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The leaks give pause for thought about which side of the council’s divide believes it would benefit from leaks of selected documents. I recall, around the time Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein ordered the inquiry last September, Wilson sounded as if he wanted to claim credit that the inquiry had been established.
Now there appears to be moves afoot to establish a case against the fairness of the board’s process. Studley, who numbers among councillors who said it was a waste of public money digging out the credit-card details Mackintosh has been seeking, now appears ready to pour costly hours of staff into presenting council with a document that would smack of pure PR spin. His second question, more directly political, looks like a fishing exercise to find a flaw in the Gutwein inquiry process.
It would be instructive to hear how residents of that region (part of Kingborough Council) feel about the idea of being taken over by a neighbouring council that appears to have been judged, after a State Government inquiry, as not being up to even running its own affairs. The questions and notices-of-motion on this week’s HVC agenda suggest there is, indeed, an air of dysfunction and detachment from reality about Huon Valley Council.
Wilson has never hidden his antipathy towards Mayor Coad, and has worked relentlessly to belittle him in the eyes of the Huon Valley community.
It became apparent when Coad presided over his first council meeting that the Heart bloc wanted nothing to do with his ideas or vision for the valley.
Amid widespread apathy towards local government, there are a residents of the Huon Valley who value this third tier of government, and will have been following events closely since the new council was elected. In the new mayor, they must have felt, was a man who placed great value on self and mutual respect, as well as on a level of etiquette that, hitherto, had been in short supply in the council chamber. In the months after Coad took over, he conducted meetings with a firm but fair hand, graciously accepting the passing of Heart resolutions that he had not supported.
From October 2014, body language and remarks around the council table have been enough for the public attending monthly meetings to recognise that serious stresses have been buffeting the council. Eventually, it became apparent that General Manager Simone Watson and Mayor Coad were not seeing eye to eye.
The two board members, bureaucrats Michael Steven and Jill Taylor, have been afforded high marks from everyone I have spoken to in the months since they began their investigations. On the other side of the fence, Mayor Coad and Crs Liz Smith and Ian Mackintosh have thrice left special council meetings that had agendas controlled by the Heart team.


Out in the public arena, things became very unpleasant, with Mayor Coad looking increasingly the victim of a stage-managed conspiracy to discredit his position as the community’s elected leader. Anna Dare, possibly sensing that Coad was being dumped on by her radio co-host, cut in to say the lawyers’ report was obviously the work of those against Coad. On the day of the farce that was Newell’s interview with Coad (April 7), Mike Wilson just happened to call in to 7HOFM for a chat with his mate Mick.
WHEN he became mayor, Coad made it clear he wanted harmony on council, and that he wanted it to work as a team.
A more egregious intrusion into local politics came in the form of a media release run in the Huon Valley News (HVN) (May 4). Several letters to the ASU from valley residents protesting that its media release was a total misrepresentation of the facts met a brick wall. As a former member for more than 50 years of another union that I always felt would help me in times of difficulty, I am ashamed that a union could act with such total disregard for the facts.
Peter Coad to my knowledge has only ever spoken generously about operational staff of the council over which he presides. Mayor Coad, who approved of the first report, hasn’t been quoted as lamenting the contents of the second report, whereas the behaviour of Wilson, and his public statements, suggest that the final report has made him even more dissatisfied than he was with the first.
Nothing I have seen or heard since the new council was elected in October 2014 has dissuaded me from believing that the dysfunction that the board appears to have found at Huon Valley Council is a direct consequence of a vendetta on the part of those who wield the power at council against a man who believes that, if local government in the valley is to best serve the interests of the whole community, reform of the system and an opening up of the valley to communication with the outside world are vital. If what has been leaked about the second board report is accurate, and Gutwein decides to act on its recommendations, I look forward to witnessing Wilson leading his valley entourage on the streets of Hobart — and I hope never to see his car parked in the spot reserved for the mayor in the HVC car park. Should anyone have had the stamina to get this far, I say, in the interests of posterity, stuff of this nature should be Huon Valley archival material.
And, last Saturday (May 21), the Mercury confidently stated that the final inquiry report had recommended putting HVC into administration for a year. I’m sure Mayor Coad was no less instrumental in persuading Gutwein that HVC was dysfunctional. The first, a classic Dorothy Dixer, is clearly designed to produce a document that would make council look good. Last week, Wilson was trumpeting to the Mercury (May 20) that he would lead a march in the streets of Hobart to resist council amalgamations.


What they wanted was for their council to continue on the going-nowhere course that it had trudged down the long, secretive, unimaginative, environmentally damaging, debilitating years under the leadership of Robert Armstrong, who now relaxes comfortably in the Legislative Council. It continued its tactic of largely rejecting almost every idea from those not in their team, though sometimes coming up with a slightly revised version of an opposition idea and calling it their own. One particularly unpleasant one, in the Huon Valley News (April 13), was from Sue Clark of Huonville — realtor, mother of Cr Studley and a councillor who suddenly resigned from HVC early in the Noughties. He seemed to prefer to think that, by absenting himself from meetings with agendas that did not allow discussion of the initial board report, he was safeguarding his reputation. In that interview, it became apparent that council management, without consulting the mayor, had commissioned a report from prominent Hobart lawyers, the objective being to rebut the board’s findings. But someone wanted it out on show, possibly in the hope that Newell would use it to berate the mayor. The Heart would have none of that, and, mainly through Wilson, the constant pressure on Coad has had all the hallmarks of a vendetta.
But it is fairly obvious that the mayor (apart from support from Crs Smith and Mackintosh) has received little or no co-operation to help him achieve the way forward he proposed in his election campaign.
Wilson, at the time, seemed to be counting on something like a three-month state intervention, to be quickly followed by new councillor elections — which may possibly explain why he has been in election campaign mode for many months, possibly as far back as the election of October 2014, when he lost his bid to become mayor. Now, one of his group, Ruzicka, seems to be indirectly hinting that it might be an idea for HVC to at least consider seeking administrative control of the Channel (from Margate south and including Bruny Island).
Such is council security, I’m told it is rare for a member of the public to be allowed to penetrate much beyond the front-office counter.
And I’m sure I would have no problem finding plenty of Coad supporters on the main streets of all Huon Valley population centres) Then Newell produced a studio-quality recording of three locals slinging off at the mayor. Wilson, in their conversation, didn’t challenge any of the slurs Newell cast against Coad.
Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but it does show that Wilson is never out of campaign mode.



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