Power struggle divides Wilderness Society
The Age, 31 Jan, 2010 01:39 PM
ONE of Australia's richest and most powerful environment groups is in crisis following a toxic power struggle that has split the organisation amid claims of bullying, financial mismanagement and secret board meetings
. . . The Sunday Age has learned the problem came to a head in July last year, when the society's national campaign committee, a powerful body of senior campaigners, passed a 9-2 vote of no-confidence in Mr Marr over his interference in the appointment of a senior campaigner.
The campaigners regarded it as the last straw in a long list of grievances about Mr Marr's autocratic style. Almost all state-based campaign centres, except for South Australia, have now turned against Mr Marr.
In retaliation, Mr Marr held an annual general meeting in November known only to a small group of people. Under the organisation's constitution, the notice of the meeting must be advertised in a Tasmanian newspaper. It was advertised not in the Hobart Mercury or Launceston's Examiner, but The Advocate, the Fairfax Media-owned newspaper published in Burnie, which has the lowest circulation of the state's three dailies.
At the meeting, a board favourable to Mr Marr was elected and the constitution changed so that it now takes 4500 members to call a special general meeting, rather than the previous 20. Board member Peter Langoulant, who attended the November meeting but then resigned, told The Sunday Age that the constitutional change and secrecy around the meeting was designed to shore up Mr Marr's position.
''I don't believe it was right, even though I was a party to it,'' he said. ''It was a secret AGM … and I think it disenfranchised people. [The Wilderness Society] was supposed to be a democratic, consensus organisation and I think it has moved away from that,'' said Mr Langoulant, a finance manager from Victoria. . . .
From 20 to 4,500 . . . all seems a tad unethical.