WANGARATTA councillor Paul O’Brien broke ranks with other opponents of the council’s rural land strategy and blocked its recision last night.
Cr Noel Amery wanted the council’s latest stance on the strategy thrown out but only gained the support of one fellow newcomer to the council, Cr Julian Fidge.
Cr O’Brien said the council’s reputation was suffering from constant changes in policy.
“This is quite difficult for me. It was the only reason I stood for council,” he said.
“In three months, we will have revised ministerial guidelines.
“We need to not chop and change because we give the perception to investors this council doesn’t know what it is doing.”
Cr Amery said the strategy needed to be turfed out in response to last year’s council election result.
Just two members of the previous council survived the election rout.
“It was the most contentiously fought issue by the rural people of this municipality,” he said.
“There has been enough money wasted and time spent on something the council knows most of the rural community doesn’t want.”
The mayor, Rozi Parisotto, one of the two councillors to survive last year’s election, reaffirmed her opposition to the strategy.
Cr Amery’s motion was lost 4-2.
More than 100 people packed the council gallery to watch as Cr Fidge was toppled on three of his contentious notices of motion.
Two lapsed without the support of a seconder.
Another, relating to Cr Fidge’s request for a report into the reasons behind the appointment of an external consultant to provide executive support, was lost on the casting vote of the mayor.
“There is nothing personal and there is no animosity in this motion,” he said.
“It is just a request for a standard business procedural report.”
He was backed by Cr O’Brien and Cr Amery.
Cr Lisa McInerney was on a leave of absence and councillors Atkins, Don Joyce and Parisotto voted against.
“Council is a big business and we employ a chief executive whose professional judgment we need to trust,” Cr Atkins said.
But Cr Fidge won unanimous support for his bid to have all requests for legal advice and briefs on council matters be tabled at council briefing sessions.
“We can’t operate in the dark, without information,” he said.
Residents began queuing outside the council chambers more than 45 minutes before last night’s meeting.