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Mayor Tate votes twice to secretly buy airports ─ residents left in the dark

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Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate (Screenshot via YouTube)

Property developer/Mayor Tom Tate has voted twice for a Gold Coast Council proposal to buy Queensland Airports Ltd, the owner of the City’s airport, as well as several other regional airports. Darren Crawford reports.

GOLD COAST Mayor Tom Tate has used his newly gained representative powers over Division 7, as well as his casting vote as Mayor, to vote twice to support the City’s secret bid to purchase a stake in the owner of Gold Coast Airport, Queensland Airports Ltd (QAL).

Tate, who last month announced that he would be representing Division 7 residents in chambers as a replacement for suspended alleged murderer Cr Ryan Bayldon-Lumsden, voted to support the purchase of the airport. Then when the vote was tied 7-7, Tate used his casting vote as chair to get the proposal passed.

Ryan Bayldon-Lumsden has been charged with murdering his stepfather and is refusing to resign as Division 7 Councillor, resulting in former Division 7 representative Margaret Grummitt answering calls in the divisional office on full pay, while Mayor Tate is representing Division 7 in council chambers, with full voting rights.

According to a report in the Gold Coast Bulletin (9 September 2023), a 40 per cent stake in QAL, the owner and operator of the Gold Coast Airport, has been offered for sale at a potential value of $1 billion. Council minutes from last Tuesday describe the proposal as a ‘Strategic Investment Opportunity’. The details, however, are being kept secret from the general public as "commercial-in-confidence" and confirm that the Mayor voted twice on the motion to proceed with the purchase (see below excerpt from the Council minutes).

Under new CEO Tim Baker, the City of Gold Coast has recently reviewed all city real estate assets under an “accommodation review” and found that the city is over-supplied in terms of office space and buildings, costing the city millions of dollars in terms of assets and operations. As a result, two office towers earmarked for council use in Southport have been cancelled and the former Albert Shire chambers at Nerang will be emptied of staff and put up for sale.

The move to purchase unrelated tourism infrastructure (the local airport, along with those of Longreach, Mount Isa and Townsville) is puzzling. It would seem to run directly counter to the outcomes of the city’s accommodation review, as is using ratepayers' funds as capital for the purchase.

Tate having two votes in Council meetings also leads to questions of possible conflicts of interest around decision-making, in that any perceived voting bloc is now a reality with the mayor’s support. Queensland’s Deputy Premier and Local Government Minister Steven Miles, however, has refused to heed strident calls from many in the community to sack Ryan Bayldon-Lumsden. This, despite Bayldon-Lumsden having breached the Gold Coast City’s Code of Conduct for Councillors multiple times. This has led to Mayor Tate virtually taking control of all council decision-making processes in Chambers via his vote as Division 7 representative, along with his decisive casting vote as Chair.

As reported last month in IA, developers are looking to capitalise on the current lack of representation in Division 7 with environmentally suspect projects at Arundel and Parkwood currently before the Council for approval. Both projects are in direct conflict with current City Plan density and height limit restrictions, and are being heavily opposed by substantial sections of the local community.

This situation can only be solved by Ryan Bayldon-Lumsden resigning as Councillor, or by Local Government Minister Steven Miles sacking him, which would trigger the search for a replacement from outside Council immediately. Community representatives have continually called on Miles to act, to no avail. 

Questions therefore remain as to whether it is appropriate for a city council to be secretly investing in private tourism infrastructure, let alone an elected public official having two votes in the same meeting.

Darren Crawford is a surfer, environmentalist, sports coach/administrator and academic. He is also vice president of Save Our Spit Alliance. You can follow Darren on Twitter @Darrencanplay.

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