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30 April 2021 Posted by 

MINISTER RESPONDS TO PETITIONS

Six months of anger leads to public enquiry
DALLAS SHERRINGHAM
THE Public Inquiry into indefinitely suspended Central Coast Council has been announced, but it may take a year before we find out what at exactly went wrong at the embattled organization.
With ratepayers up in arms and petitions of 20,000 and 5000 signatures registered, accompanied by a social media inferno, it was inevitable an Inquiry would be held.
 
However, was anger in quarters including Labor who wanted a wider inquiry and many people who were calling for a Judicial Inquiry. It turned out the Minister wasn’t able to order a Judicial Inquiry.
 
Administrator Dick Persson and his assistant and now fulltime administrator Rik Hart have done an excellent job making the tough decisions and getting the business back on track.
 
Mr Hart will be accompanied by CEO David Farmer, who is good appointment because he knows all about business and tourism and has almost 40 years’ experience in local government.
 
Mr Persson has an ability to cut to the chase and make a decision.
 
And, at the end of tenure, Mr Persson made several critical decisions which will put a spark of hope into the Coast’s immediate and long-term future:
 
He backed Central Coast Airport at Warnervale and set about establishing a Masterplan for the aviation centre to reach its full potential.
He backed the development of Gosford Waterfront as a tourist, nightclub and recreation area.
He pushed back the stranglehold that some environmental groups had on Council, including amongst some councilors and some staff as well on council committees.
 
The experienced Roslyn McCulloch will head up the Public Inquiry into Council as the Independent Commissioner.
 
She conducted the 2019 Public Inquiry into Balranald Shire, with most of her time since gaining entry to the law in 1985 as a planning appeals specialist in the Land and Environment Court.
 
Ms McCulloch also has expertise in planning, environmental and local government law, which was recognised with her appointment as an Accredited Specialist in 2013.
 
During her tenure as Lawyer, Partner, and now Special Counsel at Sydney-based law firm, Pikes & Veterans, McCulloch has regularly advised on local government-related matters for Council and private clients.
 
She has decades of experience through the High Court and Land and Environment Court on matters involving Council issues.
 
She assisted, and then later assumed the carriage of successful proceedings in the Court of Appeal and High Court of Australia for South Sydney Council against the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust.
 
Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast and Member for Terrigal, Adam Crouch, said Ms McCulloch’s experience made her a perfect fit for the job of Commissioner.
 
The Inquiry into Council will take approximately a year and at its conclusion Ms McCulloch will present a report for the Minister and potentially make recommendations regarding her findings.
 
The Minister would then have to decide when to hold an election. This looks like being at least 2023.
 
The indefinite suspension of the council will be perfect for business who have struggled under the burden of anti-progress, unstable council. This has led to investors pulling out of projects including major towers in Gosford area.
 
There are holes in the ground growing weeds where there should be projects reaching for the sky.
 
The Terms of Reference sound a bit like ‘gobbledygook’ but are understandable by reading the LG Act which is available online.
 
The Terms of Reference are:
 
To inquire and report to the Minister for Local Government with respect to whether:
 
In exercising its functions pursuant to sections 21, 22, 23, 23A and 24 of the LG Act, the governing body met its obligations in a manner consistent with sections 8A(1)(b), 8B(a), 8B(c) and 8B(d) of the LG Act, particularly in relation to:
 
a. Whether the governing body acted in a manner that maximised the success of gaining efficiencies and financial savings from the merger process,
b. Whether the governing body disregarded the financial consequences of its decisions, and
c. Whether the governing body’s decisions since 2017 contributed to the financial position which the Council now finds itself in.
In exercising its functions pursuant to section 223 of the LG Act, the governing body ensured:
a. As far as possible, that decisions taken by it had regard to the financial sustainability of the council, and
b. That it kept under review the performance of the council, including that council spending was responsible and sustainable by aligning general revenue and expenses.
 
Any other matter that warrants mention, particularly those that may impact on the effective administration of Council’s functions and responsibilities or the community’s confidence in the Council being able to do so.
 
The Commissioner may make recommendations as the Commissioner sees fit having regard to the outcomes of the Inquiry, including whether all civic offices at Central Coast Council should be declared vacant.


editor

Michael Walls
Publisher
P: 0407 783 413
E: Michael@accessnews.com.au

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