Cr Megan O’Hara Sullivan. Photo Bev Lacey
Cr Megan O’Hara Sullivan. Photo Bev Lacey

‘Lost for words’: Councillors in fight over new group

A TOOWOOMBA councillor has slammed some of her colleagues during a tense stand-off over the rules of entry for a new environmental advisory group.

Cr Megan O'Hara Sullivan became emotional while fighting against more changes to the council's new environment advisory committee, which was finally created by the TRC during a vote last week.

The group will give the council strategic advice on a range of environmental matters.

Cr Tim McMahon proposed an amendment to the group's terms of reference to restrict the type of people who could apply for the new committee.

Under the changes, the majority of people on the committee either need to have accreditation or demonstrable experience in the environment and sciences sector, or have a background as a rural land manager.

It comes after the council nearly removed the words "climate change" from the terms of reference during a prior committee meeting, and successfully pulled the word "advocacy" from it.

Cr McMahon said he felt the previous terms of reference were too broad, arguing passion was not enough to show a person could give high-level advice.

"I propose a motion that seeks to (require) members who would put forward an application to the advisory committee, (to have) a little bit more credibility in their knowledge of the environment," he said.

"I feel that passion is an amazing thing, but passion by itself in a committee to advise council doesn't go a very long way."

The new motion earned support from Crs Carol Taylor and Nancy Sommerfield.

But Cr O'Hara Sullivan slammed the changes, saying criticisms of the proposed committee were ideologically-motivated.

"I'm going to try and do this without getting emotional, because this has been the most unedifying fight of my life to get this committee up," she said.

"Everything from the words 'advocacy', the words 'climate change', to having people with qualifications - we don't do this with any other committee, and I'm not sure why we're doing it here.

"This has come out of the community, this is what our residents want.

"I don't know why, because of ideological reasons, we have to put so many constraints around this environmental committee - I am lost for words."

Unite to repair and heal: Climate Rally
Unite to repair and heal: Climate Rally

Cr Bill Cahill also spoke against the new additions, calling them "discriminatory" in nature.

"The terms of reference attached to this report are quite clearly articulating the types of people we are looking for," he said.

"You do not (need to) make discriminatory remarks like that to filter out community input.

"Let me be really clear - most of the people sitting around this room wouldn't be qualified to make the decisions that we do.

"I'm willing to place faith in the officers and selection panel, (and trust that the) process at which we go through will be fair and equitable."

Cr McMahon took exception to the comments, firing back with his own remarks.

"If I were to take off our politician's hat and show up for a job interview and said 'I have no experience but I have passion', see how far you get," he said.

The changes were approved 7-3. Cr James O'Shea also voted against it.