Regional Development Australia's local chief under fire

CRITICISM: Regional Development Australia Whyalla and Eyre Peninsula chief executive officer Dion Dorward, left, and Whyalla economic development manager Alex Todd.

CRITICISM: Regional Development Australia Whyalla and Eyre Peninsula chief executive officer Dion Dorward, left, and Whyalla economic development manager Alex Todd.

The Whyalla City Council has strongly criticised comments made by the chief executive officer of Regional Development Australia Whyalla and Eyre Peninsula.

Council passed a motion of no-confidence in Dion Dorward at Monday night’s meeting.

Cr David Knox proposed the action in response to Mr Dorward’s comments on the council’s rejection of a multi-million-dollar solar proposal.

Mr Dorward was a supporter of the proposal put forward by project developer Adam Hammond. It which would have been Australia’s biggest photo-voltaic solar plant worth up to $750 million and provided as many as 160 local jobs.

Council rejected the offer due to the land required for the project being subject to lease arrangements with other solar organisations.

At the time Mr Dorward said he was “disappointed” by the council’s decision and that he “could not see” why the council did not support the proposal.

Cr Knox said Mr Doward’s comments were “detrimental to the council”, would impact on council discussions with other renewable energy proponents and Administrator KordaMentha’s relationship with Arrium.

He also claimed it would damage the council’s reputation at a time when the city is facing major crisis.

Mr Dorward was also criticised for approaching Mayor Lyn Breuer with a Memorandum of Understanding which Cr Knox he had already signed “without reference to the decision-making body”.

“It i’s absolutely woeful that this guy could rock up in Lyn Breuer’s office with a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed by her that he had already signed, and expect her to sign it,” Cr Knox said.

“That is very simplistic thinking. It has to come to the elected body to sign and Ms Breuer was not in a position to sign it.

“I find it very, very hard to understand why a person, who in some measure in the pay of the Whyalla City Council, can come out and criticise council and make statements like – ‘why didn’t I know what was going on?’ – really and truly he should have known what was going on.”

Cr Tim Breuer said the situation was “handled appallingly”.

“He did not show respect to the council in the way he presented the project to this council,” he said.

The move was carried with Cr Jenny Barnes proposing that council review its partnership with the agency and enter into a discussion about the matter with the organisation’s chairman as part of the review.

“The recent experience with Mr Hammond and the solar project has destroyed my confidence in the relationship with RDAWEP so I think it is timely for us to look at this ongoing partnership,” she said.

Councillor Tom Antonio did not support the second move.

“We are really in very dangerous waters here, I am absolutely amazed that this would even be considered. This is a federal initiative and we get federal funding,” he said.

“We close this door and you might as well close another door on Whyalla. I respect the motion brought forward by Cr Knox, but putting this in place is irresponsible.”

The move was eventually carried through a division.

Mr Dorward was approached for comment on the issue, but said he had not received correspondence from the council on the matter at the time.

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