Friday, November 25, 2011

Oval sale update

SOME light may be shed on the sale of the Willow Court oval when a special council meeting is held on Monday night. The meeting will consider a planning scheme amendment "to allow for future development of the oval space adjacent to George St, New Norfolk".

This special meeting has been called by the mayor and general manager, despite the council deciding (just last week) to defer consideration of the planning scheme amendment until after a workshop had been held with the council's planning officer. The need for urgency has not been explained.

At last week's council meeting, several councillors including myself expressed their concern with the proposed planning scheme amendment.

From my own point of view, I was surprised that councillors had not previously been informed that a subdivision had been approved by delegated authority, enabling the oval to be excised from the buildings nearby. The general manager explained that as there had been only one representation received when the subdivision proposal was advertised, a decision of council was not required.
I also expressed my concern that councillors had not been advised that a consultant had been engaged to prepare the draft planning scheme amendment. It is not a councillor’s role to micro-manage, but items such as these, particularly when they refer to Willow Court and the expenditure of ratepayers funds, should be brought before a council meeting.

In response to questions I was then advised that the consultant's report had cost about $2500 and would be paid for by the council - meaning you, the ratepayer. It would seem to me that this expense has been incurred for the benefit of the proposed purchaser of the oval and I do not support that.

I also note that the consultant’s opinion is that the subdivision approved by delegation “provides for the subdivision of the land up to a total of seven lots”. I did not vote for the sale of the oval and I doubt that those who did believed the land was to be further divided into smaller lots.

Come along to the special council meeting at 6.30pm this Monday, November 28, and hear about it for yourself. The meeting will be held in the New Norfolk Courthouse. Unfortunately the Local Government Act does not permit public questions to be asked at special meetings.

* A reminder that the monthly councillor workshop will be held at 6.30pm this Thursday, December 1, in the council social rooms. Salvage and recycling at the Peppermint Hill tip site will be one of the topics for discussion. The public is welcome to take part in the workshop.


It's no wonder some feel council reform is being driven by the big end of town

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Disappointing start

AN email from the council offices earlier this week carried the disappointing news that the mayor had cancelled this month's workshop, due to have been held tomorrow (Thursday) night. Instead, he will host a social function for new and old councillors at the time originally scheduled for the workshop.

A function to farewell retiring councillors and welcome their replacements is good idea, but it could and should have been held at a time that did not require the cancellation of the monthly workshop. Ratepayers should not be expected to pay for the mayor's party either.

The monthly workshop provides an opportunity for community members to speak to assembled councillors in an informal setting and for councillors themselves to discuss a wide range of topics in a non-adversarial format.

This week's workshop - the first since the election - would have been the perfect opportunity to introduce new councillors to the inner workings of the council. My own introduction two years ago came in the form of a refusal to provide me with the minutes of previous closed council meetings until I agreed to a confidentiality agreement. I politely declined. Two years on, documents have been withheld from the three new councillors until the formalities of the certificate of election and declaration of office have been observed.

In contrast, the new Lord Mayor is already representing the Hobart City Council at formal events (see the daily Civic column in the Mercury) and Launceston aldermen have been sworn in and issued their robes of office (yes, robes!).

At tomorrow's workshop - now cancelled - new councillors could have been briefed on the council's meeting procedure and introduced to council policies. It would also have been a good opportunity to take the new councillors through this year's budget and operational plan. A briefing on Willow Court would also have been beneficial.

The next workshop will be held in the council social rooms at 6.30pm on December 1. Come along.