Thursday, 21 January 2016

Clarence Valley Council in residents & ratepayers' bad books

It's a local government election year in the Clarence Valley (unless the NSW Boundaries Commission decides otherwise) and locals are getting restless as Saturday 10 September is marked in red on many a fridge calendar.

A vague suspicion is developing that a whole lot of payback may be going down at polling booths across the valley on that date.

Clarence Valley Independent, 14 January 2016:

Forum campaigns against CVC's 'secrecy'
Story By: Geoff Helisma
Convenor of The Clarence Forum lodges a petition with Clarence Valley Council last week. It asks the council to reveal where and how it spends its $580,000 advertising budget. Pic: Judy Myers
Online Facebook group, The Clarence Forum, has lodged a 147-signature petition demanding Clarence Valley Council (CVC) to 'Stop The Secrecy, Tell Us The Truth [and] Tell us the amounts paid to The Independent, DEX, 2GF and related radio from CVC's advertising budget".
The group started the online petition in July 2015, following an operational decision by the council to withdraw its weekly block advertising from this newspaper, as part of the its review of services to meet the requirements of the state government's Fit for the Future initiative.
The council's advertising budget for 2015/16 is $580,000 – the council's statutory financial reports show advertising costs for 2013/14 were $512,000, $520,000 in 2012/13 and $466,000 in 2011/12.
The Clarence Forum's convenor, John Hagger, said he had been unsuccessful in gaining a breakdown of where or how the council spends its advertising budget.
Mr Hagger made a written request to CVC for the information in June 2015.
A council officer responded to the request on June 11, 2015, stating, in part, that work had "started to compile the information but it will take some time to complete … I would envisage having a formal response to you by the end of next week".
Subsequent to this, Mr Hagger was advised on the telephone by the council's corporate director, Ashley Lindsay, that the information would not be released.
In a letter accompanying the petition, which has been sent to the general manager, each of the councillors and Local Government Minister Paul Toole, Mr Hagger writes: "No reason has Ever been given for the refusal to release the report and the information it contains."
Mr Lindsay is on annual leave until February 1.
Mr Hagger said that it was "incumbent on the council to reveal the expenditure details in line with the public interest test outlined in the NSW GIPA Act"……
Read the rest of the article here.
ABC News, 14 January 2016:

There are concerns of an asbestos risk at a new Clarence Valley Council depot in South Grafton.
It was a former sewage treatment plant and a dump for fill where, for decades, the Clarence Valley Council workers took broken water mains made of asbestos-bonded concrete.
With the council planning to build its new depot on the land, there are concerns about whether the asbestos poses a public health risk.
Asbestos was a wonder-product at the time much of the Clarence Valley's water mains network was installed.
As with the vast majority of local government areas, public assets in many cases are riddled with it.
Over the past three decades, as pipes have ruptured and been replaced, some ended up in landfill at the site of the former Sewage Treatment Plant in Tyson Street in South Grafton.
The council has earmarked that site, which is adjacent to the South Grafton High School, for the $13.5 million depot for works and civil engineering staff.
The convenor of the online group Clarence Forum, John Hagger, said the asbestos poses a public health risk.
"[It's not safe], no," Mr Hagger said.
"According to Safecover NSW, council has advised that it's friable, that's the most dangerous form."
The Director of Works and Civil, Troy Anderson, said the council is developing a remediation plan along with a development application to construct a depot, and that as suspicious material is uncovered it will be disposed of securely.

Letter to the Editor, Clarence ValleyIndependent, January 2016:

Iluka 162-lot massive subdivision

There are many questions about this subdivision.
Is it really honest for the Council to say they have already doubled the statutory exhibition period of 14 days (D/E 5/1/16) when the council rooms at both Maclean and Grafton were closed until the 3rd January, effectively reducing the length of time to read over 400 pages in 11 days. Why was the DA not available on the council website or even in Iluka?
Thanks to community pressure the DA is now available at the Iluka Library which is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Thanks to even more community pressure and media attention the submission date to comment has been extended to 4pm on the 12th February. Still not enough time to read, research and prepare a submission or even comment on the DA. We must have informed community scrutiny and enough time to do it.
Many people in Iluka are questioning the timing of the DA release on Christmas eve and the fact that large signs on the Iluka Road advertised this development on Christmas eve 2013. The signs were subsequently removed. How is this possible or even legal before a DA has even been approved?
Journalist Tim Howard’s story states The Stevens Group acknowledges some environmental issues within this site. Quite an understatement by the developer considering it is not just ‘opposite a golf course’ but adjacent to one of the last remnants of littoral rain forest in NSW and also a corridor between two national parks.
Large numbers of bird watchers, scientists and photographers frequent Iluka in the off season for the very reason that Iluka is unique and still home to more than 200 species of birds alone. Do we really want to spoil this quiet, beautiful, unique place by increasing the population by up to 500 along with god knows how many more cars, cats and dogs.
If the community do want an increase in population this is the perfect opportunity for a developer to have a state of the art, sustainable, environmentally friendly development with stringent safeguards for native flora and fauna and larger house sites. The site has been identified as an environmentally sensitive area being in or within 100 metres of an area identified as a wetland of international significance or world heritage area – after all it is this environment we have now that is so attractive to visitors.
Any resident wishing to comment directly to the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel can do so on line as well as a submission to Clarence Valley Council. Exercise your right and have a go.

Annie Dorrian

Note: Clarence Valley Council has extended the submission deadline until 4pm 12 February 2016.

Letter to the Editor in The Daily Examiner, 7 January 2016:

Fair’s fair

Senior Clarence Valley Council officer, Mr Des Schroeder, is reported (5 Jan) as saying that the exhibition period for the proposed 162 lot development at Iluka has been doubled from 14 days to 28 days, but that Council has to "be fair" to the community and the developer when considering a further extension.

Reacting to a reported 400 page document, available at two places in 28 days spread over the Christmas period can in no way be considered fair to the community.  
Council would know that many who have valid concerns and interest in this proposal will not even be aware of it prior to the closing date for submissions on 22 January, let alone make a considered submission.

If Council does have a genuine concern for its residents and their views, it will extend the submission period to a reasonable time - at least another 30 days, but preferably more - and make copies available to all interested persons who request one.

Council ought to justify its action in releasing such a proposal on Christmas Eve.  It makes one wonder how Council weighs up "fairness" for its community.

Peter Morgan
Brooms Head

The Daily Examiner, 5 January 2016:

A DECADE-long project to develop a 162-lot residential subdivision in Iluka could be approved early this year.
The owners of a 19ha parcel of land in Hickey St, the Birrigan Gargle Aboriginal Land Council, and Central Coast developers, the Stevens Group, have submitted a development application for the project, which went on public exhibition on Christmas Eve.
The project is to establish the subdivision opposite the Iluka Golf Course. The development will include 10 streets and three parks designed to retain natural vegetation as well as items of indigenous culture.
The report from the Stevens Group acknowledges some environmental issues with the site.
Between 1958 and 1978 sand mining in the region resulted in minor contamination of the site. The report also mention traces of asbestos and a rubber tyre dump. It proposes to dispose of these contaminants in line with the State guidelines for removing hazardous waste.
One Iluka resident, Tony Belton, has questioned the timing of the exhibition of the DA.
He said it was not good for the Clarence Valley Council to advertise the most significant development in Iluka in decades the day before Christmas.
"People are on holidays and celebrating with their family and friends this festive period," he said.
"This very large 162-lot subdivision needs careful consideration and comment from the community."
Mr Belton called the exhibition period to be extended beyond its January 22 closing date for submissions.

"Surely this submission period needs to be extended by at least another 30 days so any one interested has time to read this 400-page development application and be given a chance to comment on it if they wish," he said......

The Daily Examiner, 31 December 2015:

IF YOU want to take a seat at Iluka's first market of the year, you might have to bring your own.
All four table and chair sets under the shelter and barbecue area at Ken Leeson Oval were unbolted and removed by the council on Christmas Eve.
Iluka Woombah Rotary Club president Graeme Lynn said council staff phoned him about youths misbehaving at the undercover area the day before the community-funded infrastructure was removed, as two of the table/chair sets were funded by the Rotary club. The other two were supplied by the Iluka Fishing Club.
Mr Lynn said he was told it would only be a temporary removal, to which he replied it was the worst time of year to take them out.
This Sunday's market is expected to be the biggest yet.
"They're always full and now there's nothing there, just a big blank space," he said.
"They picked the worst time of the year to do this - the whole town is at capacity and residents and tourists have got nowhere around here to sit. Parents like sitting there to watch their kids on the skate park too."
Troy Anderson, the council's director for works and civil, said constant vandalism at the shelter meant council staff had to service the area over and above normal levels, and something had to give.
He said the timing was considered and noted the markets were only one day.
"It's a catch-22 situation, because there's no good time to take them out at all," Mr Anderson said.
"The removal has two purposes; firstly it is a trial to see whether it will have an impact on ongoing anti-social behaviour, and the second part is maintenance."

If the tables were re-installed at all, Mr Anderson said it would likely happen after school resumed......

Comment sent to North Coast Voices concerning the long proposed Yamba By-pass, 7 October 2015:

Seems the only component of it that's left on the drawing board (or it that the 'chopping block'?) is from Golding Street through to the existing eastern component that serves the business park, with West Yamba the excuse for its construction. With a modicum of common sense all funds would be directed to the intersections along Yamba Road at Treelands Drive, Carrs Drive and Shores Drive.
The departure of the ever-ready overly gung ho pro develop deputy gen manager  ....seems to have allowed a bit of logic to break through.

The Daily Examiner, 6 October 2015:

RISING anger over what he describes as a 50% rate hike has prompted a Clarence Valley businessman to lobby for an investigation into the Clarence Valley Council.
Former Maclean Chamber of Commerce president John Riggall has in recent days been distributing leaflets around the region calling for the probe.
The leaflet is headlined Stop the 50% increase of CVC rates.
Mr Riggall wants residents to contact the NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole asking him to order an independent investigation into the council's operations…..
Mr Riggall's leaflet contains a list of figures of financial issues from that council has experienced in recent years, issues he claims have damaged confidence in the council.
They include:
 A $1 million cost overrun for the Townsend depot.
 $190,000 consultants' fees for McLachlan Park over three years.
 $450,000 staff salary figures left off a report to a council meeting.
 $10 million clerical error in the figures for the Grafton depot rationalisation project……

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