It took less than 15 minutes for the fireworks to ignite at last Tuesday night's Port Stephens Council meeting as councillors reconvened from the Easter-Anzac Day holiday combined with a month-long break.
The long-standing hostility between two west ward councillors - Liberal's Ken Jordan and Labor's Giacomo Arnott - spilled into near chaos with the two trading insults at each other, resulting in - as one gallery onlooker described it - "an absolute farce".
The catalyst for the verbal confrontation was the first item on the agenda, a mayoral minute requesting that council: 'Acknowledge the importance of federal funding through the Financial Assistance Grants [FAGs] program for the continued delivery of council services and infrastructure; and to Express its concern about the decline in the value of FAGs funding from an amount equal to around 1 per cent of Commonwealth Taxation Revenue in 1996 to a current figure of around 0.55 per cent'.
While there was no objection to the item, Cr Arnott saw the opportunity to raise Monday's IPART ruling by proposing a motion that "council notes the decision of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to completely reject the Special Rate Variation application".
At one stage he publicly read out a series of Facebook posts applauding IPART's decision.
"After spending months spruiking the SRV and spending significant ratepayer funds on it, I was surprised none of the councillors showed much interest in talking about the issue after IPART's decision. I think residents deserved to have the decision acknowledged by the council, especially after the huge community effort to stop the rate rise," Cr Arnott added.
His actions clearly annoyed some councillors, setting off a flurry of points of orders and a firm request from Cr Jordan that the mayor immediately put a halt to what he described as an "attack [by Cr Arnott] on other councillors in this chamber".
It also prompted Cr Paul Le Mottee to describe Cr Arnott's pitch as "the most disingenuous speech I have ever heard in my time in local government", accusing him of being "short-sighted" while "rubbing people's noses" as a consequence [of the IPART decision].
When challenged by Cr Le Mottee to talk to some of the residents living in Duns Creek Road, Wighton Road and Swan Bay Road suffering as a result of no funding for reconstructing and sealing their roads, Cr Arnott welcomed the request with: "Bring it on".
Having lacked any support Cr Arnott's motion failed, allowing Cr John Nell to put forward an amendment stating: "In view of the IPART decision to reject the SRV application, that council review its priorities and funding options", which was adopted.