A lovely fig trees in Marrickville Golf Course.

Every year, between 3 & 4 million people around the world die as a result of air pollution & its lifelong impacts on human health, from asthma to cardiac disease to strokes.  

Each summer, thousands of unnecessary deaths result from heat waves in urban areas. Studies have shown that trees are a cost-effective solution for both of these challenges. 

And too often, the presence or absence of urban nature – & its myriad benefits – is tied to a neighbourhood’s income level, resulting in dramatic health inequities.  In some American cities, life expectations in different neighbourhoods, located just a few miles apart, can differ by as much as a decade.  Not all of this health disparity is connected to tree cover, but researchers are increasingly finding that neighbourhoods with fewer trees have worse health outcomes, so inequity in access to urban nature makes worse health inequities.”  ~ The Nature Conservancy 2017.

The report may have been about America’s urban forest, but it makes no difference.  The findings are useful world-wide, including our little patch in Sydney’s Inner West.

In my assessment the quality of the urban forest & the canopy cover of the former Marrickville municipality has not changed since the 2014 report, ‘Benchmarking Australia’s Urban Tree Canopy: An i–Tree Assessment, Final Report.’

Now we are amalgamated with Ashfield & Leichhardt municipalities, their urban forest becomes our concern & visa versa.  In 2014 the three municipalities scored the following –

Leichhardt was the winner with a 20.3% tree canopy & 59.8% hard surfaces.

Ashfield won second place with a 19.8% tree cover & 57.4% hard surfaces.

Marrickville came last with an abysmal 16.3% tree canopy & 63.4% hard surfaces.

This is not to say Inner West Council – Marrickville are not planting trees.  They are. They reported that they planted 1,000 street trees across the three former municipalities, which I think is not much & not nearly what is needed.   Council also removes trees.  Development is having an impact on the canopy & so is vandalism.  WestConnex is having a massive impact on tree removal along its above ground route.

I am not familiar with Ashfield, but having lived in the Inner West for the past 40-years, I am familiar with many of the streetscapes across the former Leichhardt & Marrickville municipalities.   I look at street trees that have been there for more than my 40-years & this is a great thing to see.  I am one of those people who love to look at trees.  They make me feel comfortable.  Treeless landscapes or skylines make me feel flat & oppressed.   Recent research has found my response is normal.  The research found that few trees in the landscape results in greater rates of depression & kids finding it hard to learn & retain information amongst other things.

My wish for 2018 is for the Inner West Council to significantly increase funding for street trees, parks & other green spaces.   If our area is to be made greener & healthier for us, then the number of street trees & park trees planted need to increase substantially.   More trees please.

It takes at least a decade for most trees to grow to a size where they have a visual impact, so if we are to get the amenity from trees like shade & clean air, then we need to get trees into the ground as soon as possible.    I say “most” because I have seen how fast a Poplar takes to reach a significant height.  These trees grow so fast you can almost watch it happen.

No-one can deny that it is hard being out on the streets in this hot summer weather.  I’ve been out most days & noticed that a lot of people are not coming out of their homes until 4pm or later due to the heat & lack of shade.

We in the community need to do our bit too.  We need to plant a tree or shrub in our garden if we have the space to do so.  We also need to make concrete gardens a thing of the past & give stamped concrete driveways the flick too.  These only make our house hotter & we pay higher power bills as a result.

I was very impressed with Inner West Council – Marrickville’s free tree giveaway for 2016-2017. It is a terrific initiative & will build upon the urban forest.  I hope the tree giveaway becomes a regular feature for National Tree Day.

Community attitudes toward trees are changing.  I have noticed more people like & want public trees compared to when I started this blog in 2009, which is  great & something Council should capitalise on.

With climate change making our seasons hotter, we need to make the changes that will cool down our streets & public spaces & planting trees is a major way to achieve this.  Plus, trees are beautiful & soften the landscape.  They make us feel good even when we are not aware of this.  They help keep us healthy & happy & they bring in more wildlife.    So, let’s make 2018 the year of tree awareness & get more trees in the ground.

Happy New Year.  I hope this is an excellent year for you & your loved ones.  Thank you for reading.  I appreciate it.  Jacqueline 🙂

Council did well to plant a gum tree here in this perfect place on Myrtle Street Marrickville, but someone did not think so.  It was vandalised 3 times….until it was dead. Thanks – not.




The lovely Fig in Richardson Reserve Marrickville South. 

Happy Christmas.    I hope you are having a nice day with no worries.

This photo was sent to me by a local resident. As you can see, there is a significant amount of the canopy on the ground ready to go through the woodchopper.  The tree that was pruned is visible behind the woodchopper.  Thanks to the resident for allowing me to use this photo.  

It is the season of peace & goodwill & I would prefer to be writing positive posts.  However, I am getting messages from distressed residents about Inner West Council – Marrickville’s tree pruning, so I need to write something.

Inner West Council is currently pruning the street trees in Marrickville South. I spoke to Council’s tree pruners earlier this year, so I was surprised when they were back again so soon.

Our street trees get “managed” from all directions – Ausgrid, development & Council.  Vandals also do things to the street trees, though I am not suggesting that Council are vandals.  Imagine having three groups coming on a regular basis to give you a haircut & maybe lop your ears off.  It is no wonder so many street trees look unattractive.

My observation with pruners is that they come once to prune.  The next time they come they take off more branches that were deemed okay the last visit & no, they haven’t grown so much to be noticeable.  Ausgrid does this & over.  In a very short time, the trees get reduced into a shadow of their former self.  Ausgrid prunes the top & Council prunes the bottom.

Inner West Council – Marrickville says on their website –

“Street trees will be pruned to:

  • Remove any dead, dying or dangerous branches
  • Allow clearance for pedestrians and vehicles
  • Allow clearance to buildings (where practicable)
  • Improve their health and structure.”

So, what is the problem?  This is what has been relayed to me.

I had no knowledge that this was happening today;… Apparently, they are pruning to Australian standards & to protect workers so grass can be mowed, and so footpath is clear & people can walk to their cars.  [they] were saying most people want the trees cut out!!”   Sounds reasonable except if you know the tree was not causing a problem to begin with.   I know this tree.  It was not intruding on the footpath, nor did it prevent people from getting to their car.  What it did have was branches low down on the trunk & as far as I have observed, this is not acceptable by Council.

“This work is being done on the smaller trees to “shape them” and make it easier for council to cut grass from base of trees and away from pedestrians using footpath. This means that the trees look like pom poms and the removal of the dense bottom canopy is not appealing at all to me.”   

“Contractor tried to tell me it’s not my tree & I have no right to protest it’s being trimmed; when I lovingly water it I feel I have some say in its up keep! And will continue fighting for it to live!!!!”    The photo above will show you just how much of the bottom canopy of this tree was removed.

The residents do not believe the trees needed pruning & if the tree  did by Council’s standards, the residents believe that the pruning was excessive.

It is heatwave conditions at the moment.  The weather forecast for the next week is four days well above 30 degrees & five days of extreme UV index.  It can’t be good for trees to undergo so much stress in these weather conditions.  I recently learnt that trees can get sunburnt.    We still have the really hot months ahead of us.

The trees are in flower providing much needed food for wildlife & also beauty for the streetscape.  Many people wait for the flowers on trees to bloom.  Much of the flowers went into the woodchipper.

Surely it is  better to prune trees when they aren’t in flower.  It would not matter so much if we had tonnes of food-producing trees across Inner West Council – Marrickville’s section, but we don’t.  Bird-life would not be missing out on essential food supply.

Inner West Council Marrickville says on their website –

Proactive maintenance based on an annual cycle and is carried out in within a precinct according to the calendar month, i.e. January is precinct one, February is precinct two and so on.”

I downloaded their map & saw that Marrickville South is allocated June, the 6th month.  It is December, the 12th month.  Enter the website  via the Marrickville portal & they say they are doing street tree maintainance & list streets in Balmain.  That’s a bit confusing. 

To finish, I do believe Council needs to ensure that their pruners do not over prune.  Council put up signs saying Ausgrid was over pruning trees.  This was great & wonderfully supportive for the community who were reeling from the damage to street trees done by Ausgrid pruners.  What is not so great is the community perception that Council are doing the same.

One of three Environmental Vandalism signs put up by Inner West Council

It seems some have missed the beauty of the Cooks River.  Rather than pay a tipping fee, they think it is okay to sneak up the pedestrian path & dump a trailer load or three of building rubble into the river.   It is such a shame that a small financial gain for the vandal destroys our precious river environment.

The former Marrickville Council has worked for years to improve the health & ecology of the river, as have other Councils along the river.   Community group The Mudcrabs have also spent countless hours planting the riverbank & cleaning litter from the river.  I doubt whoever the vandal is has ever thought about this.

To protect our river & to stop this happening again, the Inner West Council needs to install bollards/gates at all entrance points.  Of course, these can allow entry to Council vehicles, but anyone else – no.   Not doing this means that Council runs the risk of someone dumping chemicals or other toxic substances into the river & causing a mass killing event of those creatures that live in the river.  This cannot be allowed to happen.

I thank Council for their speed in acting & for the community education by way of signs.  It is good for people to know about this.  I also hope the dumped debris is cleaned up fast.

Dumped into the Cooks River at Marrickville.  This does matter.  Photo taken at low tide. 


The moment of eye contact

Now I turn around and show you my back.

I ride up & down the Cooks River often & I am always on the lookout for birds. So, it was with great delight that I watched what I thought was a darter doing a magnificent display in the middle of the river.

It appeared to be washing.  Once the bird realised that it was being watched it became more demonstrative literally heaving itself out of the water, using its tail feather like a rudder & flapping its massive wings.    It did a range of movements for approximately 3-minutes.  Once it finished, it lifted itself out of the water & flew downriver.

Once home I got to have a closer look at my photographs & decided it looked more like a great cormorant than a darter.  An ornithologist friend confirmed my identification.

I am sure others have seen great cormorants on the river, but for us, this was a first-time sighting.

The great cormorant is an excellent swimmer.  It chases fish by propelling itself underwater with its feet  & holding its wings close to its body.  It can stay underwater for up to one minute.

The more we take care of the river, the more we are rewarded with sights like this.

Getting ready

I am about to stand up

A bad photo unfortunately. Those wings were beating fast. Look at the strength to rise up out of the water like this.

And here I come down into the water again. Look at those beautiful wings.

The worst day of the Cooks River I have ever seen. This was everywhere….slowly floating down the river towards Botany Bay. Photo taken May 16 2016.

Finally, a container deposit scheme has started in NSW.   It has been a long time coming.  Called ‘Return and Earn,’ drink containers can be taken to a collection point for a rebate of 10 cents for every container returned.

A sickening 160-million drink containers become litter in NSW every year.

We are used to seeing plastic bottles in the Cooks River & caught in the mangroves.   It would be fantastic not to have this visual blight in the river & all the associated problems these drink containers cause wildlife, so let’s embrace this.

You can find a collection point here – http://www.returnandearn.org.au

The new area.  This and the photo below shows the whole site.

Sometime during winter the Inner West Council – Marrickville cleared the grass below & around their latest ‘habitat trees’ in Mackey Park.  The cordoned off area lay there for a few weeks until it was covered with wood chip.  About a fortnight ago I noticed that the area had been planted with small plants like native grasses.   The more areas that support wildlife the better in my opinion.

Hopefully it fills out.

Tree number one – taller than a two-storey building. It used to look as lush as the tree behind it.

This is a fine example of tree vandalism on Liberty Street Stanmore.  Many thanks to the person who wrote & told me about it.

Two mature trees both dead.  I didn’t need to look hard to see the drill holes, which were plugged to keep the poison in & I presume to camouflage the holes.

There are four street trees along this block.  It goes – one dead tree, one living tree, one dead tree, one living tree.  Perhaps the vandal thought to confuse us or just had a natural sense of rhythm.  I don’t understand why anyone who would do this, except to say they are selfish.   The loss of these two trees will have a negative impact on the community.  This is a busy road & all the trees along here work hard to remove particulate matter & improve air quality.

I ask Inner West Council to replace them in the next planting season please.  If those trees get vandalized, plant again.

At some stage this council needs to consider CCTV in places where public trees are repeatedly vandalized.

Tree number two.

Poisoned and plugged

A small section of Sydney Park that was cleared to widen Campbell Street St Peters for WestConnex.

130,000 hectares of vegetation, including trees, has been lost to the construction of Stage 3 of WestConnex along the 7.5-kilometre tunnels between Haberfield & St Peters.  Sydney Park took a severe battering losing more then 500 trees.

In 2016 Roads & Maritine Services said that they would plant 3,500 replacement trees of a minimum pot size of 75 litres.  The trees would be about 3-metres or taller in size.  However, they have changed their mind allowing replacement trees of 150 mm pot size, “in pots as tall as a Bic-brand ballpoints…”  See – http://bit.ly/2AiHsmn

“The RMS’ revised tree policy says only 500 trees will now be 75 litres; it argues there is simply not space for all trees to be as big as its initial commitment.”

The remaining 3,000 trees to be planted will be saplings.  My observation over the years is that saplings have a much harder time surviving than do more advanced size trees, so there is a big chance a large percentage of these trees will be lost.  Saplings are more sensitive to lack of water & they are also easier to vandalize.  They will be small enough for people to tread on them or simply snap their trunks.  If they do survive it will take years for these saplings to grow to a size where their risk is lower.

If as they say, “there is simply not space for all trees to be as big as its initial commitment,” what will happen in the unlikely event that all 3,000 saplings survive & grow to a decent size?  The government’s argument does not seem logical.  If you say you cannot fit in all the trees, why would planting saplings help the issue?

I think this change is being done to save money, yet the lack of decent size trees will have a cost on the community in terms of negative health impacts from the poor air quality produced by the thousands of vehicles that will use this motorway every day.  The very least the community needs is trees.  Filtered smoke stacks are essential too, but so far, this is not happening either.

There is a kind of despair I have noticed in my local community whenever WestConnex is raised.  People are angry that whole communities are being demolished & separated for this motorway.  It’s like a giant iron snake cleaving its way through the inner west & its source of nutrition is houses & trees.  If we do have to have this polluting road, then at least it should be hidden behind a bank of trees to not make the residents a further casualty in terms of loss of health.

There has been an abundance of research of late all showing how necessary trees are for human health.  Particulate matter spewed out in vehicle exhaust causes irritated eyes, nose & throat, heart & lung disease, including asthma & chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, increased hospital admissions & a reduction in life expectancy.  This is what the NSW government is gifting the people of the inner west if they do not plant sufficient trees to help mitigate the impact of this motorway.  I would argue that there will be a negative health impact of the motorway anyway, but to not plant decent sized trees is just asking for trouble.

A section of the tree removal in Sydney Park for WestConnex

Rainbow lorikeet feasting on red gum flowers.

This was the Inner West Council Meeting held at Ashfield Chambers. I did not attend, but instead watched the live-streaming from the comfort of my lounge room.   The meeting lasted 4 hours 32 minutes.

I usually just write what was said, but as this was about democracy & my ability to participate, I decided to write a few words. Anything in [ ] are my words.  All mistakes are mine.

The councillors & Wards are as follows – (in alphabetical order) –

Ashfield: Tom Kiat (Greens), Mark Drury (Labor), Julie Passas (Liberal).

Balmain: Rochelle Porteous (Greens), John Stamolis (Independent), Darcy Byrne (Labor).

Leichhardt: Marghanita Da Cruz (Greens), Lucille McKenna (Labor), Vittoria Raciti (Liberal).

Marrickville: Colin Hesse (Greens), Victor Macri (Independent), Sam Iskandar (Labor).

Stanmore: Louise Steer (Greens), Pauline Lockie (Independent), Anna York (Labor).


Mayor Byrne – He explained to the gallery that the meeting was being streamed live to the internet & as such they should behave in a way that does not cause them potential legal difficulties.  He said, “ …for the up to a dozen people in the inner west who are boring enough to want to watch this on the internet…….. if you speak tonight, that will be broadcast to that enormous audience….”  So, I googled & saw that –

  • The meeting of the 31st October 2017 had 364 views.
  • The meeting of the 12th October has had 423 views.
  • The meeting of the 24th October has had 290 views.

This is a far cry from “the up to a dozen people in the inner west who are boring enough to want to watch this on the internet…”   The Mayor’s choice of language is downgrading the utility of this service, which is relatively new & this is a shame.  I find it sad that residents who are engaged in the goings on of council are described as “boring” by the leader of persons who are specifically engaged in open government & deliberative democracy.

7.35pm – Item 2: Draft Code of Meeting Practice –

From the council paper – “The purpose of this report is to adopt a new Code of Meeting Practice for the Inner West Council. The draft Code was publicly exhibited in June 2017 and this report proposes further amendments to the Code after a briefing on the Code was held with the Councillors on 7 November.”

Speaker 1 – I want to support publishing the Code of Meeting Practice [from now onwards – CoMP] on the website.  I disagree with the council officer’s view that the public forum should be limited to no more than 60-minutes at the commencement of the meeting & that the public register to speak.  ….it is much better for the members of the community be able to speak when the thing comes up.  I’ve had things to say at times, have thought of things to say while the councilors are speaking & wanted to make comment.  If I had to speak at the beginning, then there is no time to listen to what the councilors are saying.  You also say that all speakers must register by 2pm.  I disagree with this because people may think about things they want to say that they think about when the meeting is going on.  I do notice that the Mayor can allow someone to speak even if they haven’t registered.  I want to support that.  How can I as a member of the community who wants to say something about something I’ve read in the paper.  I’ve read about these two houses up for demolition.  Why isn’t there an option for members of the community to bring up something & say something.  If it wasn’t here as a notice of motion I wouldn’t be able to say anything about it, except write a letter to the local paper.  What is the option for people in open government to be able to say things?  I write to the General Manager, which it says I should do & he sends it to someone, but it’s not about that.  It’s about how can the general public make a comment about something they disagree with?  There is no way to do this in this system.

Mayor Byrne called the next speaker from the gallery.  He identified him as a member of the Greens.

Clr Porteous – Point of order.  The Mayor is of a habit of pointing out the political party of people in the gallery.  It’s inappropriate.  If you are going to do it be consistent & point out the Labor party members, the Liberal party members, any other party members that there are, but you pointedly only ever say Greens members.

Mayor Byrne – Is this a point of order or a speech?  Let me know when the point of order will conclude.  Would you like me to rule on the point of order?   It has been the case that at each single meeting since the election there has been a cotterie of Greens members in attendance & that has contributed to the business not being dealt with, but I will withdraw that & I won’t seek to identify them any longer.  Given that _____ was the convener of the NSW Greens, everyone knows that already.

[I don’t know the speaker or what roles he has performed.  With respect to the Mayor, disclosing personal information about speakers who have an equal right to speak as any other speaker who is not a member of any political party is a gross violation of their privacy. It may be true that some people knew that particular speaker’s political affiliations, but the whole world did not.  Once something is on the internet it is accessible to the whole world.  Therefore, we should care about privacy.]

Speaker 2 – This is my first meeting of the IWC in its democratic form.  I want to address the section in the CoMP that wants to confine residents to an hour at the beginning of every meeting.  It seems to me there can be no doubt that this is a constriction, a restriction & should be rejected by the councillors of the Inner West Council.   It’s strikes me as rather ironic that the …I know that the hatching of this CoMP was began under the Administrator.  I note that the Administrator administered council meetings according to the CoMP of Leichhardt Council, which this recommendation wants to get rid of.  It would be truly ironic if the undemocratically appointed Administrator adopted & implemented a CoMP that was more democratic, more in favour of public participation than the one adopted tonight.  [He went on to say that residents often help with expertise to help the councilors & their decision-making.]

Speaker 3 – I want to address in particular, the actual options for the public input.  If the public is limited to speaking an hour before these issues are discussed, there is no adequate focus to get the message across clearly.  The process here is a precious one & as democratic people we should support it & that is what I am arguing for.  I want to public to have access to all debates.  That is a truly democratic process.

Clr Drury – I seek an amendment to delete the words in Clause 1, to adopt the CoMP with the following amendments –

  • delete the reference to the public forum,
  • rename public forum to addressing council,
  • & in 2.8 clause 2, basically saying people can come up to give submissions prior to the item as it comes up in the order of council, but we look at a maximum of 3 speakers for & against the item.
  • Further, delete the note of clause 6.1.5 that we publish yadda yadda yadda.

Council is about making good decisions in the best interests of our community.  I am concerned that what has started with this council is a process where too many decisions don’t get made & matters don’t get progressed in an orderly fashion.  I believe this code if we adopted it would allow us to get about the business of council in a far more effective fashion.  I’ve got to say I get lots of submissions from lots of residents on lots of items in the agenda prior to the meeting.  Lots of people email me, lots of people ring me & say, I suggest you amend this, you don’t do this, you do that & I actually work with those residents who want to improve council decisions prior to the meeting.  We have a recommendation that I think encapsulates the issues concerned.  We should not have people coming up here expressly to amend something if they have already determined that & they could have spoken to a councillor & try to convince them before.

[This point is interesting in that many of us, including myself, have written to a councillor & not received a reply.  During the last council, I spoke to a councillor in the supermarket.  The councilor had something like 2,500 emails for just that week. How can councillors be expected to truly negotiate with residents when they are responsible for so many people in each ward? I can’t see why residents cannot just go to the council meeting & speak for 3-minutes to all the councillors, instead of having to approach one before the meeting & then essentially shut up.  While it can be confronting for some to speak at a council meeting, it can also be confronting trying to present your case outside the council meeting.  This is precisely why there is such a low participation in the community.  Many people in our community are afraid of the authority of both the council & the councillors.]

Back to Clr Drury – I am also minded that what democracy means is very different for different people.  I think that to hang on to one CoMP of one of the councils & claim that that is the ants-pants of democracy is perhaps a little limited in scope.  All around the world there are a myriad ways of looking at democracy.  There are arguments for & against.  I think perhaps we need to be a little more open minded & look at other ways.  My primary interest in moving this amendment is so we can get through making good decisions in the best interests of our community.

Clr Macri seconded Clr Drury’s amendment.

Clr Passas – Supporting the amendment.  Once, twice at the most, out of every single decision made by councilors, a speaker swayed the councillor’s vote.  I would say everyone votes in a block.  Their mind is made up.  We might take on board…. a few little amendments might be made, but.  [Interjection from the gallery.]

[How sad is that.  I suspected this, but it still smarted to hear it in actual words.  Essentially Clr Passas is saying from her considerable experience as a councillor, that the councillors’ minds are made up & no matter what you do or say, you won’t sway them or change their decision.]

Back to Clr Passas – When residents have an issue that they are really concerned about they do contact the councillor & let the councillor know.  The councillor will come up, has taken that information on board & will move amendments, discuss with his colleagues or the block & see what they can do about it.  We have issues here & people come up for purely political reasons & most of the people who come up to address council turn out to be candidates at the next election.  And they are up here at every meeting going on about an issue & that’s their platform.  We aren’t the electoral commission.  We are here making decisions for people & if we have not read our business papers & followed up & received more information that we need for our decision, I don’t think that one person coming up & addressing council saying how bad the state or federal government is or whatever, it’s going to sway the councilors to change their mind.

[Again, residents who are engaged & choose to attend council meetings are seen as preparing to run for the next council election.  We haven’t even done 6-months in this new council & this is the attitude toward the community in the gallery.  This is a cynical & disparaging view of community participation.  I attend council meetings because I am interested in what is happening.   I find the meetings interesting.  My husband does as well.  I am sure that most of us who have attended do so because of the issues being debated.  That which affects our future is of interest to us. Participants in deliberative democracy are not just those who run for office.]

Clr Porteous – Moved a foreshadowed motion – that the IWC defer the decision to change the CoMP until the new model CoMP is released by the Office of Local Government & until that time, continue to use the Leichhardt CoMP & from February 2018 there be two council meetings a month.  There could not be a bigger affront to democracy than this CoMP.  It’s a real watering down of democracy & I guess it is one of the desired outcomes of the amalgamation to ensure we have as little input as possible into the democratic process of council from the public because it is certainly achieving that.  You could have 20 people registering to speak on the traffic committee, & then we have none to speak on every other item that is on the agenda.  There are a lot of other issues that have not been addressed by Clr Drury’s amendment, which is why I think we should not be adopting this CoMP this evening.  The way motions & questions on notice are dealt with & I ask that Councilors look at page 57 & you will note the extraordinary power that is given to the General Manager that the council staff will not answer questions on notice.  This is not acceptable that the General Manager gets to decide that a question gets answered.  If you look at page 73, the General Manager can kick out motions & this is unacceptable as well.  We are the elected decision-making body of this council.  The motion should be on the papers & should be debated by council.  You are actually allowing the General Manager to remove your motions.   We already know that the Office of Local Government are going to release the new CoMP in the next 2-3 months.  We have a new council.  Rather than us change the CoMP, then change the CoMP again, we can change it once when we have the model of the new CoMP.  We do it properly & get it right because it is confusing to the public.  It’s more difficult for council to function properly & it’s not good process.  It’s not good governance to continually change to CoMP.

Clr Stamolis – I have six amendments.  Remove the words – shall stand when speaking.  Remove any reference for a public forum.  Any debate in council will lack coherence if we do that.  You see 15 councillors here tonight.  By the third public forum you will see 3 or 4.  Councillors won’t be turning up for them.  If the public forum ends up after 16 minutes, what do we do.  Wait around?  We allow councilors to speak for 5-minutes. I think that should be 3-minutes.  I am completely against two councillors speaking for & two against.  We will debate if we do that, we could lose fantastic amendments & motions if we close off the debate.  If we do decide to proceed with such an inflexible & draconian measure, it should be done only on the basis of a vote & a minimum of two-thirds of councilors to stop any party gagging going on.  In a notice of motion that requires funds that we have to identify the source of funds I completely disagree with that.  Councillors are entitled to put forward motions that will get assessed by our staff.

Clr McKenna –  The CoMP is more than two terms old.  It wasn’t adopted after 2012.  At the local government meeting that I attended the Officer made it very clear that, yes, they are working on a new CoMP, but it was a lower priority.  Knowing how poor they are getting things out in time, I doubt we will see a code this time next year.  We need a new CoMP.  Whether we adopt Clr Drury’s or another, we have to have a new code.

Clr Hesse – We are a council of 185,000 people & growing.  We need a process where we actually maximize the input from residents.  Unlike Clr Passas I have been informed many times in my previous time in Marrickville Council from the gallery about things I hadn’t thought of.  It is a really important conversation to have with residents.  The proposal is deeply, deeply flawed.  Councillors standing could cause grandstanding.  We have a worry with gag clauses.  This stops the public’s right to drill down into issues & to hear the representatives speak.  This draft CoMP is so flawed. Let’s adopt the old Leichhardt one until there is another one foisted on us by the Office of Local Government.

Clr Iskandar – Gave his 17-year history at Marrickville Council.  We had a CoMP that worked very, very well. I would like to adopt that.  Marrickville’s code gives a lot of democracy, a lot of opportunity for the gallery. They were very involved in choosing 3 for & 3 against.  We learnt a lot from them.  [He preferred the public spoke at the beginning of the meeting.]

Clr Macri – This code is probably a hybrid between Ashfield & Marrickville’s CoMP.  It’s nearly 8.30pm. We have to be succinct with the speakers.  [This item started at 7.35pm.  There were 3 speakers who took up 11-minutes of the meeting time.  I don’t think the community speakers are to blame for the slow pace of this meeting.]

Back to Clr Macri – I don’t want to hear motions from councilors about saving blue whales in Antarctica.  I don’t have an issue with the General Manager using common sense.  We need an effective CoMP that allows people to get in, hear their item, speak to & witness their item & then leave.  Come in the first hour, have their say & then disappear.     He supported Clr Drury’s amendment.

Clr Passas – We used to have a prayer before the meeting started.  We did amend it to a period of quiet contemplation & I wondered if we could reintroduce that.  I wanted to sprinkle holy water in the room, but no-one would let me.    Clr Drury accepted this into his amendment.  The public forum is not included in the public forum.

Mayor Byrne – This is very similar to the City of Sydney’s Code.  I don’t consider them to be an undemocratic institution.  I do think though the usefulness of the CoMP is how we make use of it in practice.  There does need to be an improvement in the way we do our business.  [He offered all 15 councillors speaking to an item & residents needing to wait until 11pm for this item to come up as examples.]

The vote on Clr Stamilos’s amendments –

  • “Shall stand when speaking.” Mayor Byrne voted against, but he did not say the names of councillors who voted & these are not visible on the video.
  • Public forum ruled by the Mayor Byrne as redundant & out of order because the primary motion adopts that.
  • “The mover of the motion should speak for 3 minutes, not 5.” Defeated. Mayor Byrne voted against.  Staff – Legislation requires that councillor may speak for 5-minutes.
  • “Councillors are required to reveal the source of their funding.”   Mayor Byrne voted against.
  • Remove “Council should not be limited – to two speakers for & against.” Mayor Byrne ruled out of order.  Amendments defeated.

The vote for the primary motion from Clr Drury – carried.  Mayor Byrne voted yes.

[I think Mayor Byrne should say the names of the councillors who voted for & against an item for the benefit of those residents who watch on the internet.  This is more transparent & is about open government.  This issue is easily fixed.   Or we could make a guess, correctly or otherwise, that the Labor & Liberal councillors, plus Clr Macri voted in the same way as did Mayor Byrne.]

Here ends the Report for this month.  Apologies for the delay.

Some people see this as a mess, but to me it is beautiful.

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