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First Council meeting - 1 Dec 2014

posted 29 Jan 2015, 02:42 by Christel Mex
It was an honour to participat in my first Council meeting for the City of Norwood, Payneham and St Peters last night. Here's my contribution to one of the major debates about the new terms of reference for the Development Assessment Panel: 

Item 10.10 - DEVELOPMENT ASSESSMENT PANEL & DELEGATIONS REVIEW

Council was asked to consider inserting a new clause into the Terms of Reference of the Development Assessment Panel (DAP). The proposed clause (6.12) would have prohibited appointment of people to the DAP who were ordinary members of ‘special interest groups’.

I seconded a motion to refuse inclusion of the clause and spoke to the proposal as follows:

“The wording of clause 6.12 could exclude many people from being appointed to the DAP. 

Allow me to read the first paragraph of the clause:

"A Panel member shall not be a registered and/or active member of a special interest group that has an interest in development or property related fields in the City of Norwood Payneham & St Peters, or a person who holds an office of any kind with a peak body in the development or property related fields.”

I draw to member’s attention that the term active is not clear – does this mean participating in working bees regularly with a residents association? Is it ‘liking’ or being a member of facebook discussion group sponsored by the National Trust who often have an interest in a development issue?

The definition of ‘interest’ is also not clear. A group such as a church council might well have an interest in development matters. Does that mean a member of a Church Council can-not be on the DAP? 

I also note that the way this clause is written, DAP members can hold membership with peak bodies in development or property related fields, but not with peak bodies in the conservation or perhaps business related fields. 

The definition of special interest group found in the second paragraph of this clause is too broad – with no clarity about the size of the groups, what ‘groups within a larger community means’, whether or not these groups are incorporated or if the group has property or development mention in their constitution.  

The definition could well include a few people having a working bee in a park who by chance discuss a nearby development.

The question of a group’s interest in development or property related fields within the City is also too broad. Some groups that would be caught within this definition would be the following organisations, as their members often have an interest in property and development matters: They include

•Disabled in Norwood, Payneham & St Peters
•Bicycles SA
•The National Trust and the Civic Trust
•Community Housing Council of SA
•Women’s Housing Association
•Sustainable Communities SA
•Friends of the Billabong
•Neighbourhood Watch (advocate on fencing issues)
•and even Council precinct committees (The Parade, Glynde Corner, Magill Rd, etc)

There is also a dramatic and shocking point of difference in the clause.

It prohibits membership and activity in some community groups, yet the exclusion does not apply to membership of peak bodies from the development or property related fields.

You can be a member, even an active member of these peak bodies, so long as you don’t formally hold office.  

I draw Councils attention to the fact that this clause does not allow membership in other peak bodies (that may have an interest in property or development) including the Conservation Council of SA or perhaps Business SA, because they are not directly in the development or property related fields. 

But if one is an active member of the Property Council, Urban Development Institute, Master Builders Association, Civic Contractors Federation you can be on the DAP.

If this TOR was past in its current form, it would shock the public conscious. 

The reason is, that it goes to the very heart of democracy, where DAP members can be active members of property developer peak bodies but not active members of community groups such as Disabled in NPSP. 

Furthermore, the issue of conflict of interest is already extensively outlined in Section 21A of the Act. It is clearly a personal matter to declare a conflict of interest and in any case, there are two avenues for formal complaint.

I propose that clause 6.12 is inconsistent with the Act.

As a member of a residents association and a new Councillor I appreciate the code of conduct and the need to represent the whole city.

In summary, allow me to quote from the General Managers report:

“The DAP has discharged its responsibilities well with meetings running efficiently and with a high degree of professionalism”, and, “The quality of decision making is considered to have been very good”.

If this is the case, and the DAP is not broken, why try to fix it – especially when no other council is doing this.”

The motion was past 11 for and 2 against, which was a great result for democracy and preserving our right to stay connected to our community.

Other news: Council representatives appointed to the DAP were Cr Frogley, Cr Dottore, Cr Minney and Cr Duke.

Note: the views expressed in this post are my views alone and not necessarily the views of Council.
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