Council news: April 2022
Pittwater development report
One of the most frequent complaints I’m hearing as a councillor is from Pittwater residents who are shocked, dismayed and angry about development that’s destroying our environment. So this week I put forward a motion at Tuesday’s Northern Beaches Council meeting asking for a briefing into why this is happening, despite the area’s planning laws that were designed to protect our beautiful bushland.
Most residents will be aware of massive excavations from boundary to boundary and multiple storeys down in E4 zones - Environmental Living Zones now known as C4 for Conservation Living Zones - across the former Pittwater Local Government Area. These include sites at Palm Beach and Whale Beach, Avalon, Bayview and Church Point - where massive homes are built, sometimes up to six storeys down the block.
The motion called for the briefing to include reference to excavation, tree removal/retention, protection of endangered ecological communities, hard surface to landscape ratios, and other relevant matters. I also asked for it to discuss how compliance with conditions of consent and relevant legislation is assessed and enforced in these zones. Finally, I asked about options for protecting the environment in our C4 zones as part of the new Local Environment Plan and Development Control Plan currently being drafted for the whole Northern Beaches Local Government Area. The new LEP and DCP are required in councils amalgamated in 2016.
The Pittwater LEP states that its particular aims include: “to promote development in Pittwater that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable … (and) “to protect and enhance Pittwater’s natural environment and recreation areas”. Objectives of the E4 Environmental Living Zone are then defined as:
- “To provide for low-impact residential development in areas with special ecological, scientific or aesthetic values.
- To ensure that residential development does not have an adverse effect on those values.
- To provide for residential development of a low density and scale integrated with the landform and landscape.
- To encourage development that retains and enhances riparian and foreshore vegetation and wildlife corridors.”
The DCP provides detail on how these objectives should be achieved. It includes extensive controls related to the natural environment, including for specific ecological communities and 16 locality specific controls. Amongst them are numerous controls on development in environmentally sensitive sites, such as: “Development shall not have an adverse impact on Pittwater Spotted Gum Endangered Ecological Community.” For land adjoining bushland reserves it states that: “Development shall not result in a significant loss of canopy cover or a net loss in native canopy trees.” And for heathland/woodland vegetation: “Development shall not reduce or degrade habitat for locally native species, threatened species, endangered populations or endangered ecological communities.” It also explicitly lays out Pittwater’s well-known 60:40 ratio for the building envelope on Pittwater’s C4/E4 zones, stating for a number of suburbs that: “The total landscaped area on land zoned R2 Low Density Residential or E4 Environmental Living shall be 60% of the site area.”
As I said in the motion, the intention of these controls is very clear and consistent: building lightly on the land, maintaining the bushland in our backyards which host endangered ecological communities and species, minimising excavation of the rocky landscape which is as much a feature of Pittwater as its beautiful beaches and tree canopy. Generations of residents have chosen to live in the area because of this unique environment.
The motion, seconded by Curl Curl Greens Councillor Kristyn Glanville, passed with an amendment, that the briefing be a “special briefing” - meaning that only interested councillors will attend but with the addition that staff also write a report about the issue. Pittwater Your Northern Beaches Team Councillor Michael Gencher supported the motion, however, Pittwater Liberal Councillor Rory Amon and YNB Mayor Michael Regan left the chamber prior to the vote so were not counted. Two other YNB Councillors, from Manly Sarah Grattan and Curl Curl’s Sue Heins, also voted against the motion.
Many thanks to CABPRA president Catherine Kerr and Palm Beach and Whale Beach Residents Association’s Virginia Christensen who spoke at the meeting in support of the motion.
What’s in the budget and what’s important to the community?
If you’re concerned about the budget bottom line or council’s priorities, look out for our Draft Strategic Community Plan 2040, Resourcing Strategy, Delivery Program 2022-2026, Operational Plan and Budget 2022/23 and Pricing Policy, that the council voted to place on public exhibition at Tuesday’s meeting.
Staff project a total expenditure of $443 million in the 2022-23 budget, including a capital works program of $85 million. To achieve this we’ll need to apply to IPART for approval to maintain Council’s forecast rate increase of 2.4%.
Moving that the draft documents be placed on public exhibition for 28 days, YNB Councillor Sarah Grattan said that the budget had experienced a lot of hits in the last few years from storms, bushfires and Covid. (The council has lost $46 million as a result of the pandemic.)
However, the budget papers detail an Operating Surplus before Capital Grants and Contributions of $9 million and a balanced budget position. A further $5 million in loan repayments will also be made during the year, reducing the loans balance to $12 million by 30 June 2023.
Restoration of working capital will be a priority over the four years of the Delivery Program, to recover funds spent during Covid. Working capital provides funding to respond to unexpected events, invest in new opportunities, and ensure a financially sustainable position into the future, the budget papers explain.
Highlights of the proposed capital works program include: resurfacing 10.7km of roads across 25 suburbs; 38 footpath renewal projects across 16 suburbs; 3.5km of new footpath in 10 suburbs; $9.5 million to progress Warriewood Valley community centre; $1.6 million upgrade to the Lynne Czinner Park, Warriewood; foreshore upgrades at Mona Vale and Warriewood Beaches; $1.2m on wharves at Mackerel and Currawong beaches and repairs to Taylors Point wharf, Clareville; a $1.2m upgrade to Duffys Forest Rural Fire Station and Marine Rescue Broken Bay, Bayview; $7.7m of stormwater works, new and renewal; and tidal pool renewal at Paradise Beach, Avalon.
CEO Ray Brownlee notes that the budget includes “efficiency savings” of $1.8 million and paying down $5 million of debt. Given comments that much of the debt paid down since council amalgamations belonged to Pittwater and Manly councils, I asked at the meeting for a report on what debt has been repaid, who acquired it and for what.
Will rates increase?
The budget papers also note they rely on the level of rates income anticipated in the 2021-2025 Delivery Program for the 2022/23 financial year. However, IPART (the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal), which sets rate pegs for councils throughout NSW, this year allowed for only a much lower increase of 0.7 per cent - significantly below inflation. The Office of Local Government has recognised the problems this low rate peg could cause councils in meeting their obligations, so has announced a one off process for the 2022/23 financial year to increase the peg. Thus council has voted to apply to IPART for approval of Council’s forecast rate increase of 2.4%. Staff believe we need rates at this level (on a cumulative basis) to have enough funding to renew community infrastructure.
Waste disposal fee increase proposed
A $39 increase in the waste disposal fee for the Northern Beaches to $505 (from the 2021-22 fee) is also on the books for the next financial year. The increase is due to the following factors:
+ $10 = Increase in waste disposal costs due to a higher EPA Levy
+ $9 = 2022/23 inflation on disposal and collection contracts
+ $7 = Increase in vegetation disposal tonnage by 13%
+ $5 = Adjustment to the collection contract pricing as inflation indexation in the 2021/22 year was 3.3% higher than anticipated
+ $5 = Increase to reserve for future needs
+ $3 = Increase in Bulky Goods disposal tonnage by 10%.
Council voted to submit the proposed fee to IPART for approval.
A new Councillor Expenses and Facilities Policy was also adopted at the meeting, which includes the following: expenses relating to civic duties including attendance at non-Council functions and events and travel: $10,000 for a councillor and $15,000 for the Mayor. Training, educational and professional body memberships relevant to councillor duties and functions: $2,000. Seminars and conferences: $6,500. Professional development: $10,000. Childcare and/or family member care: $6,000. This motion was passed by exception (that is, unanimously with a bunch of other motions). I support it because although I don’t visualise using all of these allowances in any one year, I believe they are all provide valid support - especially when councillor fee payments are set at $31,000 per annum before tax.
Closure and sale of public land at 32 Watkins Road, Avalon
The community clearly opposed the closure and possible sale of a corridor of public land next door to 32 Watkins Road, in Avalon, during public consultation in February and early March. However, after a speech by the owner of number 32, Ivan Byak, at Tuesday’s meeting, the majority of councillors voted to defer the motion to maintain the status quo.
Mr Byak sent the council an application for the closure of the road reserve next to his property, to enable him to buy and potentially subdivide his land, building a second dwelling. However, a majority of the 228 submissions received by council were opposed to closing the so-called “road reserve'', most concerned about the loss of public land. A report on the public exhibition found that: “In this instance, the community has made it clear that they consider this land to be a valuable public asset that should be retained in public ownership.”
Yet Pittwater Liberal Councillor Rory Amon moved a motion seconded by YNB Mayor Michael Regan to defer the motion to the July council meeting - allowing staff to investigate other options, such as placing an easement on the land before its closure and sale. The motion was supported by all councillors except me.
Council passes property strategy
A framework for managing council-owned property was passed at the council meeting, which included setting up a steering committee - with the Mayor and YNB Narrabeen Councillor Ruth Robins and Curl Curl Liberal Councillor David Walton to represent elected councillors. It will also include an “independent property specialist” along with other non-voting staff members including the CEO. The aim of the committee is to review and approve the council’s annual Property Action Plan and make recommendations on other key property matters. With a property portfolio of 542 buildings and over 2,900 parcels of land, the committee will have enormous responsibility. I would have liked to have seen two members from outside the property and council bubble join it, who could have flagged any concerns over proposals at an early stage. I therefore moved an amendment for an independent property valuer, an ecologist and a specialist in heritage significance to be included on the committee. However, it was supported by only one other councillor, Narrabeen Independent Vince De Luca. I therefore was not prepared to support a motion with so little protection for council land with potentially significant environmental or heritage value.
Avalon Youth Hub, Women’s Shelter and Community Northern Beaches funding confirmed for 12 months
Three major social service groups had their council funding confirmed for the next financial year at Tuesday’s council meeting, but no guarantees were provided for beyond that. Avalon Youth Hub will receive $90,000 (ex GST) in the 2022/23 via The Burdekin Association; Northern Beaches Women’s Shelter was allocated $65,500 (ex GST) for the same period; and Community Northern Beaches can expect $97,000 (ex GST). Some councillors were concerned about the groups’ reliance on council for funding, and Narrabeen YNB Councillor Ruth Robins moved an amendment to the funding motion that council staff help the organisations “address financial sustainability and reliance on Council funding in the long term”.
Synthetic turf moratorium rejected
Awareness has been building in recent years of the environmental damage that synthetic turf causes - whilst being more expensive to lay than high quality traditional turf anyway. This damage includes: breakdown of the rubber tyre crumb infill that then pollutes waterways; breakdown of the synthetic top surface, which recent floods have shown can be washed out of place; heating of the surface to extreme temperatures on days even in the mid 20 degrees Celsius, making them dangerous to play on; causing more run off; and the creation of plastic waste that cannot be recycled and does not decompose at the end of the playing fields’ 10 year life span.
For those reasons, Curl Curl Greens Councillor Kristyn Glanville and Manly Independent Councillor Candy Bingham proposed a motion for a moratorium on laying any further synthetic turf playing fields on the Northern Beaches - most immediately at Miller Reserve, Manly Vale. The motion recognised that the NSW government is currently preparing guidelines “on the use of synthetic surfaces in public open space” and therefore sought to defer any further development of these playing fields until the guidelines were released. Unfortunately, the majority of councillors, including Pittwater’s Michael Gencher (YNB) and Rory Amon (Liberal) voted against the motion. Only Councillors Glanville, Bingham, Stuart Sprott (Liberal, Frenchs Forest), Sarah Grattan (YNB Manly), Georgia Ryburn (Liberal, Manly) and I supported the moratorium.
Fingers crossed that the NSW government completes its study of the problems associated with synthetic turf soon and releases its guidelines ASAP. The previous council voted to install a synthetic field at Careel Bay - although this is not at the top of its list. However, it’s an environmentally sensitive site, being located next to the creek and wetlands, so I hope community awareness of the issue increases with the release of the government’s report.
Have Your Say
A number of important council plans and strategies will go on public exhibition following voting at Tuesday’s council meeting. If any of these are of concern to you, please see the council’s Have Your Say page on its website and make a submission - it can be as short or long as you like! See https://yoursay.northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au/
Proposals coming up for exhibition include the:
- Draft Disability Inclusion Action Plan 2022 -2026
- Draft Narrabeen Lagoon Entrance Management Strategy
- Draft Northern Beaches Resilience Strategy
- Draft Planning Agreement Policy
- Draft Warriewood Valley Development Contributions Plan Amendment 16 Revision 4 2022.
Vale Tom Kirsop
The Northern Beaches lost a great environmental warrior with the passing of former Surfrider Foundation Australia chair Tom Kirsop on Easter Sunday, aged 92. On Tuesday, councillors recognised his contributions in a motion, sending its condolences to Mr Kirsop’s family, friends and the Surfrider Foundation Australia.
Councillor Miranda Korzy
Time Travel on The Northern Beaches – 26 April 2022
Today we take for granted many technological advances that would have been unthinkable a few generations ago. Sadly, time travel eludes us.
Wait no longer – I have recently achieved time travel, at last month’s Council meeting. Here in this Chamber, I was transported all the way back to a Warringah Council meeting prior to 1992.
All the way back to when the folk of the then Northern Ward routinely faced the frustration of being shut down in Council debate by the dominant vote of the south.
Here, last month where myself and other Pittwater residents were saddened to observe a Forest Ward Councillor express that he had ‘no sympathy’ for Pittwater people in the challenges we face accessing the hospital at the Forest.
No sympathy for us trying to, quote; “navigate a flooded Wakehurst Parkway a few times a year”.
No sympathy for us taking, quote; “a little bit longer on Mona Vale Road”.
And we witnessed the weakening of the motion to preserve land to be specifically retained for a main hospital building at Mona Vale for future population growth.
Rather, an amended motion was passed risking that land being permanently alienated for unspecified “public services”.
Now it’s not a matter of whether the ambition for re-establishing a hospital at Mona Vale is readily achievable or not. Or whether or not such a noble endeavor is within Council’s nexus.
The matter is, I now fear a lot of Pittwater’s future aspirations are not going to get off the ground.
And I fear there’s only a slim chance that Pittwater residents will replicate the major accomplishments that we fought for and won during the 23 years when we had the support of our own, largely independent Pittwater Council.
Without Pittwater Council, I wonder whether we would have made much progress on achievements
- like saving Currawong,
- like preserving the Warriewood Wetlands,
- like saving the Ingleside Escarpment,
- like the negotiated land swap to save Winnererremy Bay from State Government housing.
I fear that our southern Councillors don’t necessarily share Pittwater’s passion for our really important issues. To be honest, I don’t share their passion for issues in Manly, or further west. None of us have that much time to cover all the issues.
Only one General meeting a month and many items resolved by exception. Look at the length of tonight’s agenda.
So, Councillors, please prove me wrong on this and please, let’s not spend another 14 minutes of precious meeting time discussing whether or not we should be saying Mister Mayor or Madame Deputy Mayor.
Thank you for your precious time tonight.