Wollondilly Council appalled by Erosion of Local Democracy and Divisive Comments from the Planning Minister

Warragamba Panorama

Wollondilly Council appalled by Erosion of Local Democracy and Divisive Comments from the Planning Minister

Posted on: 09.08.2017

The NSW Minister for Planning Anthony Roberts announced yesterday that Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAPs) will become mandatory for all Councils in Wollongong and Sydney. This means that decisions on significant development proposals over a threshold value (as low as $5 million) will be taken out of the hands of democratically elected local Councillors and placed in the hands of government appointed “experts”.

Mr. Roberts claims that this is all about "inappropriate" relationships between Councils and developers, with the outrageous suggestion that Councils are incapable of being transparent and accountable when assessing DAs of significant value.

Not only is this a retrograde decision that threatens local democracy, but it has been delivered with a nasty sting.  This is what Minister Roberts posted on his Facebook page:

 “Today I introduced legislation to end the dodgy and dirty backroom deals that have gone on for far too long inside local councils. The introduction of mandatory Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels across Greater Sydney mean that shonky developers and their mates will no longer be able to flaunt their power with elected Councillors in order to get their DAs through. To the lurk merchants and spivs who inhabit the dark corridors of Council Chambers across Sydney, your trade is done. Get another job. The jig is up. The NSW Government is done with your corrupt and dodgy behaviour”

In response Wollondilly Council Mayor, Judith Hannan, said:

 “I am appalled by these inflammatory and inappropriate comments which defame local government and deeply insult the thousands of Councillors who represent their communities with honesty, integrity and dedication.

 “I personally challenge the Minister to show me any dodgy corrupt back room deals done by myself or any of my Councillors”  

Councillors are accountable to the community through the electoral process and are best placed to make decisions on significant local matters on behalf of their community with the interests of that community at heart.  Government appointed panel members on the other hand have no local connection and no democratic accountability.  Furthermore, the proposed IHAPs will just add another layer of needless bureaucracy and cost for applicants and Councils.

Wollondilly Council, in its advocacy for the best possible planning outcomes for the new town at Wilton, has been requesting a meeting with the Minister for months, but to no avail. The recent decision by the Department of Environment and Planning to press ahead with the exhibition of housing proposals at Wilton ahead of, and despite, unresolved key infrastructure issues would suggest that the NSW State Government has its own “dark corridors”.