This was the Development Assessment Committee Meeting. Absent: Clrs Tsardoulias, Hanna, Brooks & Leary.
The Councillors & Wards are as follows – LABOR: Iskandar/Central, Haylen/North, Tsardoulias/West, Woods/South. GREENS: Phillips/Central, Ellsmore/North, Brooks/West, Leary/South. LIBERALS: Gardener/North, Tyler/West INDEPENDENT: Macri/Central, Hanna/South.
The following is how I understood the meeting & all mistakes are mine.
459-463 Illawarra Road Marrickville – extend the trading hours of Woolworths supermarket to 7.30am – 10pm on Saturdays & 8am – 10pm Sundays & public holidays. Council considered that extended trading hours would not have a detrimental effect on the surrounding area & recommended a 12-month trial.
First speaker from Woolworths: Said customers needed to be explained why store closed at 4pm on Sundays. There were 560 signatures on a petition to allow extended trading hours. Woolworths distributed 15,000 leaflets. Said trading to 4pm is inconsistent with other stores & what is proposed is consistent with zoning. There are no proposed changes to the loading dock. The store employs 130 people. Woolworths is a local company owned by hundreds & thousands of Australians. The supermarket sells the essentials of life. The changes make things easier for families to buy essentials when they want to buy them.
Resident 1: This application is similar to the one in 2011 that Council rejected because it would have a significant impact on the surrounding area. Nothing has changed. It will still generate a high level of traffic, trolley dumping, loitering, noise & litter. The business paper has a perspective that this is a commercial area, but it is a predominantly a residential area. The business paper says approval would be unlikely to result in an increase in traffic & noise. This cannot be correct. Many of the shoppers use cars. If you walk down Renwick Street at 5pm on Sunday, this is the only quiet time in the whole week. The business paper also points out other shops open after 4pm. The figures are wrong. Only eight operate after 8pm. These are boutique shops, not comparable to large Woolworths. The fact is that these small corner stores cater to shoppers past 4pm. Shoppers can also go to Wolli Creek & Metro. Market Town in Leichhardt operates from 10am – 4pm on Sundays. I am asking Council not to reconsider its 2011 decision. If there is a 12-month trial, traffic monitoring of the area is needed. More work needs to be done for pre & post traffic measurement for it to be a meaningful trial.
Resident 2: We have no objections to extra hours on Saturday & think that 10am – 4pm on Sunday is ample. We encounter daily high traffic, blocked driveway, rubbish everywhere. People sit under the ramp & drink alcohol & urinate. Faeces can be smelt. Alcohol use outside Woolworths has risen ten-fold since the liquor outlet was opened. There has been an increase in robberies & bags stolen from homes. We have a small respite in the week & we would like to keep it. When it is quiet, the street is not packed with cars. We can hear the PA system at 10pm. Woolworths doesn’t need the extra income. Wolli Creek, Metro & Banana Joes is open on Sunday evenings. The residents deserve to keep this small window.
Resident 3: I will not address the merits of the DA. What I will say is about Council’s conduct. The business paper speaks about Community Consultation. What it does not tell you is that the advertisement that I saw said: “It should be noted that comments received will not be treated confidentially and may be viewed by the applicant.” It is a blanket practice allowing access to identifiers: names, addresses, contact details. No-one has a say as to whether they wish their identifiers not be accessible to DA proponents. This is inconsistent with others Councils. For example, Sydney Council’s invites subitters to say if they wish their anonymity to be respected. A similar direction is on the Information and Privacy Commission’s website. Council’s advertisement is not consistent with its obligations under the GIPA Act. The GIPA Act does not say that Council must allow access to personal information in DA files. It does not say that Council is permitted to allow access without undertaking the statutory balancing exercise to ascertain if there is an overriding right that makes access inappropriate. The community’s privacy right is such a right. It protects identifiers & contact details.
Allowing access to identifiers creates a chilling effect on the community. It creates a fear that personal information will be available to every developer. You get fewer submissions. It is not for developers to be checking whether a submission is genuine & who made it. This is Council’s function. Identifiers do not improve a proponent’s capacity to respond to any community comments. People said to me this is not right. I don’t want developers to know who I am, where I live, what my contacts are. This is for Council to know. A person said I am a silent voter. I will not make any submissions to Council when it allows access to my name & address. Just knowing that identifiers may be accessible is enough to create a chilling effect.
The business paper does not tell you that the Privacy Commissioner is examining Council’s practice & has now written to Council. There have been two Tribunal decisions where developers tried to obtain access to identifiers, which they did not know. Both developers lost.
You may choose to approve the recommendation. But it is the product of a process inconsistent with Council’s privacy obligations. The right thing is a resolution that asks Council to re-advertise the DA, clearly saying what the law is. That is, identifiers will not be accessible without an opportunity to have a say about privacy & without Council complying with the test that the GIPA Act requires of all government agencies. Your resolution should also include a paragraph that asks Council to write to submitters & clearly inform them if Council allowed access to un-redacted submissions in this case & exactly to whom it allowed access, so that submitters can think about whether they wish to make privacy complaints.
Clr Macri moved the motion to support extended trading hours for Woolworths.
Clr Phillips: Said he will not support the motion, but was moving two amendments. I used to live in South Marrickville & felt confused when Woolworths shut down at 4pm. I do think extended hours will support the community. It does affect the residents’ convenience. The headlights shine directly into the lounge room opposite. Council should do something about that issue. Amendment 1: Woolworths to work with Marrickville Council to do streetscape work to stop lights affecting this house. Amendment 2: Recognise this is a residential area & that residents do rely on this respite. 8pm is a reasonable compromise & recognizes residents’ amenity. He thanked the resident regarding the issue of privacy. I am of a mind to raise a matter arising about how Marrickville Council compares & whether submitter details were passed on to Woolworths.
Staff: The Manager of Governance looks after this. My understanding is that certain details are always redacted. This is not my area, so I cannot comment.
Clr Macri: This is only a 12-month trail, so there is a lot of pressure on Woolworths in how they fit into the community. We are looking at a Plan of Management for that site & environs so they are appropriately managed. They are changing their status quo. Regarding the community safety issues; passive surveillance means there is less crime. With no people, there is a rise in crime. The liquor hours will be staying as they are. I am comfortable with a trial. I am happy to support the amendment regarding the streetscape opposite. I’d like a discussion with residents without first thrusting it upon them. We need to actually allow the full trial with the hours they are asking.
Mayor Haylen: I appreciate the concerns of residents. Woolworths has an action plan re loitering, litter etc. I am satisfied on this front. I am looking forward to shopping there on a Sunday. The shops around here told me they are looking forwards to more business too. 134 people are employed & an extra 6-hours allows more kids an employment opportunity. If Woolworths doesn’t uphold its end of the bargain, they will be back in 12-months. I support amendment 1, but not amendment 2.
Clr Gardiner: I don’t support Amendment 1. It bothers me that an application can be ambushed. What does it mean – Woolworths to work with Marrickville Council? Stop headlight spill – which house? It’s half-baked & not thought through. The amendments should been discussed with staff.
Clr Phillips: Amendment change – That Woolworths work with Marrickville Council & local residents. I have faith that Woolworths want to do the right thing. The wording is vague. I would hope that Marrickville Council works with Woolworths & residents. I’ve driven out the Woolworths driveway 150 times. We are asking for approval for something that will have an impact on these residents. It is not half-baked.
Vote on Amendment 2 – Opening hours Sunday 8am – 8pm – For: Clrs Ellsmore & Phillips. Against: Mayor Haylen, Clrs Macri, Iskandar, Woods, Gardiner & Tyler. Lost.
Vote on Amendment 1 – streetscaping to stop headlight spill into a house – For: Mayor Haylen, Clrs Ellsmore, Phillips & Macri. Against: Clrs Iskandar, Woods, Gardiner & Tyler. Carried with Clr Macri’s casting vote.
Vote to approve the Motion for extended operating hours for Woolworths – For: Mayor Haylen, Clrs Ellsmore, Phillips, Gardiner, Tyler & Macri. Against: Clrs Woods & Iskandar. Carried.
Clr Phillips: Privacy Issue Arising: Motion that Council prepare a report about its consultation practices & personal privacy as to how they compare with other councils & comply with the law. Motion carried unanimously.
NOTE: Resident 3 told me he spoke with Council staff during 3 phone calls in May & after some initial inconsistent advice, he was told that Council does allow developers to view community submissions without concealing identifiers.