Will Hodgman

Premier of Tasmania

8 September 2015

Peter Gutwein, Minister for Planning and Local Government

Board of Inquiry for Huon Valley Council

The Hodgman Liberal Government has today established a Board of Inquiry to investigate complaints against council members and staff at Huon Valley Council.

It has become apparent that Huon Valley Council is deeply divided and, if left unattended, may soon become dysfunctional to the detriment of ratepayers and confidence in the municipality. The Government is taking action now to stop that from happening.

This course of action has been triggered by a large number of complaints the Government has received relating to the core function and roles of the Council. Complaints have been received from the majority of the elected members including the Mayor as well as from senior staff and ratepayers. The complaints have been received in confidence and it will be up to the Board to decide how they should be dealt with.

The matters broadly include elected members failing to carry out their duties under the Local Government Act 1993, failing to comply with the Council’s own Code of Conduct, mismanagement of Council property, and not maintaining a safe workplace.

I have appointed a two-person Board of Inquiry comprising of Mr Michael Stevens and Ms Jill Taylor, with secretarial support provided by the Local Government Division in the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Mr Stevens has previously held a number of senior executive positions within the Tasmanian State Service including Deputy Secretary of the Departments of Premier and Cabinet and Justice, and Commissioner for Public Employment.

Ms Taylor is a Chairperson and member of the Local Government Association of Tasmania Standards Panel. She is a former member of the Legal Profession Tribunal and a former independent Probity Auditor.

Ratepayers will not be affected during the inquiry and council will continue its normal functions. I hope by taking this action there will be no need to take the strongest course of action allowed under the Act, suspending the council and calling fresh elections.

The Inquiry is expected to take around three months with a report to be prepared for the Government by the end of November. The Government will not comment on the inquiry while it’s ongoing and we will not pre-empt the outcomes of the review.

The roles and functions of the Board of Inquiry are set out under Part 13 of the Local Government Act: http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/tas/consol_act/lga1993182/

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