Sack us over figs, say Newcastle councillors

TWO Newcastle councillors have backed colleague Brad Luke’s call for the city council to be sacked and an administrator appointed.

As recriminations continued yesterday over the $750,000 Laman Street fig tree fiasco, lord mayor John Tate revealed that he wrote to Local Government Minister Don Page about Laman Street on August 29, asking for the matter to be investigated by the Division of Local Government.

In his email, Cr Tate said there was an ‘‘ongoing division in the Newcastle community’’ and that community concerns should be aired through an investigation.

‘‘I would strongly welcome an investigation by the Division of Local Government because it would allow everything that’s occurred [during this term of the council] to be evaluated,’’ Cr Tate said yesterday.

Cr Brad Luke, Cr Aaron Buman and Cr Mike King all said they would support the sacking of the council.

As the Newcastle Herald reported yesterday, Cr Luke called for an administrator to be appointed following Tuesday night’s council vote for an independent risk assessment on the figs, the 11th time the council has voted on the issue.

‘‘The best thing that could happen to this town is to not have a council for a term,’’ Cr Buman said.

‘‘The main reason is if you look at the council we’ve spent $1.3million dealing with residents who polarise the council into indecision.’’

Cr King revealed yesterday he had seriously considering quitting the council over the Laman Street issue, describing his term in civic office as ‘‘the most soul destroying experience of my life’’.

Cr King said he would not stand for re-election next year.

‘‘At this point, I would run away from the place as fast as my legs could carry me,’’ Cr King said.

‘‘I’ve got plenty of good things in my life, I don’t need this.

‘‘[Laman Street] is about votes. It’s not about trees, it’s about votes.’’

Cr King said he would see out the term to honour commitments made to community groups in his ward.

Fellow councillor Shayne Connell, whose vote saved the trees and approved an independent risk assessment, was heavily criticised by some colleagues for his role in the drama yesterday.

Several councillors said yesterday they believed before the meeting that Cr Connell would vote to remove the trees.

He backflipped on his previous vote and agreed to support a $40,000 independent assessment.

‘‘Everyone thinks Shayne’s a dog,’’ one councillor said yesterday.

‘‘He’s not going to be trusted again after what he did last night.’’

Cr Connell conceded he was ‘‘not a very popular boy’’ with some councillors, but defended his vote.

He said he had a commitment from Save Our Figs that they would accept the results of the independent assessment.

‘‘I’m confident that [Save Our Figs] facts don’t stack up against ours,’’ Cr Connell said.

‘‘As reluctant as I am to have it go on, in the scheme of things we can cop another four weeks.’’

Cr Connell also rubbished Cr Luke’s call for the council to be sacked.

‘‘Cr Luke has come out on the record calling for himself to be sacked.

‘‘I think that’s the best idea he’s had for three years.’’

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