Review of Canada Bay Local Environmental Plan (LEP)

Council has now agreed to update its Local Environmental Plan (LEP). This major document controls all development across Canada Bay. Council will update it because the previous version from 2013 is now out of date. The key agenda concern for all councillors was to minimise the impact of the NSW state government’s dodgy low rise medium density policy, which allows much looser control over low-rise medium density buildings like dual occupancy buildings, “manor houses” and terraces, within housing zones that already allow multiple occupancy dwellings like apartment buildings.

As of mid July, 50 councils across NSW (including Canada Bay) have been able to defer the application of the low rise medium density policy. The update of the LEP – from the council’s point of view – aims to minimise this new policy of the state government, and similar policies which may arise. The state government, for its own reasons, also wants LEPs updated, and has offered funding to councils for this to occur. The state government must approve each LEP before it takes effect. The update will take about two years, because it requires consultancy to produce a number of substantial documents, and because of the complexity of the LEP document. The process also includes community consultation. Council will produce four background study papers as part of the LEP update:

  • Housing and Employment Study
  • Social Infrastructure Strategy
  • Local Movement Strategy
  • Sustainable Development Strategy

Beyond dealing with low rise medium density, there are potential advantages in revising the LEP. In particular, it could allow some useful changes with environmental benefits. Similarly, more community-oriented provisions in the LEP or DCP can give better community outcomes.

In regard to the Low Rise Medium Density Housing Code

The Low Rise Medium Density Housing Code if applicable in Canada Bay would not allow developers to put manor houses or terraces into places with zoning that does not allow apartment buildings. (I understand that’s due to our Local Environment Plan (LEP) or Development Control Plan (DCP).

However where it applied it would bring other substantial problems, especially with much looser controls on dual occupancies, but other things as well. It also substantially widens the role of private certifiers on those medium density developments.

The period of the extension on introducing the Low Rise Medium Density Housing Code may only be one year. Obviously this gives some breathing room, but does not solve the long-term threat. Obviously a two-year period to revise the LEP is longer than a one year postponement on the Low Rise Medium Density Housing Code, so that leaves a huge gap, during which a lot of buildings would get approved creating precedents which would undermine any action a year later. Probably our best response would be to try to create pressure for longer-term changes through pressure in the next state election, due in March next year. It appears the State Govt wants to reduce that pressure with their one-year postponement.

 

 

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The NSW government controls planning panels, but renames them “local”

One little thing I discovered this week: the NSW government controlled “IHAPs” (Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels) across Sydney all have now been renamed “Local Planning Panels” – by a direction from the Minister for Local Government. Here we see a great example of Orwellian “doublespeak”, with the panels staffed predominantly by people recruited and appointed by the NSW government, with a chair appointed by the government, and now a name chosen by the government. Not very local, except for one little thing: the government makes the councils foot the bill.

According to Wikipedia, “Doublespeak is language that deliberately obscures, disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words.”

George Orwell invented the term in his book Nineteen Eighty-Four. Memorable phrases from that book include the slogans:

  • War is peace
  • Freedom is slavery
  • Ignorance is strength

You may think I am exaggerating. I say: the government does not believe in democracy for local government. So they have set up procedures which take away the most significant decisions formerly made by councillors. They have the power to do this, because the Australian constitution does not recognise local government as an independent sphere of government.

The government uses deceptive, misleading language to describe the planning panels, which are local to the extent that they make planning decisions about specific localities.  Yes there is a single local representative on the panels, who has no power to oppose development which the community does not want – unless it meets the state government’s highly prescriptive rules.

 

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Bus services in the Inner West have been privatised

Bus services in the Inner West have been privatised

As of the 1st July, bus services in the Inner West have been privatised. On that day I went to the rally at the Leichhardt bus depot against the privatisation, and in support of support of drivers who are now losing pay and conditions. The privatisation breaks an express promise by the NSW Coalition that buses would not be privatised. We have already seen a large string of bus stops removed across Canada Bay on a dubious basis – all getting ready to help the operator make more money. Unfortunately, this will get worse.

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More on dealing with development approvals

Most people reading this page will be dealing with some kind of development application that they support or don’t support. Hopefully this page will help you.

First of all, don’t send your objection to a councillor thinking they will be able to listen and get the application rejected at a council meeting. That’s because councillors no longer have a decision-making role on development approvals (which in my view undermines local democracy).

If you have an objection, send it to council staff. Council will then normally contact you about it.

If the development is contentious, then the Council staff will refer their report and recommendation on the DA to the “Local Planning Panel” (previously called an Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel [IHAP]) for Canada Bay. If the development is not seen as contentious, Council staff will determine the outcome. However, the following matters require referral to the Canada Bay Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel:-

  • DAs relating to development previously determined by the Panel
  • DAs where the owner or applicant is the Council or a Councillor, a member of a Councillor’s family, a member of Council staff who is involved in exercising Council’s functions under the Act, or a State or Federal Member of Parliament, a relative within the meaning of the Local Government Act 1993 of any such person/s. DAs for minor works such as internal alterations and additions to retail/office premises, advertising signage etc are excluded from this requirement.
  • DAs that receive 10 or more objections from 10 or more different households.
  • DAs seeking to depart by more than 10% from the development standards contained within the relevant Local Environmental Plan, but not where the Secretary of the Department of Planning and Environment has given concurrence to the contravention of the development standards or where the concurrence has been assumed.
  • DAs associated with sensitive developments such as designated developments, residential flat buildings assessed under State Environmental Planning Policy No. 65 – Design Quality of Residential Apartment Development, demolition of heritage items, licensed places of public entertainment (eg., clubs, hotels etc), sex services premises or restricted premises, and DAs accompanied by a Voluntary Planning Agreement under Section 93F of the Act.
  • Modifications of existing development consents under Section 96 and Reviews of Determinations under Section 82A of the Act that meet the abovementioned criteria. Note: Any Section 82A Review of a Determination arising from an application previously determined by the Panel shall be determined by different members of the Panel to those who made the original decision.
  • All Planning Proposals are required to be referred to the Panel for advice.
  • Council can elect to refer any other planning or development matter that is required to be determined by the Council to the Panel for advice.

More information on government policy for planning panels.

You can also call Council’s Strategic Planning team on 9911 6555.

Dealing with the panel

Unlike the DAs previously determined by councillors in open meetings, the IHAP’s meetings are mostly closed to the public, although they must publish the reasons for their decisions.

However, can still have the opportunity to address the IHAP at its meeting, for which you will need to register in advance.

How the NSW government has changed the rules

The NSW Government’s new legislation excludes councillors from making decisions on DAs. The excuse is to stop corruption. The “solution” is to remove the democratic influence of councils, with the NSW government grabbing control and planning laws made even more developer-friendly than before.

Up until now, DAs which were controversial were passed from council staff to the councillors. The decisions were made in an open council meeting, where people for or against a development had the chance to speak. But now, because of new NSW state government law, our councillors will no longer have any role in these decisions. Instead, they will be made by planning panels called IHAPs (Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels) – all across Sydney and Wollongong.

In most cases, the outcome would be the same. But in some cases it would be different, because elected councillors are concerned not just about following planning rules, but representing the community’s best interest. For that, they are accountable to the community, and can be later voted out of office if enough people disagree with them.

This is the latest example of the NSW state government taking power away from democratically elected local councils, and imposing their own rules. Not only that, but the extra bureaucracy adds more costs to councils for all its expenses. Then on top of that: if somebody appeals to the Land and Environment Court against any of their decisions, the council (who had no say in the decision) has to foot the legal bill.

Who asked for this backward step? The real estate industry. The Planning Panels / IHAPs are called independent, but the state government effectively controls them.

If you are concerned about this, learn about what the state government has done and continues to do about planning laws. Yes, I know it’s complicated. That’s why they have gotten away with this – up until now.

I hope this helps explain the current situation.

 

Councillor Charles Jago
Canada Bay Council

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Parramatta River Catchment Group workshop on World Water Day

Parramatta River Catchment Group workshop on World Water Day

Today is World Water Day. I went to a workshop held in Rhodes with the Parramatta River Catchment Group. The workshop gathered broad input on the work and plans focusing on different aspects of the health of the Parramatta River. Their motto: make the Parramatta River Swimmable again! But more broadly, dealing with a wide range of factors affecting the health of the river, including the animals and plants that make it livable for us. For more info, see http://www.parramattariver.org.au/

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Invasion Day rally and march – Australia Day is on the wrong day

On 26 January, I went to Canada Bay Council’s citizenship ceremony in Rhodes. Then I went to the Invasion Day rally and march. I think Australia Day could represent a great way to celebrate all the good things Australians have to offer and enjoy. Of course, the current date doesn’t work for Indigenous Australians, so we need to change it.

Many people say that, by itself, changing the date will not be enough. That’s true. We also need to do more to respect Aboriginal people through: 1) coming to terms with past history, and 2) improving action on practical issues affecting them. In regard to the first point, we Australians as a nation have never fully dealt with our history. By coming to terms with Aboriginal culture and rights, Australians could grasp a larger view of who we are as a nation. Aboriginal culture has a lot of wisdom that our money-obsessed material culture could learn from. But the widespread denial of negative aspects of our history makes it hard to do that. A treaty would be a really helpful symbol. The Uluru Statement from the Heart offers a useful way forward, if our country’s leaders could listen to more of the people.

In regard to the second point – improving practical actions with Indigenous people – taking action to stop imprisoning so many of them would be one of the most important things to do.  But before we can hope to achieve much of all this, Australians in general need to do more to listen to Indigenous voices.

(Adapted from my original Facebook post)

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Rezoning proposal in Homebush wants to double heights of buildings

Rezoning proposal in Homebush wants to double heights of buildings

In mid February I attended a public meeting in Homebush run by the Eastern City Planning Panel, held to get community input into a rezoning proposal for 11-17 Columbia Lane Homebush. This property is within Strathfield Council area, but very close to Canada Bay area. The proposal, with apparent NSW Government support, is to increase the allowed height from 32m to 80m, say 22 storeys or maybe more! This will effectively double the height of buildings in that area, setting a precedent through the precinct. The entire community was dead-set against it. But the meeting was only about input; the community does not actually get a say! I had the opportunity to speak, and made the point that the precedent would continue right along George Street into the Canada Bay area, and most probably further. Once again we see the NSW Government pushing to take control of development out of the hands of democratically elected councils. The panel later said that they would defer their decision until a traffic study being jointly run by Strathfield, Canada Bay and Burwood Councils is ready. Meanwhile, further buildings much higher again have been put forward close by.

(From original Facebook post)

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NSW state government stops councillors determining development approvals

As of 1 March, the NSW state government has stopped councillors in Canada Bay from determining the outcomes of any development approvals (DAs). The excuse is to stop corruption. The “solution” is to remove the democratic influence of councils on development across Canada Bay, with the NSW government grabbing control and planning laws made even more developer-friendly than before.

Until now, DAs which were controversial were passed from council staff to the councillors. The decisions were made in an open council meeting, where people for or against a development had the chance to speak. But now, because of new NSW state government law, our councillors will no longer have any role in these decisions. Instead, they will be made by planning panels called IHAPs (Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels) – all across Sydney and Wollongong.

In most cases, the outcome would be the same. But in some cases it would be different, because elected councillors are concerned not just about following planning rules, but representing the community’s best interest. Councillors are accountable to the community and can be later voted out of office if enough people disagree with them.

This legislation is the latest example of the NSW state government taking power away from democratically elected local councils, and imposing their own rules. The fees for the extra bureaucrats are paid for by the council. If a party appeals to the Land and Environment Court against an IHAP decision, the council (who had no say in the decision) has to foot the legal bill. I still don’t know if the IHAP will make decisions in public, and when their meetings will take place.

Who asked for this backward step? The real estate industry. The IHAPs are called independent, but they are effectively controlled by the state government.

LOCAL DEVELOPMENT ASSESSMENT

Local people will continue to send me emails about their concerns about developments going on around them. Yes, I can send them to the IHAP. But I won’t be able to do much to help them. If you are concerned about this, learn about what the state government has done and continues to do about planning laws. Yes I know it’s complicated. That’s why they have gotten away with this – up until now.

See my later post with more on dealing with development approvals.

[The Inner West Courier published a modified form of this post on 6 March 2018 on their letters page.]

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Switch 2017 conference for the NSW Public Libraries Association

Switch 2017 conference for the NSW Public Libraries Association

 

I attended the Switch 2017 conference for the NSW Public Libraries Association at Penrith. We had some great speakers and a lot of enthusiasm. The key focus is seeing the library as “community glue” and an enabler of community learning. Community libraries do a lot, but need more state government funding.  Having once worked for the State Library of NSW, it was a great way to reconnect with some familiar faces!

Above is a picture of my local library – the Concord Library in Wellbank Street Concord.

[Adapted from a Facebook post on 23 November 2017.]

 

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Marriage equality motion supported by council

On 17 October last year, I introduced a motion to Council supporting marriage equality.  Council passed the motion but amended point 3.

The full text of my notice of motion was as follows:

THAT Council:

  1. Supports the entitlement of people in the City of Canada Bay and elsewhere to exercise the civil right to marry the person of their choice.

  2. Supports the value of legislative reform that does not discriminate on the basis of religion, gender or sexual orientation.

  3. Promotes support of the “Yes” campaign in the Australian Marriage Law Postal Survey through the Council’s website, social media and other communications.

(Item 3 above was amended by council to read: THAT the Mayor conveys the resolution of Council in his Mayoral Column.)

Background

Marriage equality is a human rights issue, supported by some 52 councils across Australia at the time of writing (1). Currently, all Australian couples do not have the freedom to express their love and commitment to one another through marriage.

This motion asks Council to support that right, consistent with its local government responsibilities for the residents of Canada Bay and others based on NSW and Commonwealth statements on the role of local government, as given below.

The NSW Local Government Act requires councils to “provide strong and effective representation, leadership, planning and decision-making”. (2)

The Commonwealth position (3) on local government states:

State legislation provides the framework for the roles of local government. While in the past the roles of local government were enumerated in detailed and prescriptive legislation, local government bodies in all jurisdictions have now been given the authority to provide generally for the good government of their local government area. This has been viewed as conferring on local government the powers of general competence, or the power to take action in any area not expressly precluded by other legislation.

Local government has roles in governance, advocacy, service delivery, planning and community development, and regulation. There is no longer a standard definition of ‘core’ local government services such ‘roads, rates and rubbish’. Local government now delivers a greater range of services, broadening its focus from ‘hard’ infrastructure provision to include spending on social services such as health, welfare, safety and community amenities.

On 7 December 2017, the Australian parliament legislated to allow two people of either gender to marry.

[This post is based on my Facebook post 16 October 2017.]

Sources

1. http://www.australianmarriageequality.org/local-council-motion-of-support/

2. https://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/acts/2016-38.pdf

3. http://regional.gov.au/local/publications/reports/2003_2004/C1.aspx

 

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