Idiots and ratbags?, Harvey to council


BILLIONAIRE Gerry Harvey has branded Byron Shire's councillors as idiots, nitwits and ratbags in an extraordinary attack.

In a wide-ranging spray at the council's handling of his $45 million Byron at Byron resort development, Mr Harvey accused mayor Jan Barham of being emotional and of crying during negotiations over the resort.

But he saved his most intense attack for Cr John Lazarus, who he called a tramp in need of a makeover.

"If he was a customer coming in we couldn't let him stay there because he would look out of place," he said.

"My invitation to him is, if he'd like to come down, we'll wash him and clean him every day for seven days. We'll give him a new suit and clean undies and he can have a look at himself in a mirror after we've done him up and see if he looks better."

The attack follows months of argument between the council and Mr Harvey over changes made to the development without council approval.

That argument has intensified since Christmas, when Mr Harvey opened the resort without an occupation certificate and refused requests from council officers to close it until the certificate could be issued late this month.

Cr Barham said the council was following the Local Government Act and ac- cused Mr Harvey of being insulting and arrogant.

"I think it's a sign of arrogance that some people believe they are above the rules," she said.

Cr Barham, who was quoted in national media yesterday denying Mr Harvey's crying barb, said she had 'shed a tear' at a meeting with Mr Harvey's staff, but said that stemmed from frustration at their refusal to accept planning rules.

"He doesn't appear to understand the rules," Cr Barham said. "Maybe he's not getting the right information."

Cr Lazarus said he believed he was singled out by Mr Harvey for standing against the development opening without the proper consents.

"What can I say? My standing in the community is fine," Cr Lazarus said. "Gerry Harvey's standing in the community, when he is operating an illegallyopened resort, is of a far lesser degree."

Mr Harvey denied that his attack ? which included claims the council would have to be handed over to administrators ? was an attempt to bully the council. If delays in getting approvals were due to the State Act, then it would have to be changed.

Local Government Minister Tony Kelly, when asked if he would back Byron Council against Mr Harvey's attack, responded with a one-line statement through a media advisor: "It's a planning matter for the council to determine."

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