaware that council could make a decision to comment on the future expansion.

“From our March meeting council replied to the department with an ‘in principle’ support to the application unbeknown to the ratepayers.

“The letter that came from the residents was scathing of the council for not notifying the residents of our advocacy as council staff had relied on the department, which was a fair thing to do as it would seem they are to inform the residents.”

Mayor Sage said council had since learned residents were unaware of all aspects of the proposal and were not aware council was in the process of replying.

“Given the previous issue with Sandyridge and the asbestos proposal, the elected body I feel should have thought about why the residents had not contacted us. It was one of the questions that was asked of the council at the meeting,” he said.

“I could see on the night with the delegation of residents they were so disappointed in council’s approach.

“A subsequent visit with the landowners at their properties has given us the ability to see what they were concerned about.

“They have now indicated to council they would prefer us to let them negotiate with the department.

“If we had considered the future use of the land, the expansion of the rural living allotments or what could be the changes over the next 100 years, whether the mining tenement is strictly adhered to, what could be done if a future lease did not follow the rules and whether the conditions could be included they only open up one section at a time and complete that before opening up the next one.

“The tree screening is well established before opening new sections and most importantly we have the conversation with the landowners before our letter had been sent off to the department.

“Making these decisions is an important part of being on council, not having my speaking rights and being able to carry out the position of Mayor as required under the Local Government Act also I feel has impeded this decision.

“More discussions with council’s management team on issues like this before a decision being made by council also ensures a collective response.”

Mayor Sage said, from a meeting with the residents and the discussions with the chief executive, he had indicated council would change the way it communicates and advocates.

“We need to read and question the reports and not just rely on our staff who are heavily impacted by their workloads, so that we have a more balanced view with differing opinions representing our ratepayers, as we are all elected to do,” he said.

“I am sorry if I have upset the staff and I wish to apologise to the Grant District Council ratepayers who presented on the night because they were clearly upset with council’s approach to the 100-year future expansion.

“Please accept my apology.”

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