Camden councillor Copeland says developers, real estate agents can benefit councils

Auburn deputy mayor and property developer Salim Mehajer’s lavish wedding has turned the spotlight on whether developers and real estate agents have a place on council.

However Camden councillor Greg Copeland, who works as a real estate agent, said he had never come across any problems combining the two roles.

Last week NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley suggested developers and real estate agents should be banned from being councillors and called for a tightening of the legislation allowing developers to vote on matters in which they have a pecuniary interest.

‘‘When one's running a property development business or real estate business, the conflicts of interest are too great to overcome,’’ he said.

However Cr Copeland said he was careful to make sure there was never any perception he was voting on or debating matters that could benefit him professionally.

‘‘If in doubt, I walk out,’’ he said.

‘‘I just make sure whenever there’s any issues that come to council or that are spoken about at council that I make a declaration and it’s even close [to a pecuniary interest] then I abstain [from voting] and don’t event stay in the room.’’

Cr Copeland said it would be difficult to ban developers or real estate agents from being councillors because ‘‘where do you draw the line?’’

‘‘In any individual wants to do the wrong thing there’s always going to be options there for them,’’ he said.

He said people who worked on the other side of the development applications could bring valuable insight to the council’s decisions and debate without crossing the boundaries.

The government has since pledged to change the 2012 which allows councillors to participate in debate on items as long as they have declared their pecuniary interests.

What you had to say on Facebook:

Mark Franks: Dead right, they are not interested in the long term outcome.

Neil Williamson: I agree and they should ban anyone that is a member of a political party.

Tony Scorgie: Totally agree. Conflict of interest.

Margaret Bower: Yes. Absolutely.

John Sandiford: Great idea

Thiru Nagan: Great idea. Look at what's happening to Airds and Appin and those behind it. Local councillors need to live in the electorate.

Emma Mottram: 100 per cent agree. Conflicts of interest are rife and who knows what goes on in back room meetings that have no records kept - total lack of transparency or in other words - dodgy.

Ashley O'Connor: Frankly I don't know why this isn't already law. It's a clear conflict of interest.

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