Cook Park barbecue debate sparks mass walkout at Rockdale Council

A motion which would have lifted Rockdale Council’s recent attempt to ban charcoal barbecues from Cook Park sparked a mass walkout in the chamber last night, with Liberal councillors and independent Michael Nagi storming from the room.

The walkout happened at 9.45pm and the meeting was abandoned eventually as there was no quorum. 

At the November 6 council meeting, councillors unanimously adopted a motion sponsored by Liberal councillor Petros Kalligas which called for the council to take stronger action against littering, illegal parking and charcoal barbecues in Cook Park.

But at the meeting last night, Crs Joe Awada, Liz Barlow and Tarek Ibrahim moved a rescission motion in an attempt to revoke the ban on charcoal barbecues.

Cr Ibrahim said Cook Park was eight kilometres long and there was need to accommodate a range of activities in the park, including charcoal barbecues in some areas. He said a ban on barbecues would limit the enjoyment of a significant proportion of park users.

Liberal Petros Kalligas said the ban was needed because smoke from the barbecues was impacting on the health of nearby residents.

‘‘(Voting to lift the ban) is a vote to ignore the serious health impacts charcoal can have,’’  Cr Kalligas said. ‘‘It is worse than tobacco smoke.’’

After a debate lasting more than an hour, the Liberals walked out when it became clear the recission motion had the support of a slim majority of councillors.

The walk-out sparked outrage in the public gallery. One resident said she had paid for a baby sitter for her two children so she could come to the meeting.

‘‘I’ve sat here for three hours tonight, and now nothing has happened,’’ she said. Another declared the entire council ‘a joke’ before walking out.

However, Bill Ghaida of Brighton-Le-Sands said he supported the walkout.

‘‘It is unbelievable that they were thinking of lifting the ban just two weeks after enacting it,’’ he said.

See related story:

Did the Liberals and Michael Nagi do the right thing in walking out? Should charcoal barbecues be banned from all of Cook Park?

Council must ''take back control of Cook Park'' say some residents and councillors. Picture: Chris Lane:

Council must ''take back control of Cook Park'' say some residents and councillors. Picture: Chris Lane: