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Kiama Councillor Renkema-Lang hits back at ICAC referral

The Bugle App

Malcolm King

05 July 2024, 1:44 AM

Kiama Councillor Renkema-Lang hits back at ICAC referralCredit: Stacey Trock

Storm clouds once again gather over the Kiama Council as Councillor Renkema-Lang rejects media statements about her ICAC referral and infers the action was politically ‘weaponised’ by Council.

In a prepared statement, Clr Renkema-Lang said when the abattoir Development Application came to Council in September 2022, she had “nothing to declare in relation to any of the parties involved.”

It was previously reported that Clr Renkema-Lang had allegedly failed to declare a donation from Mr Sandy at the same meeting, which triggered the ICAC referral.

In response to recent media releases and social media posts about ICAC referrals,” Clr Renkema-Lang said, “I categorically reject any suggestion that I have acted inappropriately.”

“I was dismayed to learn that I was one of the Councillors involved in the ICAC referral via a Mercury Illawarra news article, and I was shocked to read statements in the article that were plainly wrong.”

“In this matter, as always, I have declared and managed conflicts of interest in accordance with the Councillor code of conduct and the relevant legislation,” Clr Renkema-Lang said.

Back in 2013, when Kiama Council received a Development Authority (DA) for the building of a small abattoir on a Rose Valley Road, for a property owned by Gerhard and Maria Baden of Schottlanders Wagyu, the Baden’s neighbours, Ken and Debra Sandy complained.

Nine years later, an environmental impact assessment was conducted and the Baden DA was refused on environmental grounds but The Bugle understands the matter is ongoing.

“I have been transparent in declaring that in December 2023, Ken Sandy contributed to my fund-raising campaign to fight the unfair and unjust resolution of Council to censure me, which Anthony Whealy KC, a retired Supreme Court Judge said was "an ill-considered measure to silence a dissenting Councillor." 

Following reading the Mercury Illawarra articles on the matter Clr Renkema-Lang said, “I am also reminded of the ICAC Commissioner's John Hatzisitergos' comments two years ago in the lead up to the NSW 2023 election in the 21-22 Annual Report.”

"As we approach the 2023 NSW election, it is once again timely to remind candidates for public office that they should act properly in making referrals to the Commission,” ICAC Commissioner Hatzisitergos said.

“Investigations into allegations of corrupt conduct are rarely if ever assisted by premature publicity. It is inappropriate to weaponise a referral to the Commission for attention or political advantage,” he stated.

Clr Renkema-Lang stated the Council needs to fix its outstanding finance and governance issues detailed in the Performance Improvement Order, stop escalating court costs, and instead address flood issues across the municipality.

Councillor Kathy Rice has also accused unknown individuals in the council of leaking confidential information to the media, just two months before council elections.

“This matter appears to have arisen from a leak of confidential information which until that time I was appropriately excluded from,” Clr Rice said.

“All such matters should be kept confidential, but in contrast to previous leaks, Council has not expressed any concerns about this one. This information is now being widely circulated in the lead up to the Council elections,” she said.