Grants from Noosa Biosphere Board triggers council clash
CRITICISM of the foundation which decides Noosa Biosphere grants funding has sparked a clash between Councillor Ingrid Jackson and Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie.
Cr Wilkie, the council representative on the Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation which awards project funding, was chairing Monday's general council committee meeting when the two verbally locked horns.
The council, in considering the NBRF annual report, had just been addressed by board chair Dick Barnes who was questioned by Cr Jackson about funding awarded to community groups where NBRF board members hold committee positions.
Cr Jackson raised concerns about the Country Noosa, Noosa and District Landcare and Noosa Parks Association groups but Mr Barnes declared neither he, as treasurer of the first two groups, nor NPA leader and NBRF board member Michael Gloster, played any part in allocating funding to the groups in question.
Cr Jackson however said she had concerns about conflicts of interest.
"I guess what I'm talking about is office bearers who are also directors (of the NBRF) and that's actually direct conflict of interest,” she said.
Cr Wilkie rejected Cr Jackson's concerns.
"They declared the conflict of interest and were not part of any (grant funding) panel,” he said.
Cr Jackson said she was referring to the fact that Country Noosa was "getting a leg up from NBRF for grants submissions”.
"And there are many organisations that could feel that they could be getting a leg up from NBRF as well,” she said.
Dick Barnes interjected: "I have to say that's exactly what we do, inviting everyone to give us ideas and help”.
Cr Jackson was not convinced, saying Country Noosa was "getting a leg up from NBRF for grants submissions”.
She also declared the board's engagement of the community in NBRF matters was "missing”.
"I think there needs to be a look at how engagement might be done better,” she said.
Cr Wilkie however said he had no such concerns about the board's performance.
"Talk is cheap,” he said.
"Any of us can claim that there is not enough transparency, but my thoughts are always with the people doing the work.”
Cr Wilkie's comment drew a quick reply from Cr Jackson who declared the deputy mayor was out of order with his response to her statement.
"I apologise if you've taken any offence from that general statement,” Cr Wilkie said, adding there has been a lot of misinformation about the role of the NBRF and he remains proud of what the board is doing.
"Yes, it's right that we ask questions, ratepayer money is involved, but to impugn improper motives and cast aspersions on the work that's being done ... there's always room for improvement, but it just rubs me up the wrong way,” he said.
Cr Jackson called Cr Wilkie as being out of order and was making personal reflections on herself.
"I believe you have failed to comply with proper meeting procedure, in that you're impugning that somehow there's somebody impugning improper motives,” Cr Jackson said.
"You are there therefore making personal reflections on myself.”
Cr Wilkie said he was impugning that some questions "were impugning improper motives and improper processes were being conducted within the NBRF, so I don't concur with your point of order there”.
Cr Jackson said here questions "were very factual” to which the deputy mayor said: "I don't agree”.
Earlier in debate, Mayor Tony Wellington has publicly thanked the Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation board for their volunteer service in helping secure major environmental projects for the shire.
"It's often easy to forget that the NBRF Board are well-meaning citizens with the good will of the Noosa Shore in their hearts,” Cr Wellington said.
"They're all volunteers. It's agreed that Noosa Shire Council are responsible for the overall management of the Biosphere and the Man and the Biosphere UNESCO program.
"The majority of the levers are under council control and the role on the NBRF has always been to bring forward big ideas and to get them implemented.
"I'd just like to congratulate all on their efforts this far and really look forward to more greatness emanating from the NBRF.”
Cr Frank Pardon praised the ability of the board in obtaining past funding and said he was confident of its success gong forward.