A controversial Moyne Shire Council job position paid for by a wind farm company will go ahead, despite councillors’ division about accepting the money and its use.
Renewable energy company Acciona will pay for the two-year energy efficiency officer at a $200,000 cost as part of its agreement for the Mortlake Wind Farm with the state government.
But councillors were divided 4-3 about whether to accept the money because of perception the role could taint the council’s impartiality or could be spent differently.
Council major projects director Michelle Grainger told Tuesday’s ordinary council meeting lawyers had advised the council there was no conflict of interest so long as Acciona expected nothing in return.
If the money wasn’t accepted, then Ms Grainger said the other parties would likely find another purpose for it.
“If council doesn’t accept this money then … it could be spent broader than the Moyne Shire,” she said.
Cr Colin Ryan said the role was a “win-win” for the council and voted to accept it.
“The engagement of this environment efficiency officer will benefit all people in the Moyne Shire,” he said.
But Cr Daniel Meade, along with councillors Jim Doukas and Jill Parker, voted not to accept the role.
“My preference would be to see the $200,000 go towards tangible projects with a focus towards energy efficiency,” Cr Meade said.
“This would be skipping the middle person of an energy officer and getting straight to the point of creating energy efficiency. I think actual projects into the community using local contractors would be much more beneficial.”
But Cr Ian Smith along with councillors Mick Wolfe and Jordan Lockett also supported accepting the money.
“I do have slight reservations over the effectiveness of it, but I’m not game enough to run the risk knocking it back and then finding out we have missed out on the money all together,” Cr Smith said.
The role will be separate from the council’s major projects team, which manages permit compliance for wind farms, council documents show.
It will advise on energy efficiency generally across the shire through promotion and engagement with households and industry.
The documents also show private companies and other tiers of government fund at least two other current council jobs.
“Council has many avenues for employing staff from direct employment, funded positions from agreements with state and federal government and contractual arrangements for shared services and employment,” council officers wrote.
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