Archive:   Code of Conduct

Last Updated  29/3/10



See also Conflicts of Interest



New Councillor Guidelines Released: Unbiased Decision-Making And Conflicts Of Interest

(9/3/09 - C)  These will come as a monumental shock to the system for some Councillors...

It takes a while to read through the two new Guides, and they aren't what most would call an 'easy' read.  There is a lot of information, examples and detail, most of which benefits from a second read through.  The Guides are an attempt to rationalise what's an acceptable way for a Councillor to operate, and what's not.  While the government has tried to put forward scenarios illustrating how it all works, it's hard to get an exact fit, and each circumstance will have to be assessed individually.  It's in ratepayers' best interests for them to be aware of these requirements, so get your copy of each from the DPCD website at


The "We-Don't-Want-To-Be Accountable" Majority Wins The Day On Council's Code of Conduct

(21/12/06 - C)  Code just a shadow of its former self - Councillors can keep on meeting with applicants... and they are

Two weeks ago Macedon Ranges Council finally adopted a revised Councillor Code of Conduct, and all of our Councillors signed it.  In some regards, it's a vast improvement over the previous Code.  Yet the document isn't what it was proposed to be, and should be.


That part of the draft which caused such a stir and had several Councillors squealing in protest earlier this year - the part which said Councillors will not meet with developers without an appropriate officer present - has (as anticipated) been deleted.  Councillors instead should disclose any meeting they have had with any party to a development application, at the Council meeting where the development application is to be determined.  The majority of Councillors also supported an amendment to change the Code's requirement that a planning officer chair 'objector' meetings.  Now an officer may chair a meeting.  Guess we all know what that means...  You can download a copy of the adopted Code from Council's website at


MRRA Says:


No surprises with the result.  It was clear from an early stage that a core group of Councillors simply weren't interested in or prepared to be tied down to that much accountability and objectivity, not when it comes to talking to developers and being (too?) involved in planning processes.  From memory, only Crs. Tom Gyorffy and Rob Guthrie supported the Code when it had those requirements. 


The first of the disclosures (of meetings with people associated with applications) rolled out at the Planning Committee meeting last week.  There weren't many surprises there, either, although we are still trying to work out why Cr. Henry Bleeck made a declaration regarding how planning applications would be dealt with over the Christmas break...  Here's a summary of how it went, taken from Council's draft minutes for the 13 December Planning Committee. 


Contact with people associated with the applications were declared as follows:


SD.1  Application for Planning Permit P206-0354 Use of Land for a dwelling and Construction of Associated Buildings and Works - Crown Allotment G, (off) Rutters Lane, Carlsruhe.  Harvey, Connor, Gyorffy

Officer Recommendation:  Refuse   Result:  7.30pm Cr. Harvey left the meeting and did not return.  For: Connor, McGregor, Bleeck, Relph, Neil.  Against: Gyorffy, Guthrie.


SD.2  Application for Planning Permit P206-0215 Use of Land for a Dwelling and Construction of Associated Buildings and Works - Lot 3 LP 212761N, 210 Redhill Road, Edgecombe  Harvey, Connor, Bleeck 

Officer Recommendation:  Refuse Result:  7.47pm Cr. Letchford arrived at the meeting. For: Connor, McGregor, Bleeck, Relph, Neil.  Against: Gyorffy, Guthrie, Letchford.


SD.3  Application for the Use & Development of a Dwelling on Crown Allotment F, Section 10, Redesdale Road, Kyneton  Harvey, Connor, Bleeck, Neil   

Officer Recommendation:  Refuse  Result:  For: Connor, McGregor, Bleeck, Relph, Neil.  Against: Gyorffy, Guthrie, Letchford.


SD.4  Application for use & development of an existing dwelling for the purposes of a Child Care Centre & the Erection of a Promotional Sign - Lot 1, PS 220532D, 2 Gwen Place, Lancefield  McGregor, Neil 

Officer Recommendation:  Approve  Result:  Moved Bleeck, seconded McGregor and carried.


SD.5  Application for a Planning Permit P206-0249 - 3 lot subdivision Lots 1 & 2 Pt. 124860S (formally known as part of C/A 40, Sec. 34 & Pt. of C/A 41, Sec 34, Parish of Gisborne - 20 Morrow Road, Gisborne  Relph   

Officer Recommendation:  Refuse  Result:  Moved Neil, seconded Bleeck that the matter be deferred to the Ordinary Council Meeting.


SD.6  Application for Planning Permit P205-0337 Construct Three Dwellings and Create Access to a Road in a Road Zone Category 1 at 31 Bourke Street, Kyneton  Harvey, Connor, Relph, Guthrie, Gyorffy 

Officer Recommendation: Refuse  Result:  Moved Letchford, seconded Connor and carried.


SD.7  Application for Planning Permit P206-0342 - Extension of the Victoria Tavern Hotel - the Erection of Signage & Removal of a Carriageway Easement - Lot 9, PS 341131G, 22 Aitken Street, Gisborne 

Officer Recommendation:  Approve  Result:  Moved Neil, seconded Letchford and carried that the matter be deferred to the Ordinary Council Meeting pending provision of an addendum report.


SD.8  Update on Rural Dwelling Policy 

Officer Recommendation:  Council request officers to prepare further material to address DSE concerns and if any further concerns a meeting be arranged. Result:  Moved Neil seconded Letchford and carried with an amendment (identification of links with proposed MSS). 


SD.9  Handling Applications over the New Year Period  Bleeck 

Officer Recommendation:  Consent to officers approving major developments and refrefusing applications between 18 December and 26 January.  Result:  Moved Letchford, seconded Guthrie and carried that authority be delegated for 9 specified applications and a report be prepared on matters decided to go to 14th February meeting.


SD.10  Application for Planning Permit P206-0396 - Subdivide land (into seven lots and road) - 11 Whelans Place, Romsey  Bleeck 

Officer Recommendation:  Approve  Result:  Moved Letchford, seconded McGregor and carried that the matter be deferred to the Ordinary Council meeting to allow the implications of Amendment C39 to be assessed and an additional report be prepared for consideration by Council.


SD.11  Application for Planning Permit P204-0750 - Three Lot Subdivision and Creation of Access to a Road Zone, Category One - 33 Main Road, Lancefield. 

Officer Recommendation:  Refuse  Result:  Moved Neil, seconded Guthrie and carried.


Urgent Business:  Moved Guthrie, seconded Mc Gregor that Council confirms it received the (amended) Gisborne /New Gisborne Outline Development Plan on 22 February 2006 in accordance with the resolution of 14th September 2005 whereby Council adopted the Gisborne/New Gisborne Outline Development Plan to enable preparation of a Planning Scheme Amendment and facilitate progression of the ODP and Council subsequent decisions on this matter confirm this decision.  Carried unanimously.



MRRA Presentation and Deputy Ombudsman's Submission Fall On Fallow Ground:  Code Of Conduct Hijacked For Some "Simplification" As Most Councillors Baulk At Prohibition On Meeting Privately With Developers

(14/10/06 - C)   Isn't this the type of behaviour that led to Royal Commissions in Queensland and NSW?  How much longer do residents have to put up with Councillors who seem to think they can do whatever they want?  Doesn't the Bracks government care?

In a move that perhaps sums up what's wrong with Councils under the Bracks' government's watch, at last week's Council Policy and Issues Committee meeting, five Macedon Ranges' Councillors decided they weren't having the revised Councillor Code of Conduct presented for adoption.  Note: Cr. Noel Harvey (West) was absent.


After MRRA's oral presentation (Click here), Cr. Rob Guthrie (South) moved, and Cr. Tom Gyorffy (West) seconded, a motion to adopt the Code. Cr. Helen Relph (South) opposed, kicking off the debate.  It soon became clear others weren't buying it either.  They tip-toed around, avoiding an outright 'no', before falling back on that old standard, "let's send it off to a sub-committee of Councillors". 


CE Ian Morris made it clear at the outset that for the Code to have any meaning Councillors needed to agree to it by consensus - a split vote would not be enough.


Cr. Rob Guthrie (South) said the Code was an excellent document.  He referred to extensive email traffic between Councillors in the days prior to the meeting, and knew of some concerns expressed about the content but said they were management issues.  Some Councillors had concerns with 9.2 (the section of the Code that said no private meetings with developers) but council needed to say to people these are the standards. For example, if your next door neighbour puts in an application, just tell them you can't discuss it without compromising your position - real friends won't do that to you.  This is a standard for ourselves.  He said submission comments were excellent and adopting this Code would be the outstanding achievement of the Council year, adding he had received calls from around the State - people were watching what this Council did.  Council could lift the bar and the community would be pleased if it did. 


Cr. Helen Relph (South) likewise said the Code was excellent but... she had problems with Planning Application Conference [PAC] guidelines being included in the Code, citing that if the guidelines changed the Code would have to be changed, so it would be better to leave them out of the Code in the first place.  There were a couple of things but she didn't want to go into detail.  A couple of little things needed to be tweaked. 


Cr. Henry Bleeck (East) said he was concerned with the PAC processes - he wasn't going to be a puppet to Council officers [the Code says an officer, not councillor, should chair PAC meetings] and asked who was running the show, Councillors or Council officers.  He added he represents the view of ratepayers and their view is that he is ethical. 


Cr. Tom Gyorffy (West) spoke at some length, firstly reassuring Cr. Bleeck that Council is a corporate body where officers carry out policy, who's running it is irrelevant.  He said the Code had its genesis in the OEDC Code for Officers, which had been created so there would be confidence in how Officers performed. He referred to ICAC [Independent Commission Against Corruption], a body in NSW, and an equivalent organisation in Queensland, that were set up after corruption inquiries in both states and said how ICAC aimed to achieve proper and ethical standards in government.  He told Councillors to first get a Code; the aim of having a Code is to avoid situations the Code describes.  He responded to criticism of there being too much information in the Code by saying it was better to find all rules in one document, and added he would like to see an officers' Code as well.  He urged Councillors to understand that the Code needed to be a contract between Councillors and the community, 'our' agreement with them and what they expect. He said in planning, Council deals with the private rights of individuals; it needs to act clearly at arm's-length and must also be seen to act that way.  He assured Councillors that setting standards [by adopting the Code] was not a slight on their character; adopting the Code is simply saying that the community can have confidence in how Councillors will act.  Cr. Gyorffy confessed that he personally thought a harder line should have been adopted - no meetings with developers at all - but having to have an officer present at such meetings was a compromise he could live with.  He added that the problem isn't just having meetings, it's also what is said at the meetings, and having a witness provides protection for all Councillors; it makes it an open  process.  He endorsed Cr. Guthrie's comments and urged his colleagues to present something to the State of Victoria that is a shining light of this year, to go with the Code as something that could be promoted to other bodies.


Cr. John Letchford (South) said there were glitches and mis-matches and there are other concerns that still have to be done. The Code needs work.  He flagged he would move an alternative motion to form a working party to review submissions and bring the Code back to a Councillor briefing session.  Like Cr. Relph, he also didn't support PAC Guidelines being included in the Code, saying a PAC is a separate process from policy.  He said if a friend has a development application, it can be covered under declarations made at the beginning of meetings [declarations of conflict of interest].  He said the Code was becoming a sea of words and was over-stated if a Councillor was acting honestly.  The Code was missing the salient points and was a whole list of rules and regulations; it was clouded, and had glitches and mis-matches.  He finished by saying the Code needs to be streamlined, so pull up a committee of 3 Councillors and look at alternatives.  There were a whole lot of other things that could be thrown in - such as natural justice - but the Code needed to be clear and concise and give guidance to community members.


Cr. Geoff Neil (East) said you're either ethical or you're not - that's what he believes. He refuted - wholeheartedly refuted - the intimation that if people didn't sign the Code they were crooks.   He didn't have problems with the Code, it just needed a bit of polish.  He thought looking at it would be a good thing, a couple of issues need to be cleared up, but he couldn't accept it in its current form. That wasn't a rejection, it just needs further enhancement.


The quote of the night came from CE Ian Morris when he took issue with Cr. Bleeck's comments about officers, and ended saying he wouldn't have a bar of decisions made in the backroom. 


Cr. Guthrie closed saying it had been interesting listening to the discussion.  He had hoped there would be consensus.  He recommended the Code, as is, to all saying if it is referred to a Councillor committee, there might not be much left of it when it came back, as had happened with another policy (Dwellings in Rural Areas).  He finished by saying the Code was an excellent document and he intended to abide by it.  


Cr. John Letchford objected to Cr. Guthrie's comment about the Rural policy (Cr. Letchford was a member of the committee that 'reviewed' that policy).  Note:  Crs. Letchford, Relph and McGregor "simplified" Council's Dwellings and Subdivision in Rural Areas policy.  Click here to see MRRA's report on what was left of the policy after the Councillors turned their attention to it.


The motion to adopt the Code  was put, and was supported only by Crs. Guthrie and Gyorffy.  Cr. John Letchford then moved his alternative motion, seconded by Cr. Helen Relph, that  the Code be shipped off to a 3 member committee, and that all submitters be thanked.  The motion was carried. 


Crs. Letchford and Relph nominated to be on the (sub-)committee.  Cr. Gyorffy made a late nomination and became the third committee member.


MRRA Says:


In our oral presentation to Council, MRRA said to the Councillors:


"You asked people to trust you when you asked them to vote for you.  The very least you owe your constituents is to pledge in writing to act accountably and to meet standards acceptable to the community.   You can do that by adopting the revised Code, here tonight."


But they didn't.  Is that a sign of the low regard most of our Councillors have for the people who voted for them, and for the principles of accountability that matter to the broader community?


Cr. John Letchford asked the only question of MRRA.  He wanted to know how MRRA operated, if we had a Code of Conduct.  We said that as an incorporated association, we don't have a Code such as the one proposed for Council but do operate under the Associations' Incorporation Act.  Cr. Letchford then asked if it wasn't therefore equally sufficient for Council to simply operate under the Local Government Act and not have a Code.  We told the Councillor he was hardly making an apples-for-apples comparison, and he backed away.   In MRRA's mind, the question was out of order in the first place.


Is it just MRRA, or is there is something a tad "off" with someone in that position trying to compare the operating processes of a not-for-profit community group with those of a Council, and apparently attempting to justify Council not having a Code because the community group doesn't have one? 


In any event, anyone who knows anything about incorporated associations would know it is mandatory, under the Associations' Incorporation Act, for an association to have adopted Rules before an association can even be registered. Those Rules must contain specified elements such as dispute resolution processes and processes for taking action against those who breach the Rules or bring the association into disrepute.  Come to think of it - maybe incorporated associations have to meet higher standards than this Council seems to want to!  And that's in addition to having to hold elections EVERY YEAR.  Now there's a mouth-watering thought...


Council's Draft Code of Conduct Is Now Available:  Community Comments To Be In By 22 September

(12/9/06 - C)  Sharpen your pencil!  If you want Councillors to be more accountable and transparent, download the letter MRRA has prepared and send it off to Council giving the draft Code a 'big tick'

MRRA has looked at the draft Code and while it can be wiggled in some minor ways to increase clarity about what it says (MRRA will make a submission on this), there is only one key area we think needs to be strengthened.  At Clause 34, which deals with processes for complaints about Councillors who allegedly breach the Code, we'd like to see some more in-built accountability by having written complaints about any Councillor not only reported to and dealt with by the Mayor, but also the Chief Executive Officer.


Click here for more information about how to get a copy of the draft Code, and contact Council.  Click here for a submission letter.



Macedon Ranges Council: MRRA Asks Residents Is It Time For The State Government To Step In? 

(22/8/06 - C)  We live in a darkening democracy but the government won't act unless you say 'Enough'!   More...


Council CODE OF CONDUCT:  The Concept Of Local Democracy Hangs By A Thread As Some Councillors Squeal About Being More Accountable

(23/8/06 - C)  The thought of having a Code that says no private meetings with developers had some of them positively squirming

At Council's Policy and Issues Committee meeting on 2 August, a draft Code of Conduct for Councillors was on the agenda with an officer's recommendation that it be placed on exhibition for six weeks and it be brought back to the October Policy and Issues meeting.  Council is required by legislation to have a Code of Conduct, and all Councillors are required to sign it.  Council adopted its first Code in February, 2005.  Legislation requires the Code to be reviewed by an incoming Council, and that is the process Council is currently undertaking.  The draft Code before Councillors is basically the current Code, but with some important additions. 


Two of those additions provoked some interesting comments from several Councillors: "Councillors should refrain from attending meetings with development approval applicants without an appropriate Officer in attendance for the purpose of recording discussions", and  "Any meetings with development approval applicants should be publically (sic) disclosed when the matter is considered by Council or if the matter is determined under delegation by the provision of a written memorandum to the Chief Executive Officer to be placed on the appropriate file."   


Mayor Geoff Neil (East ward) got the ball rolling with a suggestion that the Clause be tied to not negotiating with applicants once the application has been lodged, because it surely couldn't include discussing concepts with them, and he didn't want to be seen to not speak to applicants. 


Cr. Noel Harvey (West) said there wouldn't be a week go by where Councillors weren't contacted; the Clause wasn't workable; Councillors have to represent everyone and the Clause takes away the fundamental job of a Councillor; it wasn't fair or reasonable and was a denial of natural justice.  He added he had only been offered one inducement in his time on Council: it was about 15 years ago, it wasn't a financial one and it came from an objector. 


Chief Executive Ian Morris responded saying the Clause would operate once an application had been lodged and was intended to ensure a record of discussions held so everyone knew what was said, and he didn't see any drama in doing that or with adding meetings with submitters to the Clause's requirements.  He said it was essential that Councillors look at it; it would ensure everything they do is on the table, and if Councillors were serious about being accountable, that wouldn't be a problem.  He added if one issue generates community concern it is planning; it impacts on Council's credibility.  Council could take the lead by going with the Code, and could act more confidently at the end of the day knowing there was a record.  Cr. Noel Harvey (West) said the Code was voluntary anyway. 


Cr. John Letchford (South) said there would be a lot of reporting going on.  Cr. John Connor (West) asked if the Code meant Councillors couldn't meet socially with applicants (and objectors?).  Cr. Noel Harvey (West) then again questioned the Code's workability, saying if 9 Councillors met with 9 individuals he didn't think the workability was there.


CE Morris advised that if Councillors wanted it to work, it will.  Council already provides formal opportunities for applicants and objectors to speak at Planning Committee meetings and Planning Application Conferences [PACs], and warned Councillors if someone wanted to jump outside the loop and guidelines they were leaving themselves open.  He asked Councillors to remember how many times they had been misrepresented because no-one had recorded conversations, and urged them to take the lead. 


Cr. Noel Harvey (West) said he finds it extremely difficult if Councillors have to say they can't talk; he heard what the CE was saying but didn't think it was workable.  The CE again said Councillors could make it work. 


Cr. Rob Guthrie (South) went against the flow, saying Council should put the Code out for comment to get feedback from the public, and then moved the officer's recommendation.  Cr. John Letchford (South) seconded the motion on the proviso the Code and submissions came back to a briefing meeting.  The CE pointed out the Code and submission would come back to a (public) Committee meeting and from there go to a (public) Council meeting.  In the end, the motion was carried unopposed.  Note:  Cr. Tom Gyorffy (West) was absent from the meeting.


MRRA Says:


Should Councillors meet with privately with developers?  


MRRA says no, they shouldn't. 


Should Councillors have a Code to guide their behaviour, and give the community standards against which to measure that behaviour?


MRRA says yes, they should.


So our message is, if you want more accountability from your Councillors, it is critically important that you tell Council you support this Code's improved accountability and its adoption by Council. 


We've held off reporting on this item for two weeks in anticipation of the official draft Code being made available by Council for public comment.  This hasn't yet happened, and the draft Code also isn't on Council's website yet either.  In that Code's absence, we will try to scan the the version presented to Council on the night (so watch for this) and residents are urged to familiarize themselves with it and make a submission in support of Council adopting it.   That's the first step.


Mmm... The second step on the Road To Accountability will be convincing the State government to change the Local Government Act to include a mechanism to properly enforce a Code of Conduct - there currently isn't one.


Councillors To Consider Code Of Conduct Wednesday 2 August at Kyneton

(31/7/06 - C)   YOU should be at this meeting to see who supports, and who opposes, being more open and accountable.

Keen to make a difference?  Then start thinking about how you want your Councillors to behave.  Council will begin considering what form its Code of Conduct for Councillors will take at Wednesday night's Policy and Issues Committee Meeting, starting at 7.00pm at the Kyneton Town Hall.  With a bit of luck, residents will be able to comment on the Code too.  To get a copy of the meeting agenda, go to Council Meetings on Council's website (