Public question time at Ballarat council meetings is rarely over-subscribed. Unless a topic is running hot, there are usually just a handful of contributors.
At the most recent public meeting, that segment of the evening appeared to be going to form. Three locals stepped forward with queries varying from rubbish collection in Sebastopol to the value of forming a citizen's assembly.
But then a Melbourne-based development company decided to embrace their democratic right with a slew of involved planning questions - eight of the total of 11 queries that were asked (or 72 per cent).
The tactics adopted by Resi-Ventures, who had four employees send two written questions each, raised the ire of one councillor.
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Many of the queries related to the Miners Rest Township Plan adopted by councillors in December 2019 - which it was revealed has not yet been incorporated into the city's broader planning scheme.
After question time had been extended beyond the normal allotted 30 minutes, Cr Mark Harris had had enough.
"I just think this is wasting council's time," he told the chamber. "I don't want to hear from a single contractor with six questions ["Eight", corrected the mayor] with people here doing public question time."
"In the spirit of it, people come here," Cr Harris continued. "I don't want to see a single developer come here and occupy that sort of time with technical questions."
"I hope to god they find some legal loophole and make a million dollars. Why do we have this in public question time? I think it's an abuse of it."
The mayor Cr Daniel Moloney was milder in his response, but wondered if an alternative approach might work better.
"I think we'd prefer developers and other businesses to first try through our officers and spend some time going through a process with them before resorting to this," he said.
"Again it's everyone's right to ask questions of us and we welcome [them] nonetheless."
Resi-Ventures were approached for comment for this article.
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