A Tasmanian mayor says he stands by shutting down a council meeting and threatening to call the police on a ratepayer after they quoted remarks he made two years ago referencing Nazi Germany.
- A ratepayer attempted to ask a question about Chinese developer Chambroad’s controversial plans for Kangaroo Bay
- They began the question by quoting Alderman Blomeley’s controversial comments from a 2021 council meeting
- When the ratepayer repeatedly refused to sit down, Alderman Blomeley shut down the meeting and asked for the police to be called
Brendan Blomeley, the new mayor of Clarence Council — part of Greater Hobart — adjourned last night’s meeting after ratepayer Victor Marsh attempted to ask a question about developer Chambroad’s controversial plans for Kangaroo Bay.
The council sold the prominent waterfront land to Chambroad in 2017 for $2.4 million on the condition a hotel and hospitality school be built at the site, but nothing has been built and the council is considering buying back the land.
Mr Marsh began a question about the proposal by quoting Alderman Blomeley’s comments supporting the development from a 2021 council meeting, where he said opponents of the development had misrepresented the situation, using “tactics reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s Joseph Goebbels”.
Alderman Blomeley quickly interrupted Mr Marsh, telling him it was “an improper question” and asking him to “take a seat”.
“You’re actually impugning the chair, you’re making offensive remarks,” Alderman Blomeley said.
“I’m not here to debate with you, please take your seat.”
Mr Marsh repeatedly refused to sit down, with Alderman Blomeley shutting down the meeting and asking for the police to be called.
A council spokeswoman said the police were not called and Mr Marsh left the meeting on his own.
“During the adjournment, the matter was resolved between the acting CEO and community member without police involvement, and the meeting was reconvened,” she said.
‘I’m sure he’ll be back next meeting’: Mayor
Alderman Blomeley told ABC Radio Hobart he unreservedly retracted his 2021 comments at the time but was frustrated with people who had tried to “blatantly mislead” about the issue.
“They [the comments] were inelegant, they were clumsy and I certainly regret them. If I’ve caused anyone any genuine discomfort by my comments I unreservedly apologise,” he said.
Alderman Blomeley said it was his job to ensure council meetings run in good order, and reiterated his view Mr Marsh was “impugning the chair” and “making offensive remarks”.
“I’m sure he’ll be back next meeting, he and his wife are regular askers of questions, which is their right,” he said.
“But it’s also my responsibility as chair to ensure that questions are appropriate, they don’t impugn the council.
“It’s not an opportunity in public question time to take pot shots at elected members and I won’t be standing for that, I won’t be tolerating it.”
Mr Marsh told the ABC he wanted to understand how Alderman Blomeley’s position on the Kangaroo Bay development had changed since his comments in 2021 and was considering lodging a complaint with the Local Government Association of Tasmania.
“He had no right to shut me down,” he said.
“Democratic process hasn’t been adhered to and freedom of speech … it was quite a legitimate question and there needed to be an answer.”
Request for time extension denied
The council last night rejected Chinese developer Chambroad’s request for extra time to consult the community over its modified development proposal, which was rejected by the council last month.
The deadline for the council to purchase back the land is April 12, but Chambroad had asked to extend that by one or two months.
Alderman Blomeley said Chambroad had been given enough time to consult on its plans and now needed to “step up, or step away”.
A separate motion for the chief executive officer to be pre-authorised to buy back the land when the deadline occurs was also passed at last night’s meeting.
Chambroad has been contacted for comment.