Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Council meeting 2 June 2009

Apart from a recommendation to give a discount to the big end of town (see this post), a number of other matters came before Council.

The Loft wins another award

The Loft Arts and Cultural Centre’s work with the local Aboriginal community, through its Past Present Future 5 Aboriginal youth arts program, has won its second award in two years.

Past Present Future 5 has been awarded the NSW Local Government Shires Association Cultural Award in the Aboriginal Cultural Development category. The award follows the Loft’s 2008 award for its music program in the Cultural Industries category.

The NSW Local Government Cultural Awards are an annual event honouring the contribution by local government to arts and cultural development across the state. Past Present Future 5 was one of 86 projects nominated by 48 councils and won in the Category of the Aboriginal Cultural Development Category for Councils with a population of more than 60,000 people.

Well done to Barney Langford, Centre Coordinator and all the team.

Tourism staff also received an award from Meetings & Events Australia, Well done!

Newcastle's Greenhouse Action Plan

Council received a briefing on the progress that has been made (and not made!) on our Greenhouse Action Plan. Newcastle's Greenhouse Action Plan was developed in collaboration with the Newcastle community during the year 2000 ss part of its commitment to the international Cities for Climate Protection program.

The seven year Greenhouse Action In Newcastle (GAIN) Plan was launched during 2001 and included 100 targeted actions that cover both NCC operations and the Newcastle Community.

The key points are:

The Newcastle community achieved a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions below the projected 2008 business-as-usual scenario. This was achieved by:

  • Reduced electricity consumption of 16.8% from 2.22 million tonnes to 1.85 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents
  • Reduced gas consumption of 16.8% from 0.75 million tonnes to 0.625 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents
  • Reduced waste emissions of 16.8% from 0.135 million tonnes to 0.113 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents

hmmm the figures just don't add up!

Draft Hunter Estuary Management Study and Plan

The preparation of the Hunter Estuary Management Study and Plan has been coordinated by Council in partnership with the NSW Government, Port Stephens Council and Maitland City Council and overseen by the Hunter Coast and Estuary Management Committee.

The Study brings together the current scientific knowledge of how the estuary works and the aspirations for future management. The Plan outlines the recommended shortlist of strategies
for the future management of the Hunter Estuary.

Council resolve to place the Draft Hunter Estuary Management Study and Draft Hunter Estuary Management Plan on public exhibition in conjunction with both Port Stephens and Maitland Councils for a period of 28 days and that the results of the exhibition be considered in the finalisation of the Study and Plan to be presented to Council for adoption. The public exhibition process is to proceed subject to Port Stephens and Maitland Councils also resolving to place the study and plan on public exhibition.

Councillor Osborne acknowledged the contribution of the previous Council and the Councillor representatives; namely Councillors Barbara Gaudry, Ian McKenzie and Paul Scobie.

Resolved: Councillors M Osborne/ N Nelmes

Joint Regional Planning Panels

Newcastle does not support the establishment of Joint Regional Planning Panels, as they are undemocratic and unaccountable.

Council resolved to:

A. Council write to the Minister for Planning, the Hone Kristina Keneally and advise the Minister that Council supports the submissions of the NSW Local Government and Shires Association and the Local Government Planning Directors Group in regard to the operation of Joint Regional Planning Panels and in particular seek advice from the Minister on the following:

· What proportion of DA fees would be payable to councils to cover the costs associated with the assessment of DAs for ‘regional development’ determined by JRPPs;

· How the public notification and statutory referral process related to DAs for ‘regional development’ determined by JRPPs will be managed;

· What are the operational arrangements for JRPPs, particularly protocols and code of conduct for the interaction between applicants, council officers, other interested parties (objectors) and the JRPP; and

· How appeals to the L&E Court on matters determined by a JRPP are to be managed and funded.

Further to the above, Council urgently seeks an extension to the 5 June deadline for Panel nominations and the start date for Panel operation.

Part B lie on the table until such time as the Code of Conduct issues are resolved and Councillors’ receive a briefing on the legal and other aspects of this proposal.

(B Council consider the nomination two persons to be appointed as council members of the Hunter JRPP (and an alternate member) for the consideration of ‘regional development’ proposals and other matters within the Newcastle LGA, however in accordance with the Hunter Council’s resolution, Newcastle not refer its nominated representatives on the Joint Regional Planning Panels until such time as guidelines and code of conduct issues are clarified and resolved.)

Resolved: Councillor M Osborne/ N Nelmes

The controversial new planning laws passed through the Upper House of parliament in June 2008 by just 1 vote after the two Christian Democrat MPs split. Fred Nile voted with the government in support of the new laws while Gordon Moyes voted with the Greens and the Opposition against the Bill. The two Shooters Party MPs voted with the government.

Greens MP and Planning spokesperson Sylvia Hale said the vote was very disappointing given the widespread community concern about the Bill.

“This Bill has been driven by the development industry from day one. It is the government’s reward to big developers for all the money they poured into the NSW ALP’s campaign coffers before the last election,” said Ms Hale.

“The Bill will damage the state’s environment and heritage. It will remove the rights of residents to have a say about the way their neighbourhoods develop. It will lead to increased disputes between neighbours and it will open the door for an even greater level of corruption in what is already a corrupt planning system.”

This is part of what the Local Government and Shires Association of NSW has to say about the proposed Planning Panels.

Panel members will not be accountable to local communities

The state-appointed Panel members will never face an election. So although they are legally accountable, the only person they are politically accountable to is the Minister – who can dismiss them at any time.

The Minister claims that the Panels will ‘depoliticise’ the process and increase transparency. However JRPPs will have permanent, known members who are open to pressures from interested parties, in the same way as elected councillors, but with no need to present at elections. This presents a high probity risk. Council representatives on the panels are likely to bear the brunt of local frustration, even though they have a minority vote and may not have supported the decision.

This is part of what the Law Society of NSW had to say about the proposed Planning Panels.

Potential for conflict of interest

The potential for conflict of interest arises given that these matters will be handled by direct Government appointees including Council appointed members. This is likely to be a significant risk as some panel members may have existing affiliations with potential applicants. There must be a proper register of interests and associations for the Panel members.

This potential for conflict will be exacerbated by the use of senior council staff as Panel members, who may have had contact with the applicant in the role of assessment officer. Issues of probity may also arise due to the lack of community accountability and lack of review.

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