Mistakes have consequences: ensuring decisions and conflict of interest responsibilities remain in check

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Conflict of interest

- All employees must know and understand their responsibilities and workplace requirements in relation to conflict of interest and in relation to gifts, benefits and hospitality.

- Organisations should provide regular training and awareness raising in relation to conflict of interest issues to support good decision making.

Record keeping

- Ensure records of decisions include sufficient detail of the analysis, reasons, considerations or rationale to enable a clear understanding of decision making processes and demonstrate the decisions or actions are reasonable or justifiable.

- Where a decision has involved the use of a discretion – clearly document the relevant reasoning.

- Ensure all relevant documentation is collected, and files demonstrate an accurate representation of what has occurred.


- Ensure communication in relation to complaints is timely and responsive.


- Council employees must demonstrate a strong understanding of legislative requirements and planning controls relevant to their work.

- Councils and employees must recognise the importance of demonstrating transparency in circumstances where the usual checks and balances or opportunities for objection are minimised, for example, in relation to Commercial Development Zones.

- Councils should provide clear procedural and record keeping guidance for oversight mechanisms.

- Ensure all meetings involving relevant parties are accurately documented and included as part of the overall documentation on the file.

In the real world

It was billed as a new vision for Kingston Council’s Patterson Lakes area. A welcoming community hub to be used for boating, as well as a residential, commercial, and entertainment precinct providing greater public access for the community to the riverbank. These plans, first established in 1988, later included restaurants, car parking, offices and residences with heights of two to four storeys, plus access to open space.

A witness told the investigation: “The original vision for the Patterson Lakes Marina was to be something like Port Douglas”. But what the community got, was very different. There were several residential buildings along the marina, a 40-lot subdivision, and a six-storey residential development where a car park was shown on the 1999 plans.

The investigation found that Council’s lack of strategic oversight effectively allowed the area to develop in line with the developer’s objectives rather than the original vision. As a result, the community lost trust in how Kingston City Council handled the development and subsequent amendments. Conflict of interest perceptions increased after the planner dined with developers at up market restaurants.

Final word

“Development may always be a contentious issue for councils and their communities, but with transparency and good governance it should not be seen to undermine public trust. Councils everywhere would do well to take note.” – Deborah Glass, Victorian Ombudsman.

  • Councils
  • Conflict of Interest