Gleniffer Brae vote apolitical, says Brown

Wollongong City Council's controversial decision on Gleniffer Brae had nothing to do with party politics, Labor councillor David Brown said yesterday.

He was responding to claims by Kiama Liberal MP Gareth Ward - a graduate member of the University of Wollongong Council and a former student of the Conservatorium of Music - that "a Labor, Greens and independent coalition had sunk the university's $40 million proposal".

In front of a crowded public gallery on Monday, councillors voted 6-5 to support a motion from Greens councillor Jill Merrin not to proceed with a rezoning at this stage and negotiate with the university for a creative arts facility to be built closer to the city centre.

MORE: UOW drops creative arts precinct plan

Councillors Ann Martin, Vicki Curran, Janice Kershaw, Chris Connor and Greg Petty supported Cr Merrin's motion.

Councillors David Brown, Leigh Colacino, Michelle Blicavs, Bede Crasnich and Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery voted against.

Cr George Takacs declared a pecuniary interest and was absent from the chamber for the debate, while Cr John Dorahy was in hospital recovering from surgery.

Despite the likelihood of the vote returning to the council in January, the university announced on Wednesday it was withdrawing its proposal and would not comment further. Mr Ward said the council was to blame.

"These councillors have sunk a great opportunity and they should hang their heads in shame," Mr Ward said.

"Some of them are talking about finding a compromise position, but this was already a compromise position after two years of planning.

"The university put its proposal forward and the council voted - this is not a game of ducks and drakes, it was a significant decision and people who were trying to play games now have egg on their faces."

Cr Brown pointed out that those who voted in support of the university's proposal were a combination of "Liberal, Labor and independent councillors". "Party politics had no role in this," he said.

"People made up their own mind, and if you go back to the last significant vote on this some people changed their mind from then.

"I hope UOW can still in some way invest $40 million in education - particularly in the arts."

Cr Bradbery said he was working with all councillors to see if there was a way forward and a rescission motion in January was "still feasible".

He said communication channels with the UOW were open.

Cr Blicavs said she was yet to lodge the rescission motion as she had planned.

"I have thought about it, but the motion as it currently stands is for us to go back to the drawing board, which is what we will have to do after the uni pulled its planning submission anyway," she said.

Cr Martin, who voted against the proposal but had also foreshadowed a compromise position, said "emails were flying".

She said it was probably time for councillors to move on.

"Some are cranky and will be for a while, but getting into recriminations is not helpful ... there was no consensus on this," she said.

"Right now we need to talk to the Con and find out what their needs are, start a broad conversation, workshop options to construct some ideas, and it might require us to apply for funding to do the work.

"We need to do what probably should have been done in the first place, have a much more inclusive conversation, repair some bridges ... . this is not the end of the matter. We need to learn from this, identify what the key sticking points are and work through them," she said.

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