from the Council chamber: May 24, 2022 meeting
Development the top council issue in Pittwater
Development, environmental issues and roads have topped the list of Pittwater residents’ concerns regarding Northern Beaches Council, a report tabled and passed at this week’s meeting shows.
The Community Satisfaction Research Survey involved a telephone survey of 600 randomly-selected adults, with 20 per cent from each ward (except for Manly at 21 per cent and Frenchs Forest at 19 per cent).
It was carried out by consultants Micromex Research in January and February.
The research showed a whopping 37 per cent of Pittwater respondents rated development and planning as their top priority for council, compared to 25 per cent overall and 32 per cent for Frenchs Forest ward (which is facing a major increase in development.) With the report finding that managing development was lowest overall in terms of satisfaction, council staff noted in the meeting agenda that it “is concerning given it is a key driver of satisfaction”.
Environment and sustainability together were next on the list at 24 per cent in Pittwater, which was the average for all wards. Third was roads at 19 per cent in Pittwater, slightly above the 17 per cent overall.
From amongst 16 categories, residents also rated the need for recreational opportunities highly at 15 per cent in Pittwater, a significant difference from other wards at 10 per cent overall; improving and maintaining services and facilities not far behind at 13 per cent in Pittwater,14 per cent overall; traffic management and road safety at 9 per cent and 14 per cent respectively; and youth services at 10 per cent, double the overall percentage (5 per cent).
These results don’t surprise me at all, given the frequent representations I receive from residents concerned about all three of the top categories in particular - with many dismayed by massive excavations and buildings appearing across the area as well as the loss of tree canopy and degradation of local environment. Complaints about potholes on our roads are also frequent, even more so after the unusually wet Autumn - as anyone on social media will have seen.
Most survey results were not reported by ward, however, Micromex found that 88 per cent of residents overall were “at least somewhat satisfied with Council’s performance” over the previous 12 months. Areas rated most highly for satisfaction were listed as: lifeguards; libraries; food safety; and Warringah and Manly aquatic centres. (Pittwater does not have a council-owned or operated aquatic centre).
The report can be seen in the attachments to the meeting agenda at item 8.1.
Quarterly financial review: what the numbers say
Extreme weather has cost the budget $3.7 million so far this financial year, with significant rain and flooding last December, then again in February and March 2022, according to the council’s latest budget update.
With these events declared natural disasters, the council will be able to access disaster relief funding from the federal and NSW governments. The council hopes to receive $500,000 before the end of this financial year but “the approval and payment of the balance of eligible costs is not anticipated this financial year”.
These are reported in the NBC Quarterly Review for March 2022, which is a progress report on the 2021/22 Operational Plan. It details the council’s performance results and finances for the previous nine months.
Covid continues to impact the budget, but less severely than expected, with the estimated cost for this financial year improved by $800,000 to $15.8 million - meaning the cost overall from Covid since March 2020 is now $44.9 million.
The operational result - including capital grants and contributions - for the whole financial year is now forecast to increase by $3.6 million to a surplus of $47.6 million, while the capital expenditure forecast is for a decrease of $17.1 million to $97 million.
Meanwhile the councils’ report on its Stronger Communities Funding (SCF) from the NSW government - a council amalgamation sweetener - shows a total expenditure to March 2022 of $30.9 million on tied grants including: the Wakehurst Parkway; Mona Vale, Long Reef and Newport Surf Life Saving Clubs; and Mona Vale Performing Arts Centre. More than $15 million of grants under the SCF Community Grants Program was also still underway, including $5.7 million on pathways.
Councillors voted to accept the report and a capital expenditure of $2 million from the budget for next financial year to enable orders for plant and fleet vehicles to be placed - taking into account expected delivery delays.
Toy library update
A council-run toy library was proposed during the previous council term by then Curl Curl Greens Councillor Natalie Warren. Since then staff have investigated the options and brought a proposal to last week’s meeting to establish a toy collection at Manly and Mona Vale Libraries for a trial period of one year.
However, founder of the Cubby House Toy Library at Forestville, Sandra Gillet, addressed the meeting saying the service would like to work with council. Ms Gillet said that Cubby House was started 40 years ago, with an emphasis on educational toys for early childhood, including for special needs kids and with resources for parents. The service, with some 2,000 toys, also limits waste from those discarded. It’s a not-for-profit organisation and is sustained by NSW government grants, although it does charge a joining fee (open to waiver for concession or pension card holders).
As a result, councillors voted to defer the motion and consult further with Cubby House Toy Library.
Developer to provide new footpath for Patterson Lane, Avalon
The owners of a seniors’ housing development at 3 Central Road, Avalon, will give land to council and provide a footpath on it between Central Road and Dunbar Park in Avalon, following an agreement approved at Tuesday’s NBC meeting.
The Development Application for the new complex, with seven self-contained units and a basement carpark for eight vehicles, was approved in December 2020. It allows for the removal of 16 trees plus 3 non-exempt species (ie species that don’t need council approval for removal). Ten of those trees lie along the property’s eastern boundary, where the new concrete footpath will be laid, and include: a Corymbia gummifera (Bloodwood), Eucalyptus acmenoides (White mahogany), Glochidion ferdinandi (Cheese Tree) and Corymbia citriodora (Lemon Scented Gum). Four Angophora Costatas (Sydney redgums) will remain, requiring arborist supervision during excavation.
However, the development consent was deferred in December 2020, requiring the developer to offer to enter into a Planning Agreement with the council. This agreement was to “dedicate to council” (ie give council) a strip of land 1 metre wide along the property boundary adjoining Patterson Lane - totalling 70.5 square metres.
Also under the agreement, vehicle access to the seniors’ housing was required to be built along Patterson Lane and because there isn’t any public land to build a footpath there, the applicant was also required to build a 1.5 metre concrete footpath along the eastern boundary. One metre’s width of that was to be on the owner’s land, the other half a metre on the Patterson Lane road reserve.
I opposed the motion for this planning agreement because I could not condone the removal of 10 trees for a concrete footpath - although permission for their removal is included in the DA. While I hear no shortage of requests for trip hazards to be eliminated from footpaths in Avalon village, I haven’t yet heard from anyone calling for a separate footpath on Patterson Lane.
However, all other councillors (except Curl Curl Greens councillor Kristyn Glanville) supported the motion, so that the Planning Agreement can now be finalised and development go ahead.
I also note that this new development is almost opposite the Maria Regina Catholic School, yet appears to have no provision for visitor parking on a road where parking is at a premium.
Central Road parking study
It was therefore timely that Pittwater Liberal Councillor Rory Amon proposed a motion for council staff to undertake an analysis of the car parking along Central Road. The motion called for a concept design and community consultation.
It stemmed from a resident’s complaint to councillors in January about the lack of parking on Central Road and suggestion for indented parking. Locals will know that the road provides a conduit between Clareville and North Avalon, and, particularly in peak periods or when special events are held in Dunbar Park (eg Market Day), carries so much traffic that it can come to a complete standstill. With cars and trailers parked along the road, buses can find it difficult to negotiate or even get stuck.
Councillors unanimously supported the motion.
Mona Vale Road 40 kph school zone proposed
The danger to children of fast moving traffic on Mona Vale Road, passing within 30 metres of buildings at Mona Vale School, has been a concern to parents and other community members for some time. It’s therefore very welcome that Pittwater Your Northern Beaches Councillor Michael Gencher introduced a motion for council to lobby the NSW government to introduce a 40 kph school zone next to Mona Vale Road, between Foley St and Pittwater Rd.
Mr Gencher told council that Mona Vale Rd sees 30,000 vehicles daily. The school also has a number of entry points from the road.
Student safety should be paramount for children, he said, but parents saw cars running the red light at Bungan St daily and “would desperately like to see a school zone put in place before a child is run over”.
Narrabeen Councillor Vince De Luca noted that Mona Vale Road has seen a number of tragedies. One of these occurred on September 12, 2011, after two cars collided at the Bungan Road T-junction with Mona Vale Road (a Transport for NSW media release records).
Mr Gencher said in the background to his motion that the school had already contacted Transport for NSW with the request, which had been refused on the ground that: “school zones are intended for close proximity to school access points where school children activities are in higher concentration”.
The motion passed unanimously.
Alcohol Free Zone Mona Vale
The need for increased local policing in Pittwater was highlighted by a motion at last Tuesday’s council meeting to review Mona Vale’s Alcohol Free Zone (AFZ), with the idea of extending it to improve public safety.
The motion, brought by Mr Gencher, called for the review to consider extending the AFZ about 100 metres north along Barrenjoey Road - from Darley St to Seabeach Ave - and 135 metres east along Seabeach Ave to Terrol Crescent.
Mr Gencher told the meeting that the motion stemmed from “disgusting behaviour” and disturbances young drinkers were causing to residents of the Seabeach Gardens aged care village.
In background to the motion, he said that AFZs “are designed to prevent street drinking”, and reduce disruptive and anti-social behaviour as well as alcohol related crime on the streets. After the Park House Hotel and other Mona Vale drinking spots closed, the drinking and shenanigans continued on the streets, he said.
I condemn the disturbance to Seabeach Gardens residents. However, I opposed the motion because police already have the power to move on anyone on the street who is drunk and disorderly. The problem is that we don’t have enough police in Pittwater to patrol known trouble spots and respond quickly to public requests for help. I believe this highlights the need for more staffing at Mona Vale police station. Extending the AFZ would have no impact if we still don’t have police available to enforce it. We don’t need more restrictions on civil liberties, which have become plentiful in recent years.
We already have an extensive list of AFZs on the Northern Beaches, with Mona Vale’s currently bounded by the junction of Darley Street and Pittwater Road to the north, along Surfview Road to the East, through to close to the junction of Mona Vale Road and Pittwater Road; and all public carparks, footpaths and streets contained within that area.
Curl Curl Green Councillor Ms Glanville, who spent much of her childhood in Pittwater, questioned the facility of alcohol free zones and said Pittwater’s parents often complained about the lack of policing in the area. However, she said the behaviour also stemmed from there not being enough for young people to do on the Northern Beaches.
Manly Liberal Councillor Georgia Ryburn noted, however, that the motion was simply calling for a review and a staffer told councillors that they would write to the police Local Area Commander for their views and carry out community consultation on the issue.
Mr Gencher rounded off the discussion, saying that by asking for a review, it would bring the issue to the attention of police.
The motion was carried with only me and Ms Glanville opposing it.
Mona Vale - graffiti capital of the Northern Beaches
A regular Pittwater speaker at council meetings, Mark Horton, declared Mona Vale the “graffiti capital of the Northern Beaches” at Tuesday night’s meeting.
Mr Horton said the centre was covered in metre high tags and other graffiti, including on the council hub in Mona Vale Village Park and other two storey buildings, and had “got pretty ugly”.
He was concerned about the danger to taggers of falling from a height, but said the graffiti was also anti-social and costly to remove.
In a comment reinforcing the later council discussion about police presence in Pittwater, Mr Horton said the lack of police foot patrols in Mona Vale was part of the problem but also called for CCTV surveillance - a move I would condemn.
Where are our Mayoral portraits?
Visitors to Dee Why Civic Centre are confronted on entry to the council chamber by a wall of mayoral portraits - all middle aged or older white men and all from Warringah. Mona Vale resident Dave Murray pointed this out in his latest address to council at Tuesday’s meeting, calling for the photographic portraits of Pittwater and Manly’s mayors to be located and hung in the council chamber, given that we were all amalgamated in 2016.
The speech was a reprisal of an earlier one Mr Murray presented three years ago on the same topic, he said, but the issue had not been addressed since then.
Harvey Rose OAM and Patricia Giles OAM
Deputy Mayor and chair of Tuesday’s meeting, Candy Bingham (who is a Good for Manly councillor), responded that portraits of Manly’s mayors still grace Manly Town Hall. For those concerned about photos of Pittwater’s mayors, I recently saw them hanging in the council offices at Vuko Place, in Warriewood. I note however, that three of Pittwater’s nine mayors were women.
Ms Bingham asked staff to investigate, so fingers crossed our mayors will soon join those of Warringah in the council chamber. However, I’d also like to see copies at a more public place in Pittwater - perhaps at Mona Vale Library.
Councillor Miranda Korzy