WSA Public Forum 26 November 2012 – a presentation by Ron Norris

Local Government Reform

Written by Ron Norris, Mayor of the Town of Mosman Park

My contribution on the Local Government reform issue is to show that the process has been flawed from the start and bring to your attention to the waste of money and resources which the State Government has allowed to happen. We started the Reform journey nearly 3 years ago and virtually nothing has been achieved. The only response we have received from the Government have been bullying threats – agree to amalgamate or we’ll do it for you. And yet no evidence has been provided to demonstrate this massive dislocation to Local Government is desired by the Ratepayers or that it will deliver any tangible benefit.

Apart from Peppermint Grove I’m not aware of one council which is opposed to the so called “reform process”. All of us, including Peppermint Grove, willingly participated in the Regional Transition Grouping (RTG) process which Minister Castrilli initiated in February 2009. Similarly, we all made submissions to the Robson panel 12 months ago. Unfortunately, as far as the western suburbs are concerned, Robson wasn’t listening.

The Robson Panel has now given the Government its Final Report. I’ll come back to that Report later but the Government now expects us to make a submission on the Final Report. To add insult to injury, they won’t consider our submissions until after the State Election in March. And we now learn that these public submissions, unlike the ones we made earlier, won’t be published. We’re told that “publishing comments may prevent people from providing their true opinions”. So why should we bother to do anything? Continue reading

WSA Public Forum – 26 November 2012 – Report

Second WSA Public Forum, Church of Christ Hall, 260 Bagot Road, Subiaco, Monday 26 November, 2012. 

Posted November 27, 2012 by Western Suburbs Alliance

Following the highly successful, well-attended first WSA public forum held in Cottesloe on October 11, local mayors, councillors and other high-profile citizens again spoke, this time in regard to the following issues:

• The state government’s stated intention to force through amalgamations, if necessary by Act of Parliament, rather than by democratic means.

• New state planning laws which give dictatorial powers to the Planning Minister.

• The State appointed Development Assessment Panels (DAPs) which now control major development approvals including those on reserve land.

• The DAPs consist of three state government-appointed ‘specialist members’, one of whom is the Presiding Member, and two local council representatives and they give right of appeal to developers but deny such right to councils and communities.

• Planning processes that are totally lacking in transparency and accountability.

• The inappropriate and out-of-scale developments the state government and developers are forcing upon Subiaco, Nedlands, Cottesloe, Stirling Highway, the Perth Waterfront and elsewhere in the metropolitan area and beyond.

• The flurry of planning applications from developers and further erosion of our democratic rights that can be expected after the next election.

Under the Chairmanship of Richard Diggins OAM (former Mayor of Subiaco), the speakers were:

On amalgamation issues:

Heather Henderson (Mayor , City of Subiaco)

Max Hipkins (Mayor, City of Nedlands) – Video of presentation

Ron Norris (Mayor, Town of Mosman Park)

Ken Eastwood AM (Former national CPA president)

On planning issues:

Hon. Lynn MacLaren (MLC )

Julie Matheson (Councillor, City of Subiaco)

A Q & A session followed, involving the above speakers plus Wayne Monks (Independent candidate for Churchlands). Again at the end of the forum there was a unanimous show of hands in response to the following questions:

1. How many of you feel that the government’s centralisation of planning powers and disenfranchisement of local government is unacceptable, that the DAPS should be terminated, and the right of appeal restored and public open spaces should be preserved?

2. How many of you would support a statement of no confidence in the Planning Minister, John Day?

3. How many of you would say ‘No local government reorganisation without majority community support’?

WSA Public Forum – 11 October 2012 – Report

First WSA Forum, War Memorial Hall, Cottesloe Civic Centre, October 11, 2012. 

Posted October 12, 2012 by Western Suburbs Alliance

Well over 200 people attended this important event and fielded questions at the Q&A session following the speakers’ presentations.

The speakers were: Ken Eastwood AM (Former national CPA president) – Profli-gate. Who’s paying for all these future projects?; Ron Norris (Mayor, Mosman Park) – The DAP system and its implications for local governments and communities; Julie Matheson (Councillor, Subiaco) – A DAP case study; Subiaco/Catherine Street; Max Hipkins (Mayor, Nedlands) – Recent changes in the state planning laws and powers of the Planning Minister, WA Planning Commission and Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority; Kevin Morgan (Mayor) – The Robson Report and amalgamation; John Hammond (former Mayor, Cottesloe) – Implications of loss of control at the local government and community level. A Q & A session followed, involving the above speakers plus Heather Henderson (Mayor, Subiaco) and Wayne Monks (Independent candidate for Churchlands).

Four Independent candidates announced their intentions to nominate for the following seats in the State Election of 9th March 2013:

Max Hipkins. Seat of Nedlands in opposition to Minister Bill Marmion;

Kevin Morgan. Seat of Cottesloe in opposition to Premier Barnett;

Wayne Monk. Seat of Churchlands;

Greg Ross. Seat of Kalamunda in opposition to Minister John Day.

At the end of the forum there was a unanimous show of hands in response to the following questions:

1. How many of you feel that the government’s centralisation of planning powers and disenfranchisement of local government is unacceptable, that the DAPS should be terminated, and the right of appeal restored and public open spaces should be preserved?

2. How many of you would support a statement of no confidence in the Planning Minister, John Day?

3. How many of you would say ‘No local government reorganisation without majority community support’?

The Australian of October 16, 2012 reported on this event (see http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/hes-way-ahead-but-barnett-doubters-are-surfacing/story-e6frgd0x-1226496613875).

It said, “. . . the latest poll suggests some voters are beginning to turn away from Barnett. His push for council amalgamations and beachfront development has been unpopular in parts of the Liberal

heartland, and last Thursday the premier listened to criticism of his government and himself as he sat through a meeting of disgruntled residents from the suburbs he represents. He was not invited to speak and he was booed as he left.”

Development Assessment Panels – WSA Public Forum 11 October 2012

Written by Ron Norris, Mayor, Town of Mosman Park

My topic tonight is the Development Assessment Panels, commonly known as DAPs. More particularly I wish to discuss the reason why I believe the government introduced DAPs and their impact on councils and communities.

However, firstly I would like to commend the WSA for taking the public stance that it has and for convening this forum. Confronting this government over its current behaviour could not have been initiated from any other part of the metropolitan area. If a group had been formed in, say, the outer suburbs, it would be dismissed as simply a labor party stunt.

I have no doubt that the WSA membership includes what could be called “rusted-on” liberals. WSA is not an anti-liberal action group.  It is a group of people who are offended by the manner in which our communities, indeed all communities, are being treated by this government. The high handed disregard to local democracy and the erosion of the right of local communities to determine their own character cannot be ignored.

It is likely that the only knowledge of DAPs most of you have has been derived from our local media. There may be little or no understanding of how they work and the impact they have on our communities. The purpose of this brief paper is to share some experiences and to comment on their impact.

So why did the government foist daps on us? I would like to think it was to achieve better planning outcomes. Unfortunately, that was not the government’s motive at all.

In my view daps are simply the tangible result of this government’s commitment to developers. I have heard of that commitment from 3 different ministers. It has flowed from examples like Cottesloe and Cambridge Councils attempting to achieve planning outcomes which they believed reflected the best interests of their communities.

DAPs have nothing to do with achieving better or quicker planning decisions. In fact, all of the evidence which has been gained since they were introduced points to the reverse. The transparency, cost and time required to process planning applications are all worse now than before the introduction of DAPs.

For evidence I refer to a paper prepared by Ian MacRae, president of the Local Government Planners Association dated 16 August of this year. The paper is titled “DAPs – one year on, the local government perpsective”. Mr MacRae enquired with those local government planners who have had direct experience in the DAPs process. The questions of whether DAPs have delivered increased transparency, consistency and reliability in planning decisions are all answered resoundingly in the negative.

Similarly, looking at the quality of the decisions which have been made Mr MacRae asked, “did the DAP process add value to the decision?” and “would the decision have been any different?” an astounding 85% of the answers were in the negative.

Most significantly, Mr MacRae has finished his paper with the question, “how [could] such a wasteful initiative, so counter to the interests of good planning, with an outcome so predictable, be allowed to happen?”

The answer is, in its blind belief that local government was responsible for delaying development applications the government has given us DAPs.

This is despite the NSW experience where the incoming Liberal government removed the existing daps because they didn’t work. Now we have the empirical evidence provided by mr macrae which demonstrates that daps are a disaster.

Turning now to the question of the impact of DAPs on councils, the next speaker will illustrate the division and uncertainty they have created. Councillors who offered themselves to serve on the DAPs have found themselves caught in a twilight zone. Denied the opportunity to represent their communities and report to their councils and bound by the majority decision of the DAP.

In that regard it is no accident that there are 5 members in a DAPs panel. Typically there are 2 representatives drawn from the local authority where the planning application is being considered.  The other 3 are appointed externally. This structure gives the “appearance” of democracy but ensures that the council’s, and through them, the community’s, opinion will not prevail.

Even though the planning application may have a direct and immediate adverse effect on its community, all the council can do is make a submission on a planning application the same as any other interested party.

The council may be legally responsible for how it’s community functions in regard to issues such as traffic, noise and increased residential density but it has no greater influence on a daps’ decision than any other individual. So much for local democracy.

Turning now to the impact of DAPs on our communities, it is a fact that it is left to the community, through their council, to find solutions to whatever problems the approved application may have caused. The new development may significantly alter the character of an area. The developer has made his profit and departed. The council must deal with an unhappy community and, using its own funds, find solutions.

I hope these brief comments have given you an understanding of the impact of daps. As Mr MacRae has demonstrated they have materially worsened what existed before while delivering no additional value and, at the same time, leaving the community with the problems.

The government is to be condemned for creating such a situation and, worse, showing no sign of admitting it was wrong and rectifying it.

Thank you