Kiama Tourism report withheld from public

Kiama Mayor Brian Petschler was forced to use his casting vote on Tuesday night to keep a controversial council discussion about Kiama Tourism behind closed doors.

Last week it was flagged a report on Kiama Tourism would be tabled at the meeting, which Cr Petschler said related to the "ongoing problems that the board appears to be having".

Kiama council contributes about $250,000 towards Kiama Tourism's budget each year, with the general manager and two nominated councillors holding positions on Kiama Tourism's board of 12.

On Tuesday night the report was classified confidential under Section 10 (A) (2) of the Local Government Act as information contained in the report "deals with personnel matters concerning particular individuals".

However, an earlier report that dealt with Cr Mark Way's resignation from the tourism board made it clear Kiama Tourism was "a separate entity" to the council.

The confidential classification was challenged by the media, and Cr Dennis Seage agreed, moving to have the debate held in open session.

"I believe the situation is a matter of public interest and should be a matter of public record," Cr Seage said.

"There are no council employees involved and we have said time and time again Kiama Tourism is a separate entity."

Cr Seage said the council contributed significantly to Kiama Tourism and all councils had a duty to be transparent.

"I believe the ratepayers in the community should know where the money is going and what is happening," he said.

Cr Seage's motion was supported by Cr Neil Reilly who said that, having read the report, he didn't believe it identified personnel matters relating to individuals or any other clause in the act regarding confidentiality.

Cr Kathy Rice said while the report itself might not cover areas that could be considered confidential, the council's discussion would be limited by the need to protect individuals.

Cr Reilly responded by saying "some things are better out in the open".

"As a council we shouldn't be talking about individuals anyway. We should be talking about staff roles and positions, but not individuals."

Cr Petschler said the report did deal with matters relating to staff members of the board, and these people needed "to be treated with respect".

"I think it would be damaging to a number of individuals if this was discussed in open council," Cr Petschler said.

"We haven't yet raised any issues with the board and we should discuss the issues before we approach the tourism board."

Councillors voted 4-4 to release the report, with Cr McClure declaring an interest and abstaining from the vote, forcing Cr Petschler to use his mayoral casting vote.

Cr Petschler said after the debate the council had resolved to request Kiama Tourism appoint a consultant to review the operations of the board. The review would be paid for by Kiama council out of tourism-related funds.

"We feel it is time to have a look at how the board is structured, how it is run, where members of the board come from and all issues of governance," Cr Petschler said.

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