Jim in a jam

GAWLER Councillor Jim Vallelonga has defended his actions after unsuccessfully attempting to purchase a piece of land that council is currently trying to sell off.

A member of the public notified council that Cr Vallelonga made a bid on council-owned land at Krieg Reserve – located on the corner of Trim Crescent and Krieg Road, Evanston Park – when it went to auction on Friday, May 11.

Councillors unanimously voted to revoke the community land status of the reserve, and commence a divestment strategy to sell off the property, at their May 2017 meeting, at which Cr Vallelonga was present.

In a statement, Cr Vallelonga confirmed he attended the auction with his legal representative, having been notified of it by a local real estate agency the day before, where he made their presence known to the auctioneer, real estate agent and a staff member from council.

He said he had no intention of buying the property at the time of voting for it to be divested, and did not declare any interest in the land.

“The resolution passed by council that night related to many parcels of land, and to (my) recollection it authorised staff members to set the reserve price for each of the parcels of land,” Cr Vallelonga told The Bunyip.

“(I) had and still (have) no knowledge of the council’s reserve price.

“(I) bid at the auction, and was not successful in obtaining the land.”

In another statement, Gawler Mayor Karen Redman said the matter was under consideration, but that the Krieg Reserve site remains on the market.

“I can advise that the matter you refer to is currently under consideration by the Town of Gawler chief executive Henry Inat and therefore I  am not able to provide any further information at this stage,” she said.

“The auction commenced, but was not successful in achieving a sale price acceptable to the council.”

There are no councillor Code of Conduct provisions under the Local Government Act prohibiting elected members from participating in the sale of council-owned assets.

However, the claim against Cr Vallelonga comes at an awkward time for elected members, as they prepare to vote on a controversial proposal to divest a separate open space reserve at Hindmarsh Boulevard Reserve, in Evanston Gardens, next month.

The proposal has been vehemently opposed by residents neighbouring Hindmarsh Boulevard Reserve.

Council received only one public submission regarding its plan to revoke the community land status of Krieg Reserve, last year – paving the way for its sale – and it objected the move.

The written submission was lodged by Tania Gerlach and Jose Texera, who own a property abutting Krieg Reserve.

The pair claimed the reserve had been a selling point in the purchase of their property due to its natural amenity, and rejected council’s claim the reserve was being under-utilised – the same arguments made by objectors to the Hindmarsh Boulevard Reserve divestment.

“In short, we are disappointed that the council is removing open space that provides visual relief and improves the liveability and, therefore, the property values,” they stated.

Council will be updated on the progress of the sale of Krieg Reserve at its next ordinary meeting later this month.

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Matteo Gagliardi joined The Bunyip in August 2016 with almost two years experience in regional print media, having previously worked at a community newspaper in Swan Hill, Victoria. Covering politics, local government and crime, Matteo likes to sink his teeth into hard-hitting issues, but also enjoys spending time getting to know the Gawler community. Matteo also has a passion for science, agriculture and the environment, and has previously worked as a media officer at the Australian Science Media Centre.

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