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 is paid for by the council and 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 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.

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

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State Government backflips on forced council mergers

State Government backflips on forced council mergers

Thursday, July 27, 2017 |

David Shoebridge, MP and Pauline Tyrrell celebrate a victory for grassroots democracy

The State government has announced that it will not continue to force council mergers where councils have taken the government to Court.

Canada Bay Greens Councillor Pauline Tyrrell has been the only councillor to consistently oppose any forced council mergers over the past two years.  She hailed this decision as a victory for local democracy in this area where 75% of residents have opposed a forced merger.

Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:

“From Strathfield to Woollahra and Kuring-gai to Randwick local communities have stood up to an arrogant state government and today they have won.

“A strong and principled campaign from communities, councils and elected representatives was always going to have more power than an out of touch and arrogant Liberal National government.

“The Greens will not rest until the State government has paid every cent of the legal costs of councils and every community that has suffered a forced amalgamation is given the right to get their council back.

“Next week legislation will be before the NSW Parliament that will make it impossible for any future government to forcibly amalgamate a local council without the support of a majority of local residents.

“Today we don’t forget the residents in councils including Pittwater, Leichhardt, Tumbarumba, Gloucester and Gundagai who have suffered deeply unpopular forced amalgamations and we will press on to secure legislation to get their councils back.

“There’s a lesson here for any state government, never take local communities for granted,” Mr Shoebridge said.

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