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'Council hinders economic growth'

Maclean developer Andrew Baker.
Maclean developer Andrew Baker.

CONTRARY to a document painting the Clarence Valley in a positive economic light this week, Maclean developer Andrew Baker described the state of play as a "council-induced" local financial crisis.

"I note your article reporting 'just a twinge' of economic pain," said Mr Baker, developer of a number of highly contested subdivisions in Gulmarrad, owner of the Maclean Hotel and candidate in the September local election race.

"The council report is probably the only place you will find such an assessment. Out in the real economy the picture is quite different."

Mr Baker said the council had a lot to answer for in holding the local economy back.

He shared a nine-page report, which outlines economic advice provided to councillors over the six-year Maclean supermarket saga, which continues to drag on.

It outlines the proposal of his company Holder Baker Enterprises (HBE) to attempt to link the Maclean CBD to a proposed supermarket and the offering to council of land along the riverfront for public use.

The document highlights 25 development applications that went before council, including many which were not put forward by HBE and criticises the quality of advice provided to councillors.

But Clarence Valley Council general manager Scott Greensill, who was appointed late last year after many of the issues raised by Mr Baker were dealt with, said it was unfair to single out the region.

"With the exception of mining- related areas, all of Australia has suffered to some degree with impacts from the GFC and Clarence Valley is no exception," Mr Greensill said.

"The recently released regional statistics however do show that while things may have slowed, growth is still occurring and that the core economy of the Clarence Valley is quite resilient."

In regards to addressing individual matters raised, Mr Greensill said many of the issues had been dealt with by a council-appointed investigator in 2011 following an email from Mr Baker.

Mr Greensill said as the email contained accusations of corrupt conduct, it was referred to the ICAC by acting GM Mike Colreavy, who responded in August 2011:

"Given that Mr Baker's list of transactions of what he believes show corrupt conduct are in most cases speculative and unsubstantiated, and noting your willingness to engage an independent planning expert to review each of the transactions he has listed, the commission has determined not to take any action."

Topics:  clarence valley council, financial crisis, scott greensill


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