From the Council Chamber - November 2022
By Miranda Korzy, Pittwater Greens Councillor
Public land at Bangalley Headland saved!
The road reserve at Watkins Rd, in North Avalon, will remain in public hands following the Northern Beaches Council meeting on Tuesday night.
Here’s my speech to the meeting - then read on to find out what happened.
“First of all, I would like to say that the community has already roundly rejected the proposal to sell the road reserve between Numbers 34/36 and 32 Watkins Rd and I find this whole proposal to go to public exhibition, yet again, a complete waste of time for the council and public.
For the benefit of those who have not followed this issue till now, the owner of Number 32 Watkins Rd, Ivan Byak, approached the council earlier this year with a proposal to close and sell part of the road reserve between his property and those at 34 and 36 Watkins Road to enable him to subdivide his property, build a driveway and second dwelling.
Until recently, the extremely steep reserve was covered in native vegetation which someone has since partially cleared. The remaining bush joins up with the spectacular Bangalley Headland Reserve, providing habitat for local species such as tiny Blue Wrens, bandicoots, snakes and possums.
This land is not “unused” and is valuable to the wildlife that live there as well as to the community for the break it provides to suburbia. In the context of current work for the Local Environment Plan, this is a Conservation Zone with known hazards, and the road reserve should be zoned C2.
The Council put the proposal to public consultation in February and March and received 228 submissions, with more than 70 per cent opposed.
Council staff then wrote a report advising councillors against closure and sale of the land. It said:
“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.”
In fact, even local MP Rob Stokes emailed residents, saying the council should not close the reserve “and instead to invest in making it a treasured and naturalised public space”.
However, after a speech by Mr Byak at the April meeting and him chatting with councillors, the majority voted to defer the motion to allow time for staff to discuss further proposals with Mr Byak.
I encourage councillors to consider how this sequence of events and latest recommendation appears to the community, which has already expressed its view.
I also note that one neighbour has advised me that despite repeated attempts to find out what council is doing about the reserve, they have been unable to obtain any information. They only learnt of the latest proposal when the agenda for this council meeting was published.
We should not waste any more community or council time with exhibition of further plans to privatise this land and I encourage councillors to vote against it.”
Two prominent Avalon residents, Dianne Ramsay (from the Avalon Preservation Association) and Sue Martin, OAM, spoke against the council’s new recommendation, as proposed by Mr Byak, to sell him the road reserve but with an easement for a public Right of Way on it, allowing for a retaining wall along the southern boundary.
The motion to place the new proposal on exhibition was defeated, 6:5, with those opposed including: all three Pittwater councillors; Curl Curl Greens Councillor Kristyn Glanville, Manly Independent Candy Bingham and Narrabeen Your Northern Beaches Councillor Ruth Robins.
Four councillors were absent: Mayor Michael Regan (Frenchs Forest, Your Northern Beaches); Narrabeen Independent Vince De Luca; Frenchs Forest Liberal Stuart Sprott; and Manly Liberal Georgia Ryburn.
That meant the report was left hanging without recognition by the council - which CEO Ray Brownlee said was an administrative error by staff. So he advised the council to move a motion “recommitting” the item and then another noting the council had received the report. These were both moved by Manly Your Northern Beaches Councillor Sarah Grattan and seconded by me, then carried unanimously.
I hope this will be the end of the saga for this piece of land, and either the bushland can be either allowed to regenerate - with some weeding along the way - or else cleared to allow building of a natural track with wooden steps (like other pathways in Pittwater), providing an alternative access to Bangalley Headland.
Most significantly, this has shown how much the Pittwater community values its publicly-owned bushland and public pathways. I hope it will deter others from imaging they can extend their landholding across Crown or council-owned land located next door.
Potholes on local roads
A short drive around Pittwater reveals that local roads - for which the council is responsible - are still pockmarked with potholes. Some have been fixed so many times that road surfaces are bumpy and eroded from rain. I’m still hearing complaints from residents about having to replace tyres and damage to suspension so put a motion up at the council meeting for staff to review the number of potholes and damage to roads, report back on how many are present, how much it would cost to fix them, and whether we need to review the budget to do so.
Staff told me before the meeting that the council has spent $3.7 million of the $8.1 million budget for road re-sheeting this year. Of the $2.2 million road maintenance budget allocated in operating expenditure, it has spent $1.1 million. The council has also spent a further $1.8 million that we received from the government’s national disaster funding.
They normally carry out a full audit of the 900km of roads across the LGA once every five years and do a section each year. However, they said the Northern Beaches’ roads have been deteriorating as a result of three La Nina seasons in a row. With the same problem across Sydney, staff also explained that roadwork contractors are in demand.
With this background, I think it’s timely that we survey that situation and how much work needs to be done. I’d hoped to see a report back to council for the December meeting, however, staff pointed out that because it is earlier than usual, due to the Christmas break, they will not have time to carry out the work by then. So I accepted the staff recommendation for a report to go to the next meeting on February 28. The motion was passed unanimously.
In another motion, Curl Curl Liberal David Walton and Frenchs Forest Liberal Stuart Sprott proposed staff investigate the use of artificial intelligence technology that involves installation of cameras and sensors on garbage trucks, to identify potholes and other road defects.
The motion was supported by all councillors except me, because I believe we already have far too much surveillance by camera and video already, Australia has very weak digital data laws, and because of questions that would arise over ownership of the data.
Xmas and New Year recess and Council arrangements
Speaking of the Christmas break, councillors have this year opted not to delegate their powers to the Mayor as in the past - instead voting for an extraordinary meeting to be called if needed. This could also be a hybrid meeting - with councillors able to join the meeting electronically.
However, if a quorum cannot be reached, decision making power would then be delegated to the Mayor Michael Regan, but only after consultation with Deputy Mayor Sue Heins, and the CEO Ray Brownlee.
A full list of council service hours of operation can be seen in the Agenda for the November meeting - which was passed as printed. However, in brief, Customer Service Centres will close on December 23, with some centres open between December 28 and 30. Normal operations return on January 3.
These arrangements were support by all councillors except Frenchs Forest Your Northern Beaches Councillor Jose Menano-Peres.
What’s in our garbage: takeaway cups, glass bottles and more
In response to a request from councillors last year, staff reported back to Tuesday’s meeting on a representative sample of public litter bins across the LGA, carried out in June and July. The survey was largely meant to ascertain how many takeaway coffee cups were present but showed some other significant amounts of certain items in public rubbish bins, including: food and kitchen waste making up 19 per cent; dog waste bags 11 per cent; and glass beverage containers 10 per cent. Disposable non-biodegradable coffee cups made up 3 per cent and biodegradable ones made up 2 per cent.
Looks like we need to provide more recycling bins or encourage residents to take those glass bottles home to the recycling bin! And look out for biodegradable doggy do bags at retailers.
Lizard Rock - Council’s submission
With widespread community opposition to development at Lizard Rock (on Morgan Road, Belrose), council on Tuesday night approved a comprehensive submission opposing the development to be sent to the NSW Planning and Environment department (DPE).
The development is outlined in a Planning Proposal submitted by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council (MLALC) to the department and council was invited to make a submission on it, before the proposal is considered by the North District Strategic Planning panel in mid-December.
Council papers reported that the MLALC has proposed for the dense bushland, rich with Aboriginal sites, to:
- rezone the land (currently deferred, or in other words, unzoned) for residential (R2 low density) and conservation (C2 Environmental Conservation) purposes
- introduce a maximum height of buildings of 8.5 metres
- apply a dwelling cap control (450 dwellings) instead of minimum lot size provisions.
The land council also proposes plans for dual occupancy, secondary dwellings, seniors housing, as well as road and stormwater management infrastructure, a community cultural centre, open space and recreation areas.
Council staff identified a wide variety of problems with the proposal, not least of which are the level of bushfire hazard and insufficient emergency evacuation modelling. Others included enormous loss of biodiversity; major impacts on waterways; inconsistencies with other plans for the area, including the Greater Sydney Region Plan and Northern Beaches Housing Strategy; insufficient surveying of Aboriginal heritage; and outdated urban design.
All Councillors except Narrabeen Independent Vince De Luca supported the submission.
Other motions called for:
- the Council to phase out the use of Second-generation Anticoagulant Rodenticides, otherwise known as rat poison or SGARS and to report on council use of other potentially toxic chemicals such as herbicides, fungicides, pesticides/insecticides.
- Council staff to report on what council can do to enable recycling of soft plastics - following suspension of the REDcycle recycling scheme at supermarkets. This report will consider local processing, reduction and eventual elimination of soft plastics.
- Prohibition of alcohol for 24 hours at Rowland Reserve Bayview, on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2022; and at sandy areas of all beaches, parks and reserves on the Northern Beaches on January 26, 2023.
Going on public exhibition:
Draft Youth Voice Action Plan 2028 - Shaping the Beaches Future
Draft Public Art Policy