THE state government has been asked by Mornington Peninsula Shire to investigate how appointments are made to the Bass Park Trust by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).
The request follows the appointment to the trust earlier this year of the mayor, Cr Anthony Marsh and claims by DELWP that Cr David Gill had resigned.
The shire has told the Premier Daniel Andrews and the Victorian Governor Linda Dessau that Cr Gill was never officially appointed to the trust during his four years as the shire’s chosen delegate “and therefore has not resigned and did not have the ability to resign”.
The trust was established nearly a century ago to protect land occupied by Flinders Golf Club and nearby foreshore from developers. In mid-June it asked council to revoke its decision to appoint Marsh and continue with established protocols by having the Red Hill Ward councillor (Gill) as its delegate on the trust (“Trust says ‘no’ to council’s chosen delegate” The News 15/6/22). Council took no action.
The shire’s 5 April decision to call for an inquiry by the government was sent to Andrews and Dessau by Marsh on 18 May.
Marsh’s letter included a copy of the shire’s decision (which he opposed) as well as a copy of his official appointment to the trust signed under seal by Andrews and Dessau.
Council chose Marsh as its delegate to the trust in June 2021 and the confirmation by Andrews and Dessau arrived in March this year: “I said I’d give it a year, and I’m happy to report that the Premier and Governor have signed off my appointment to the Bass Park Trust with a few months spare,” the triumphant mayor stated in an email (“Mayor claims record in trust appointment” The News 26/4/22). His appointment ends on 30 June.
The council’s call for an investigation into the appointments to the trust says Gill has been “misrepresented and treated with disrespect” by DELWP.
“Council wishes to have a state government investigation of the process and procedures involved in appointments to the Bass Park Trust and that this include the appointments of other trustees and the recent but very late appointment of mayor Cr Marsh after many months of waiting,” the shire states.
“That the relevant history regarding appointments also includes the resignation of trustees that have been ignored, sometimes for years which also happened to former Cr Tim Wood who had to wait two years for his appointment and two years after ceasing to be a councillor for his council delegated position to be revoked by the Governor in Council as required by an Act of Parliament.”
The council’s decision said the Bass Park Trust was an “important committee” whose members were concerned by “the perceived jeopardy that DELWP’s process in recommending appointments has had on the legal status of the trust”.