October 29 - November 4, 2023: Issue 603


From the Council Chamber October 24, 2023
By Pittwater Greens Councillor Miranda Korzy

Concept Design - Warriewood Valley Community Centre View from Boondah Reserve - Artist Impression

I’m writing backwards this month, starting with two significant issues discussed in the confidential session of the council’s October meeting: namely its proposed new software system, and the Warriewood Valley Community Centre. The agenda was much lighter than in recent months, consisting only of staff reports and recommendations, including a new Library Strategic Plan that councillors accepted, a waste strategy going on public exhibition, and a new community garden approved for Bayview. However, without any Notices of Motion from councillors, the meeting was over by 9.45pm - a welcome change given I rarely get home from the Dee Why meetings before midnight.  

Enterprise Resource Planning System
Council resolved to enter final negotiations for its new computer “nerve centre” at this week’s meeting. The budget for the current financial year includes plans for the council to borrow $4.6 million from the Mona Vale Cemetery Reserve Fund towards the $40 million cost (over 10 years) of the new software system. We must replace what’s known as the Enterprise Resource Planning System - the software at the centre of council’s operations - before it’s switched off by the supplier Technology One, in October next year. 

All councillors except me and Curl Curl Greens Councillor Kristyn Glanville voted against the staff proposal, which included a directive for CEO Scott Phillips to undertake final negotiations with Technology One for a new system. If the outcome of the talks is satisfactory, Mr Phillips is to enter into a contract for a new ERP licence and project implementation with the company. 

Mr Phillips will also undertake final negotiations with KPMG Australia Technology Solutions, and if happy with the result, enter into a contract with them, as well, for implementation.

Voting for the staff recommendation were: Mayor Sue Heins (and Curl Curl Your Northern Beaches Councillor); Frenchs Forest YNB Councillor Michael Regan (who is also the MP for Wakehurst); Manly Independent Candy Bingham; Pittwater YNB Michael Gencher; Pittwater Liberal Karina Page; Narrabeen Independent Vince De Luca; Narrabeen YNB Ruth Robins; Frenchs Forest YNB Jose Menano-Pires; Manly YNB Sarah Grattan; Manly Liberal Georgia Ryburn; and Curl Curl Liberal David Walton.   

Warriewood Community Centre
The long-awaited Warriewood Valley Community Centre moved one step closer to realisation at this week’s council meeting, with a unanimous vote for the CEO to enter into final negotiations with the preferred tenderer for this project,  Belmadar Pty Ltd. Again, provided the outcome of the negotiations is satisfactory, councillors agreed to give Mr Phillips the power to enter into a contract for design and construction services with the company. 

However, the council also noted that the council budget would need to be adjusted, asking Mr Phillips to give us a briefing on priorities for the preparation of the 2024/25 budget in December. 

The Warriewood Community Centre has long been anticipated by Pittwater residents, since its inclusion in the Warriewood Valley Master Plan of 1998. Pittwater Council circulated architectural plans for the centre in 2010. It, and later the amalgamated Northern Beaches Council, raised funds for the centre through developer contributions - previously known as Section 94 contributions, now Section 7.12. These contributions are levied to fund infrastructure in new developments. Contributions in Warriewood Valley now account for up to $72,000 of the cost of an individual dwelling.

The most recent Warriewood Valley Development Contributions Plan of last year notes that a community meeting place is essential for community development. However, it continues, in Warriewood Valley: 

“Existing facilities are at capacity, evidenced by the requests for provision of additional activities and services from community groups that cannot be accommodated in existing facilities. It is apparent, through previous research, that there is no capacity in the existing community facilities to cater for the demand likely to arise from expected population growth over the next 10 years. As a consequence, it will be necessary to provide additional floor space to ensure appropriate levels of service to the incoming population.” 

With the current Nelson Heather Centre (on the corner of Jacksons and Pittwater Roads), sinking into the old tip site on which it’s built, the council plans to demolish it and construct the new community centre at  the same location. However, excavation to remove loose fill will need to be undertaken and foundation piles used to support it (See Geotechnical Investigation for the Proposed Community Centre).

The population of Warriewood reached 8,425 people in 2022, and Mona Vale 11,019. However, as a District Centre on the B-line bus route, the Nelson Heather Centre also attracts users from outside the Warriewood Valley and Mona Vale. I believe it’s therefore a high priority that work towards the larger centre, including an evacuation hub, goes ahead as soon as possible.  

Library Strategic Plan opens way to community 24/7 hubs
We can look forward to libraries across the Northern Beaches continuing to develop into community hubs, with plans to open more of them around the clock, following councillor support for a new Library Strategy. The popularity of libraries across the Northern Beaches was revealed in the strategy, which recorded 63,000 members having borrowed from a council library in the past three years, 1.11 million loans of physical and digital material from the collection, 11,000 engagements in the library’s cultural and other events, and 474,000 library visits. On top of this, the Home Library served 561 members, showing the importance of this resource.

The value residents place on our libraries was also demonstrated by the large number of submissions on the strategy - with a total of 481. The staff report to council noted strong support for the plan’s emphasis on core library offerings, and I particularly welcome its focus on creating “welcoming and vibrant library places”, given the increased use they are gaining from students and those working from home.

Similarly, the plan to implement 24/7 library access “where feasible” will ensure greater use outside the traditional hours and a (safe) refuge for quiet work at any time. Unfortunately this will not extend to community libraries like Avalon.   

Having seen a demonstration of the Local History online hub at a Palm Beach and Whale Beach Association meeting on Friday, I also welcome the plan to continue digitising resources (which includes thousands of photos, maps and other documents and can be accessed via the council website). This massive task could be a great opening for volunteers!

However, one recommendation I’m concerned about is the “co-location and integration of council service provision” - given that I know Mona Vale Library and Avalon Community Library are packed to the gills. For example, I would oppose council service centres moving to libraries and imagine other residents would feel the same way.

Residents also called for faster book purchases and rotation of stock across branches, longer opening hours, more flexible spaces for quiet study, remote working and group meetings, plus upgraded buildings.

The item was passed by exception, with only Mr Regan opposed (ie with a group of other items at the start of the meeting without discussion).

What about Waste?
For the many residents who feel strongly about reducing rubbish, reusing, repair and recycling, the council voted last week to place a draft Waste and Circular Economy Strategy on public exhibition. And for some, it might come as a shock to realise that on average, each household produces 1.2 tonnes of rubbish each year. 

While the traditional council responsibilities of roads, rates and rubbish have expanded to many other areas these days, rubbish remains a major part of the remit - as I said at the meeting. Papers for Tuesday’s council meeting noted that the council’s domestic waste service is its largest operation, with more than 11 million pickups across the LGA each year and a budget of $58.5 million for the current financial year - supported by the domestic waste charge.

The strategy begins with clearly defined targets for 2030, including:

  • to reduce household waste by 10 per cent
  • to increase resource recovery from household waste from 65 to 70 per cent
  • for a 25 per cent reduction in kerbside bulky goods going to landfill
  • to halve the amount of food waste from households going to landfill
  • reduce litter by 60 per cent and 
  • to double the number of council infrastructure projects using recycled material.

A range of actions are delineated in the plan to educate and provide incentives to the community to reduce waste, collaborate with businesses and researchers to find new waste solutions, to advocate for better product design, and implement a circular economy hub for the LGA to encourage reuse, repair and recycling.

With food accounting for 50 per cent of waste in red bins, tackling food waste is a high priority in the plan. I also field many inquiries from residents wondering why we don't already have “FOGO” bins. The NSW government has mandated that food and garden organics must be collected separately by 2030 and the council is already investigating how best to do this. A number of options exist for this, including: collecting food and garden organics (FOGO) in a bin together; collecting food separately in a new bin (FO); and providing for home composting along with FOGO or FO. 

The strategy notes that FOGO can result in contamination of the organic material from plastic bags and other materials placed in bins. Given that our garden waste is currently sold as a product at Kimbriki, we would have to ensure that this isn't an issue if we go ahead with FOGO. However, there are also issues with the introduction of another bin for homes or units with limited space in their grounds to store them.

Ms Glanville, who seconded the motion after I moved it, thanked members of the Environment Strategic Reference Group, which she chairs, for their contributions to the strategy, along with staff and former Curl Curl Greens Councillor Natalie Warren - who initiated it. The community is very passionate about waste elimination and creating a circular economy, Ms Glanville said, and she believed residents will really sink their teeth into it!  

The motion received little discussion and was passed unanimously. Look out for the draft strategy on the council’s Have Your Say page on its website soon.  

Patyegarang Planning Proposal (Lizard Rock)
An outline for council’s submission on the Patyegarang Planning Proposal, for development of 450 dwellings at the Lizard Rock site, was presented to council at Tuesday’s meeting. 

The proposal, by the Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, applies to land it owns at Morgan Road, Belrose, where it hopes to develop the homes, along with a cultural centre, private open space as well as carry out environmental conservation. 

The submission is in response to the Sydney North Planning Panel placing the proposal on public exhibition on September 26, which is due to close on November 7. 

Council papers noted that the proposal still fails to address most of the council’s concerns raised in a previous submission to the Sydney North Planning Panel in November last year, which then reviewed the proposal. Our objections included the severe bushfire risk, major impacts on biodiversity and concerns about the need for the MLALC to acquire council land in Forest Way, for a slip way to evacuate the area as well as roads within the development. 

The staff report called for the submission to be written, including a request for a public hearing about the proposed land rezoning. All councillors present support the motion, except Narrabeen Independent Vincent De Luca.

Bayview Community Garden Planning Proposal
Bayview residents will be able to plant a community garden at Annam Road, after winning the support of councillors. 

The group, known as Bayview Community Garden Incorporated, wants to grow organic fruit and vegetables at the site, along with flowering plants. They hope it will also encourage socialising and physical activity.   

They applied to council to set up the garden, which went to the March Council meeting and a proposal was approved for public exhibition. With 39 submissions, the majority in support, councillors gave it the go ahead in a vote by exception (again with only Mr Regan opposed).

Some residents had voiced concerns that Annam Road Reserve was next to a threatened ecological community and wildlife corridor - but council countered that no threatened species had been recorded at the reserve. There was also a concern that netting would be needed to discourage wildlife - but staff responded that Wires supports wildlife friendly netting (with a mesh size of less than 5mm), and that staff hadn’t received reports of any animals caught in netting at other community gardens.      

Planning Proposal for Bible Garden neighbour ready for Planning Minister 
A proposal to allow residential building on land next to the Bible Garden at Palm Beach, with its collection of plants referenced in the holy book, is cleared to go to NSW Planning Minister Paul Scully, following approval by the council on Tuesday.

The proposal makes possible an amendment of the Pittwater Local Environment Plan of 2014, to allow a “dwelling house” to be built on a portion of the land at 6 Mitchell Rd, Palm Beach, immediately to the north and on a lower section of the cliff below the garden.

The land directly below the Bible Garden viewing platform is currently zoned RE1 (for public open space or recreational uses), which staff regard as a historical anomaly, given the garden was originally part of the residential block below it which is zoned C4 (Environmental Living).

With 143 of the 148 plants mentioned in the Bible, the garden was created by local businessman Gerard Robinson in 1962, after he decided the “glorious view of creation was too lovely for a house”. His daughter Beatrice Violet Robinson, an Anglican Deaconess, cared for the garden after Mr Robinson’s death in 1972, until her own in 1994.

At that point, family and friends took over the work, however, with concerns about maintenance and future land tax, a trust then controlling the garden negotiated with Pittwater Council to subdivide the land. In 2006, the Bible Garden became one block (6A Mitchell Rd) which was transferred to the ownership of Pittwater Council, and the lower one, with a small house that had been lived in by Ms Robinson, forming another privately held block (6 Mitchell Rd).

The council report notes that in the agreement with council prior to the subdivision, a portion of land between the two allotments was identified as the site for a garage - with a viewing platform above. However, a DA for 6 Mitchell Road submitted to council in January 2021, which included a garage in this position, was knocked back because of the RE1 zoning. Hence the council’s Planning Proposal to allow the additional use of this part of the site - to enable future residential development.  

I had serious doubts about the Planning Proposal because I believe it’s possible that a garage at this site will create a more enclosed feel for the Bible Garden and could well be visible from the fence looking out over the view (despite height restrictions included in the Planning Proposal). However, Friends of the Bible Garden president Stuart Spring and some members of the Palm Beach and Whale Beach Association told me they supported it, so I dropped my objections and voted for the proposal. 

The item was passed by exception, with only Mr Regan opposed - and without discussion at the meeting.

View from Palm Beach Bible Garden - The view Gerald Hercules Robinson secured for all people for all time.