My voting record

(The views expressed on this website are mine alone and not necessarily those of Council.  Authorised by Christel Lorraine Mex, PO Box 3720, Norwood, South Australia, 5067)

Councillors to retain right to voice opinions on social media

posted 5 Sep 2019, 02:56 by Christel Mex

At the September meeting, I moved a successful motion to review the social media policy to ensure that elected members retain the right to voice their opinions on social media.  I was also successful in amending the Civic Recognition Policy to give community groups the same level of recognition as long-serving elected members and local businesses. 

Here is what I said about the social media policy:

This motions simply aims to reconsider the social-media policy adopted on the 5thof August, and I envisage only very minor adjustments are needed.  

The reason for reconsidering the policy is to take account of the differences between the roles of staff and elected council members and to give effect to those differences.

The staff comment does not address this proposition. It does no more than re-assert the foundation of the policy put up and accepted last month, namely that since Councillors and staff are all public officers within the meaning of the relevant South Australian statutes, there can be a one-size-fits-all social-media policy. That is, so far as social-media policy is concerned, that their responsibilities are indistinguishable.

This is simply wrong – and not just in relation to social media policy. Can it really be suggested that all of the rules which properly apply to the most recently appointed, most junior, clerical assistant, must also apply to a Mayor, or the Commissioner of Police, or a Parliamentarian? – Just because all of them are public officers? Of course not.

The difference between staff members and elected members is easily seen when we think about the sentence in the policy to which I drew attention in my reasons for the motion:

“Avoid expressing personal opinions in relation to Council decisions or Council business, and do not make disparaging or critical comments in relation to Council decisions or Council business” (page 4).

Suppose the Council makes a decision with which a Councillor disagrees. 

Of course, we would expect staff members to do their job and faithfully implement the decision without comment.

But suppose that a councillor takes to social media and writes this: “I disagree with the Council decision which voted in favour of reducing library funding and closing one of our libraries. I think their expressed reasons for doing are not in the best interest of our community.” (I can see many of us feeling this way).

Here we have a personal opinion in relation to a Council decision. We also have critical comments in relation to that decision.

Here’s another real example. The Mayor recently criticised the Council decision to fund a new piano. Although he may not have posted this on social media, it was posted on The Advertiser’s electronic media page, which would indeed fall under this policy, as it is (and I quote from the policy), a “website which allows individuals to use publishing tools emerging from the digital environment”. In any case, why would we have a different policy for social media, than print or radio? 

A councillor is allowed go around the streets and the shopping centres and disagree with a Council decision. A councillor may also leaflet the ward with this message. A Councillor can also speak to the print media and radio about it. Is it seriously suggested that a councillor may not also voice their opinion on social media as long as they make it clear it is a personal opinion? Yet that is the inescapable meaning of that clause in the policy. 

The staff comment on this motion ends by saying it is not the intent to gag elected members; but I stress it is not the intent that matters, it is the actual effect.

All that may need to change in this policy, at minimum, is to insert the same note that acknowledges that private views are allowed, as the policy does so in the following clause. 

Elected members are not members of a Cabinet whose members are all bound to support majority decisions of that Cabinet. They are much more like Parliamentarians. In fact, some say we are both the Government and the Opposition.

Apart from necessary confidentiality, and the already existing Conflict of Interest provisions, Councillors are, and should be, free to debate and discuss matters of relevance for those they represent. 

I emphasise that I am not asking for major changes, and although they are small, they are vital to ensure that our councillors are not muzzled. The policy is pretty good, but it won’t take much to make it right and more clear. In quoting Winston Churchill, “To improve is to change”.

Survey response to draft Planning Regulations

posted 27 Feb 2019, 15:46 by Christel Mex   [ updated 27 Feb 2019, 19:13 ]

The State Government is pressing ahead with the new planning reforms which if not amending will put our Historic Conservation Zones and Contributory Items at risk.  Attached is my response to the online survey which closes 1 March 2019.

Submission to retain Historic Conservation Zones

posted 21 Sep 2018, 00:42 by Christel Mex   [ updated 21 Sep 2018, 00:43 ]

Well, I think I did all I could. Published a letter to the editor, convened a meeting with DPTI staff and resident groups, moved the Council's submission, and delivered a social media and email campaign to raise awareness of the 96 draft state planning policies that may change the face of our historic and character zones forever.  Today was the deadline for submissions and here is mine:

RE: SUBMISSION TO DRAFT PLANNING POLICIES

Dear State Planning Commission,

Thank you for the opportunity to provide a submission regarding the draft State Planning Policies. As the mover of my Council’s formal submission to the process, I support the points raised in their submission and in addition, provide my personal submission below.

State Planning Policy 1: Integrated Planning

In the diagram of areas depicted on page 21 which includes illustrations, there is no mention of Historic Conservation Zones and a total lack of recognition of unique character areas across the inner suburbs. All the messages are about infill without any counter-balancing with the important aspects of built and cultural heritage. I recommend rectifying this diagram.

In the ‘non-statutory guidance notes’, it is stated that ‘existing patterns of growth and areas that need careful management will be required in Regional Plans.  If that is the intention, then it should be specifically mentioned as a policy in this section, and include the recognition of Historic Conservation Zones. They are a legitimate part of the planning system, as are desired character statements which are the most useful part of the assessment of new developments in Historic Conservation Zones. These zones exist in many parts of South Australia and are not just local issues as they are well described and defined under State policy in the Heritage Bulletin (2001) which was never retracted.

 State Planning Policy 2: Design Quality

In Policy 7, it is unclear whether this pertains only to Adelaide City or throughout the state. Why should good design quality outcomes just be limited to on City? I recommend expanding this statement to make it clear that it applies to all cities and towns.

State Planning Policy 6: Housing Supply and Diversity

Policy No. 5 in this section refers to providing a ‘permissive and enabling policy environment for housing within residential zones, including the provision of small lot housing and aged care accommodation’. I strongly disagree with the use of the phrase ‘permissive and enabling’ as it sends the message that local development plans and the preservation of Historic Conservation Zones can be easily ignored. Planning is about the common good and giving people certainty that when they invest in a residential area, they know that everyone will follow the same rules (unlike the LifeCare example). Consider replacing ‘permissive and enabling’ with ‘a clear and certain policy environment’. 

I also recommend adding a policy in this area such as, “Support the conservation of valued built form character through tailored Historic Conservation Zone policies and character areas”. This would give some comfort to citizens who live and have invested in these zones.

State Planning Policy 7: Cultural Heritage

I strongly advocate for recognition of Historic Conservation Zones and Contributory Items in the Cultural Heritage policy area. They are an integral part of state planning policy and not just a local issue as pointed out earlier in this submission. 

The zones were established to preserve our historic streetscapes and villages for future generations. The zones include many heritage residences and businesses that embody the character of South Australia, and when maintained as a collection, create a beautiful amenity for all citizens to enjoy. The zones can be found in our country town high streets, inner-city hotspots and residential neighbourhoods. 

If they are not specifically mentioned in the polices, one could only logically conclude that they will disappear in the absence of any policy clarity and become areas targeted for infill development.

·       If the zones are withdrawn from the planning system, contributory items are at risk of demolition. In their place will be new houses that under the new planning system will allow for a tick-box system of approvals and private certifiers.  

·       Currently, most houses in Historic Conservation Zones are called Contributory Items. Policy controls in Council development plans protect against their demolition but allow non-contributory items to be replaced with dwellings that complement the streetscape. If the historic zones disappear, there is a risk that these new dwellings will look out of place and ruin the historic character of these zones forever. There will bigger houses covering most of the allotments, more pavement, less garden area, and less biodiversity for our native animals and birds. 

·       Most of South Australia is already zoned residential, which allows for all types of dwellings to be accommodated. Low-density and low-rise development, which characterises Historic Conservation Zones, is entirely excluded in the State planning policies’ definition of inner suburbs. This is another clue that indicates that Heritage Conservation Zones will be excluded from established suburbs including Unley, Norwood, Prospect, Mile End, Thebarton, Port Adelaide and Mitcham Village.

My residents, at least those who are aware of the draft policies, are alarmed that the important recognition of local historic character is not mentioned in the State Planning Policies. They are also extremely worried by statements that refer to current policy controls which are “unique” to a local area will not be able to be carried over into the new Planning and Design Code. The policies should recognise the importance of listings at all levels of State Heritage, Local Heritage and those buildings currently protected as Contributory Items, combined with appropriate levels of policy protection at each level in the new Planning and Design Code.  

The policy area of Cultural Heritage is extremely weak compared to other policy areas. Whilst the ‘non-statutory guidance notes’ provide some mention of places of significance, they still exclude any mention of Historic Conservation Zones and Contributory items. 

I recommend adding another policy to this area such as, “Support built form heritage through the transition of all State and Local Heritage Places and local policy for Historic Conservation Zones, including contributory items, and areas of valued built form character.”

Whilst the issue of Historic Conservation Zones may be raised in the upcoming discussion papers, the policies as they currently stand give no comfort that this will happen. It may be too late to give Historic Conservation Zones the protection they deserve if the State Planning Policies are adopted in their current form. 

It is extremely unfortunate that consultation on these policies closed before all the discussion papers were released.  The order of this entire process should have started with the discussion papers, then state policies, regional plans, sub-regional plans, the design code and finally the portal. I believe that this reform process needs more time to allow for proper consideration of all the issues, in a sensible and orderly fashion, with genuine community consultation at its heart.

Yours sincerely, 

Cr Christel L Mex

cc: The Premier, Minister of Planning, SA Heritage Council, History Trust of SA, State Planning Commission, National Trust of SA, Environmental Defenders Office, National Trust of SA, Norwood Residents Association, Kensington Residents Association.

Parade Masterplan on hold

posted 13 Sep 2018, 23:25 by Christel Mex

At the 12 September Council meeting, we considered 159 submissions that were received on the draft master plan for The Parade. There was great feedback about the design quality and the need to spruce up the appearance of this significant community asset, which would make it more accessible for residents and shoppers. However, I supported the successful motion to defer the adoption of the plan pending a more detailed study into traffic movements, especially around the George Street intersection. I was personally concerned about retaining the left-hand slip lane. Even though the facelift is desperately needed, it is worth the wait to make it right. Thanks to all the residents and business owners who took the time to make such considered submissions.

Minutes: https://www.npsp.sa.gov.au/about_council/council_and_committees/council_agenda_and_minutes

Heritage Enquiry - They're at it again!

posted 3 Sep 2018, 20:08 by Christel Mex

You may be aware that our heritage is being enquired into yet again, this time by Parliament's Environment, Resources and Development Committee.
Coming out of nowhere in an advertisement in the Tiser last month, the committee requests that we make submissions by this Friday, 14 September
I urge you to have your say, even if it is a simple email stating how our South Australian built heritage is valued and must be preserved.
Send your submission to ERDC.Assembly@parliament.sa.gov.au
For your reference, attached is the NPSP submission which was endorsed at last night's Council meeting.
The terms of reference for the enquiry can be found at http://www.parliament.sa.gov.au/Committees/Pages/Committees.aspx?CTId=5&CId=339

Authorised by Christel Mex, PO Box 3780, Norwood SA.

You have to be in the know ...

posted 22 Aug 2018, 19:12 by Christel Mex   [ updated 22 Aug 2018, 19:33 ]

Last night I moved a unanimous motion to endorse Council's submission for our response to the State Government's new draft planning policies. As I have written previously, there are 99 new policies out for consultation nested under 16 categories. The community is now locked out having a say on individual developments and instead can only have a say on high-level policy documents like these. So you have to 'be in the know' to understand and be informed about what's going on, because unless you are on their mailing list you won't hear about the new policies.  You may not know that our precious Historic Conservation Zones and Contributory Items are not included in the policies. You may not know that all the inner suburbs are earmarked for medium density and urban infill. You may not know that you will have no right of appeal when a developer demolishes and builds high next door. And you may not know that our residential areas may be in for a huge change, and our historic streetscapes may be gone forever. Last night I said I was very frightened for our residents as these policies provide the overarching framework and policies for the future.  On their own, the policies are generalised ‘feel-good’ statements. But as always, the devil is in the detail and this time, in the stark omissions. You have until 21 September to have a say. For more information and to lodge a submission go to www.saplanningportal.sa.gov.au/have_your_say. You can also post a submission to GPO Box 1815, Adelaide 5001 or email DPTI.PlanningEngagement@sa.gov.au.

Act now to preserve our Historic Conservation Zones

posted 13 Aug 2018, 01:45 by Christel Mex

Our Historic Conservation Zones could be at risk if the State Government’s draft planning policies go ahead. They include 99 new policies that sit under 16 policy categories. When you read them, you will probably agree with many of the aspirations which include adaptive reuse, conserving biodiversity, addressing housing supply and water security. However, while most policy areas have an average of six policies, Cultural Heritage only has two. In my opinion, what is alarming is the complete lack of reference to Historic Conservation Zones. 

These zones were established to preserve our historic streetscapes and villages for future generations. The zones include many heritage residences and businesses that embody the character of South Australia, and when maintained as a collection, create a beautiful amenity for all citizens to enjoy. The zones can be found in our country town high streets, inner-city hotspots and residential neighbourhoods. 

These draft planning policies are putting Historic Conservation Zones at risk. Why?

·     There is no mention of them in any of the new planning policies. Hence, one could only logically conclude that they will disappear in the absence of any policy clarity and become areas targeted for infill development.

·     If the zones are withdrawn from the planning system, contributory items are at risk of demolition. In their place will be new houses that under the new planning system will allow for a tick-box system of approvals and private certifiers. 

·     Currently, most houses in Historic Conservation Zones are called Contributory Items. Policy controls in Council development plans protect against their demolition but allow non-contributory items to be replaced with dwellings that complement the streetscape. If the historic zones disappear, there is a risk that these new dwellings will look out of place and ruin the historic character of these zones forever. There will bigger houses covering most of the allotments, more pavement, less garden area, and less biodiversity for our native animals and birds. 

·     Most of South Australia is already zoned residential, which allows for all types of dwellings to be accommodated. Low-density and low-rise development, which characterises Historic Conservation Zones, is entirely excluded in the State planning policies’ definition of inner suburbs. This is another clue that indicates that Heritage Conservation Zones will be excluded from established suburbs including Unley, Norwood, Prospect, Mile End, Thebarton, Port Adelaide, Mitcham Village, Goodwood, Medindie and Toorak Gardens.

The Community Engagement Charter for the new planning system aims to reduce input on individual development applications with consultation instead on high-level documents such as these planning policies. Once implemented, it is unclear whether residents will have a say in any local development assessments. There is no right of appeal for anyone apart from applicants under new performance-assessed approvals.

The public only has until 7 September 2018 to have their say on these draft policies. For more information go to www.saplanningportal.sa.gov.au. Email your submission to DPTI.PlanningEngagement@sa.gov.au, post it to GPO Box 1815, Adelaide 5001 and email Minister for Planning with your views at ministerknoll@sa.gov.au.

Master plan for The Parade getting closer

posted 17 Jul 2018, 18:38 by Christel Mex   [ updated 17 Jul 2018, 18:39 ]

Wider footpaths, retention of trees and an extended median strip remain in the draft master plan for The Parade, which will go out for a final round of consultation next week. I successfully argued for the retention of the slip lane for turning left onto Portrush Road, and traffic modelling done before any final decision is made on banning right-hand turns into some side streets. 
Community feedback included the need for more parking, and the Council will soon be exploring how the Webbe St car park can be extended up. A scramble crossing is still being considered at the George St intersection, and the traffic lights muted for the Edward St intersection was thankfully scrapped. 
To view the draft master plan and to have your say, go to npsp.sa.gov.au.

Lowest council rate rise in metropolitan area

posted 4 Jul 2018, 00:41 by Christel Mex   [ updated 4 Jul 2018, 00:44 ]

At last night's Council meeting the 2018-19 budget and business plan was passed unanimously. If you are a ratepayer in NPSP you will have the lowest rate increase in the metropolitan area with a rate rise of just 0.93, which means an increase for an average residential property of $14 over the entire year. My motion to include a start on the Borthwick Park Master Plan was successful in this year's budget, which is great news for all the dedicated volunteers who regularly work on the park's biodiversity project. To view the entire business plan, go to Council's website at:  www.npsp.sa.gov.au.

Bell's Plumbers Shop

posted 26 Apr 2018, 01:43 by Christel Mex   [ updated 26 Apr 2018, 01:44 ]

At the April Council meeting, I was proud to second Councillor Moore’s motion to request that the State Government amend the Heritage Places Act to require the owners of State Heritage Places to maintain them in good condition. The Bell's Plumbers Shop cottage was built in 1883 by Sir John Colton, who was a Mayor of Adelaide and later became Premier. In 1985 the cottage was State Heritage listed not only for its history, but also because it is an excellent example of a Victorian-era shop in an area rich in history. In my opinion, laws to protect heritage buildings are enacted for good reason so that at least some of our history can be preserved for future generations. I am sympathetic with the views of A. Jones of Highbury (letters 18 April), but no one forced the current owner to purchase the property well after it was heritage listed. There are many examples of property owners who observe the law and develop heritage buildings with commercial success, while at the same time celebrating and respecting our history.

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