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The following is my take on the meeting.  All mistakes are mine.  There are likely to be mistakes because the sound system has been deteriorating for weeks & is now on its last legs.  The microphones alternate between soft/loud & it is often difficult to hear the Councillors over the air conditioning system & a strange bubbling sound that makes one feel they are in a fish tank.  Nevertheless, the proceedings were blessed with plenty of incisive debate.

1. Sydney Fringe Festival – The Director of the Festival addressed Council asking for $40,000 ‘seed funding’ & free use of Petersham Town Hall & Enmore Park saying that if Council didn’t provide financial assistance, the festival would not go ahead.  He expected the festival to generate $54,000,000 in local business.  Clr Macri was concerned about the money donated to the events sector because of Council’s poor financial situation.  Clr Peters asked Council to organise green transport options to bring the expected 80,000 people to Newtown & Enmore.  Carried.

2. Street by Street – Residents of Wilga Avenue Dulwich Hill have created verge gardens along the street.  They requested $1,000 to ‘further enhance their sustainability efforts.’  Carried.

3. Support for the Peloponnesian Confederation – A representative asked that fees be waived for use of Henson Park for the October Festival.  Discussion centred as to whether Henson Park was an appropriate venue, with Tempe Reserve offered as an alternative.  The Confederation will need to put in a DA.  Carried.

Petersham Oval - Don Bradman played here

4. Maintenance & use of turf wickets – A speaker representing Inner West Cricket Group (Randwick Petersham Cricket Club, Crickets Club of NSW & South Sydney Cricket Club) wanted the retention of 3 cricket turfs at Petersham Park, Camperdown & Marrickville Parks for their use.  Council will continue to maintain turf at Marrickville & Camperdown Parks while the cricket clubs will cover the costs of maintaining the turf at Petersham Oval.  The cricket clubs will also sub-lease the grounds to other cricket clubs throughout the summer season 2010/11.  Council will sell 1 of its turf rollers valued at $5,000.

Clr Marci said Council spends millions on maintaining grounds so Council shouldn’t have to fiddle with the budget to find $5,000.  Clr Wright disagreed saying this was a small price to pay for the overall benefits.  Clr Peters was concerned that they were making a decision to outsource 3 of the LGA’s major ovals without having previously discussed this.  Said the cricket group had no legal status & for transparency, there should be a process regarding insurance, liability & legalities & while the cricket club can sub-let ovals to other groups, their process has no transparency.  She wanted the issue deferred until these issues are dealt with.  Clr Phillips was also concerned that the community loses its ovals to sporting groups & wanted transparency in the clubs’ charges.  The request was carried with Clr Peters & Kontellis against.

5. Marrickville Rotary ClubRequest for financial support– They asked for $1,350 to pay for a driver & bus hired to take 25 refugee children to Jambaroo Amusement Park in April 2010.  Carried.

6. Sister Cities (SC) leave for the General Manager (GM) Marrickville Council for overseas trip – long debate about the value of the SC with Clr Thanos saying he will not support it in future meetings because the benefit to the community

Planter boxes along Brighton Street Petersham. It would be good if planter boxes were a common thing around Marrickville LGA

is nil and the cost high.  He also said Marrickville Council cannot reciprocate on the levels of money that other cities had spent when our officials & would rather see the money spent on Child Care Centres.  Said nothing ever gets done with the SC except for a few photos.

Clr Kontellis disagreed, saying Council has a Strategic Plan as well as a process of review, but despite these she would not support special leave for the GM.  Clr Phillips also did not support special leave saying he could not see the value in SC & would rather see Council spend money that would go on the GM’s salary while he was away go towards Council’s Green House Gas Reduction Targets.

Clr Wright supported the special leave, as did Clr Byrne, but only for the visit to Bethlehem because it is a new SC.  Clr O’Sullivan spoke about the “connections kept & forged within our community” & “that credibility with faith organisations was an assertion of our values as a community.”  Clr Tsardoulias said the program was about exchanging knowledge, ideas & resources.

Clr Peters asked that the GM visit Christmas Island to see what we can do about the refugees there, as some will live in Marrickville LGA.  Clr Hanna said that on previous tours, the GM phoned Council daily & worked on his computer at night, thus his work for Marrickville Council didn’t stop. As examples of the benefit of the programme he said Cyprus liked the Magic Yellow Bus & was going to do one of their own. He said perhaps the trip would give the GM ideas on how to reduce the rates.

Clr Macri supported the special leave.  He agreed we haven’t brought anything much back, but the SCs are poor & benefit from knowledge from us.  Mayor Iskandar who is a strong supporter of SC spoke about the benefits in depth saying the GM will educate people about our systems & advanced programmes.  Carried with Clrs Phillips, Peters, Kontellis & Olive against.

7. Draft Management Plan & Budget 2010-2014 – Clr Phillips reminded that Council put up an amendment regarding climate change in 1997 to lower our emissions by 2010, but we are not going to meet our target.  He said

Ashfield Council buries slotted ag-pipe at the time they plant trees. The pipes help to get air & water down to the soil surrounding the rootball of the tree, especially in cases where the tree is completely surrounded by paving. This is a great thing.

Marrickville LGA’s biggest user of energy is street lighting & Council should move to powering by green power instead of coal power.  Recent price costing was reasonable & he wanted this to be included in the budget saying “it was the moral issue of our time.”

Clr Peters questioned whether graffiti & rubbish removal were major projects. The GM said these are significant issues for the community.  Clr Peters noted  that tree planting & landscaping were not included as key issues. Clr Hanna said residents care about graffiti & clean streets & they do not speak about tree planting.  Clr Thanos said he would like to see sidewalks be other than concrete & wanted to see something done about our energy consumption.  Said again we spend too much money on SC & $500,000 per year on ‘Events’ was “ludicrous.”  He supported the plan.

Clr Kontellis wanted affordable housing included.  Clr Olive did not agree that NFP local organisations should pay for hall hire, saying they should continue to get it for free.  Passed to community consultation before coming back to Council.

8. Draft Core Asset Management Plan – Clr Phillips noted there were limitations to what Council could do because of rate pegging & said he thought the community would support an increase in rates.  Clr Wright said the report provided a framework to allow us to make assessments & go to the community with facts & options.  Carried.

9. 10 Big Ideas to Grow NSW – The NSW Business Council Discussion Paper proposed the formation of 10 ‘Super Councils’ in Sydney to replace the current

spectacular tree at the start of the Newcastle expressway

41 councils.  Clr Olive thought it was a “preposterous idea.”  Clr Thanos said City of Sydney Council has a surplus of half a billion dollars & can’t get that below $200,000,000/year.  Said we should be leaders & not wait until the state government forces amalgamation upon us.  Saying if it benefits our residents, we should say this to the State Government.  The vote was to oppose the idea.

10. 2010 Year of Women in Local Government – Clrs O’Sullivan & Byrne nominated to attend.  The program allocates $17,000 to collect stories from women working in child care, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or multicultural communities working in positions where they don’t usually have a voice, opportunity to move ahead or have formal qualifications recognised or obtain formal qualifications.

11. Audit Committee Charter – The Mayor & Deputy Mayor are on it, with the third member as chair and not a councillor.  Clr Phillips put up a motion  saying he was concerned  that as the holders of these offices change, may have both representatives coming from the same party & he wanted the committee to have one more member. Mayor Iskandar said it could be discussed if it happens. Clr Wright said this committee is “an oversighting committee at the highest level & above politics.”  The committee does not have decision-making powers. Motion lost with the Mayor using casting vote.

12. National assembly of Local Government – this is a conference in Canberra in June 2010.  Marrickville Council will attend.  Carried.

13. Financial Assistance for Marrickville Greek Orthodox Church – Clr Phillips put up a motion to reverse the previous decision to give $5,000 to quieten the church’s bells.  Said it was totally inappropriate to financially support a DA & sets a bad precedent & other churches or community groups could feel entitled to $5,000 lots as well.  Clr Thanos, who set the first motion to grant the money, said it was a good will gesture.  Its significance is in that it is for a permanent fixture & not a once-off event.  Clr Olive said that he was bothered because it was a permanent structure & thought it was a bad decision heritage-wise.  Clr Peters said she didn’t think we should be funding a DA. Clrs Peters & Macri were out of the room when the vote took place.  Recision motion unsuccessful. See – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/report-from-the-gallery-–-16th-february-2010/

14. Saving Marrickville from Financial Disaster – See Clr-Thanos-Notice-of-motion-Saving-MC-financial-disaster-2010 Clr Hanna said, if in 2011 there is

a friend's garden

a special rate for the environment, he would not support it & will vote for amalgamation to a Super Council.  Clr Kontellis asked that staff could prepare a study brief that determines the cost/benefit of amalgamation.  Clr Wright opposed the motion saying it “was a wild goose chase that won’t happen unless the state government make us.”  Clr O’Sullivan agreed & mentioned that Glebe Books is coming to Dulwich Hill (yay!) because City of Sydney’s improvements works to Glebe Point Road negatively impacted on businesses. Clr Phillips said amalgamation was a way out from having to vote for a special rate variation (rate increase) as Council’s costs are far greater than the rates coming in.  Clr Thanos spoke about the history of City of Sydney Council amalgamating with South Sydney Council saying it was “a secret agenda of the government for years & he wanted to know the facts & be ready for it.”  Clr Hanna, Byrne, Olive, Kontellis against with Mayor Iskandar using his casting vote.  Motion defeated.

And here ends Report from the Gallery for this week.

New grass planting at Cooks River Marrickville

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Tuesday night was the Business Meeting of Marrickville Council.  I’m just starting to become familiar with each meeting & I think this the most interesting meeting of the month.  The following is my understanding of the meeting & all mistakes are mine.

Lease of Council land in Tempe Reserve The Cooks River Motor Boat Club have been situated on this site for the past 110 years.  In brief, this area of land had 2 components: (a) the Clubhouse, which is on privately owned land (b) the boatyard next door, which is on Crown Land & managed by Marrickville Council.

The Cooks River Motor Boat Club owned the land where the Clubhouse stands & they leased the Crown land next door.  However, the club has gone into liquidation & the private land will be auctioned next Wednesday.  Three parties petitioned Council for the use of the Crown Land where the boatyard currently stands.

View of the wooden boats moored opposite the boatyard from the Promenade at Tempe Reserve

The Cooks River Motor Boat Club petitioned Council to allow them to stay on & have time to get their financial affairs in order.  Ex Mayor Barry Cotter, a member of the club spoke & said, “History comes in many forms & floating heritage is being repaired in this boatyard.”  He went on to say that many of the boats are over 50 years old.

A representative speaking for a different boating group said they wanted to use the land to continue the tradition of repairing boats.  The third speaker was the President of the Newtown Jets Club who said they were attending the upcoming auction with view to purchasing the Clubhouse land & if successful, they would retain the Clubhouse.  They petitioned Council to lease the Crown land where the boatyard is, saying they would convert this to small synthetic-turf sporting fields for the players of the Junior Jets.

There was much discussion about the petitions, with members of Marrickville Greens concerned that Councillors only received some papers regarding this issue 1 hour prior to the meeting & the petitioners, only one day before.  They also had concerns about allowing a group that is in liquidation to receive what they interpreted as priority over the 2 other petitioners for a significant piece of Crown land.  The Labor & Independent Councillors voted to give a 12-month lease to the current local group who has a continued history for 110 years.

Shared open space at Dulwich Hill Primary School: The bottom playground of this school has been used by the community as green space for decades.  Recently the Department of Education & Training (DET) erected a high fence preventing access.  The decision was to liaise with DET to allow access to the community & pay a Caretaker to open & shut the gate paying $28,000 p.a.  This would be a great job to have.

Sister Cities visit: Mayor Iskandar has accepted an invitation from the Mayor of Bethlehem to visit in May 2010.  While Mayor Iskandar is overseas he will also visit 5 other Sister Cities, Funchal Portugal; Keelung Taiwan; Kos Greece; Larnaca Cyprus; Safita Syria;  & later in October, another Sister City in Egypt.  All up Mayor Iskandar will visit 7 Sister Cities overseas this year.  Carried unanimously.

Mackey Park Refurbishment funding: A budget adjustment of $835,000 bringing the total to $3.1 million was carried unanimously.

Council loans: Another reason why these meetings are so interesting.  I had no idea Council took out bank loans for infrastructure works.  Council intends to borrow $2,077,440 over 10 years before the end of this financial year to pay for

Red-flowering Gum - I've seen it used as a street tree in Rockdale

infrastructure works.  It was explained by a staff member that money is only borrowed for long-term assets that benefit the rate-payers in the future.  Clr Phillips expressed concern over the interest burden that would be carried by all & the motion was carried unanimously.

Audio-streaming of Council meetings:  Much was said during this debate. I think it is too much to read in one post so I will post this section of the meeting as ‘Part 2’ tomorrow.

Motion to rescind earlier motion: The meeting ended with a rescind motion by Clr Phillips regarding this evening’s earlier decision to give a 12 month lease to the Cooks River Motor Boat Club & change it to a 3 month lease for the following reasons: the land is up for auction next Wednesday, Council is preferring one group over others which prejudices these groups, supplementary information only arrived one hour before the Council meeting & the issue wasn’t urgent.  Procedural fairness by Council was questioned.  The Independents & Labor voted against the motion, which was lost.

The Business Meeting ended so that Councillors could attend a Budget Meeting.  Two items I was looking forward to were deferred to a future agenda. One was a rescission motion – Financial assistance to the Greek Orthodox Church, which was decided on 16th February 2010.  The other, Saving Marrickville Council from Financial Disaster (Investigating alternative options to special rate levies) where Clr Thanos is asking Council to conduct a study investigating the potential positive & negative impacts to Council’s budget of an amalgamation with the City of Sydney Council.  This business paper makes an interesting read.  Click on the link if you want to read it.  Clr-Thanos-Notice-of-motion-Saving-MC-financial-disaster-2010 I think both these agenda items are going to be very interesting, especially in light of Council’s current dire financial predicament.

The evening opened up with an Extraordinary Council Meeting about our Sister City relationship with the island of Madeira, which was recently struck by flood & landslides killing 42 & injuring 250 people.

Discussion covered recognising the devastating effects of this & other recent natural disasters, Council’s poor financial position, the lack of financial capability to reciprocate to an equal level when representatives from Sister Cities visit Marrickville, the large numbers of Sister Cities we have & whether this should be reduced (imagine, “sorry sister, it’s goodbye”) & developing a policy regarding financial assistance to Sister Cities when Council is having problems financially supporting its own services.

The motion was carried to donate $5,000 from the Sister Cities budget to help with rebuilding the affected area. Mayor Iskandar had the deciding vote.

Then came the Development Assessment Meeting.  One wouldn’t think that DAs are interesting unless they directly concern you, but actually they are.

There were DAs for single block developments, shops & large residential housing.  The gallery was full & some residents waited for 2 hours to speak.  The following is my impressions & thoughts:

People from both sides feel quite passionate & emotional about DAs.  Some were frustrated by the time required for the DA process.

Local residents were concerned about developments they felt would significantly change the streetscape in terms of set-back & visual impact. Height, noise, parking, privacy & loss of light were other issues causing concern.

I have seen these issues raised many times both inside & outside Council meetings.  People who become involved by attending Council meetings, signing petitions or lobbying against certain DAs hold the streetscape of the Inner West in high regard & they want to retain it.  It appears that some people new to the area & developers want to build more modern buildings & this causes a conflict with the other residents.

Given that these developments are being built, I don’t think it will be too many years before the visual outlook of great chunks of Marrickville LGA will be significantly changed.  Unlike Haberfield, which has decreed no modern buildings will be allowed & heritage will be protected at all cost, Marrickville LGA does not seem to have a policy like this.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that if a DA ticks all the boxes, it is up to the councillors as to whether it gets approved.  Naturally, the Councillors have differing perceptions of taste & beliefs as to what constitutes appropriate outlook, as well as what should be knocked down.  Many cherished buildings considered heritage by the Marrickville Heritage Society & other authorities have been demolished over the years.

Last night one developer said the plans for a large  residential development were “unashamedly contemporary,” yet the area this development is situated is one of the most historical in the LGA in terms of housing, other buildings, parks, trees & other historical infrastructure. I see some box-like buildings plonked next to softer, filigree terraces, but I belong to Marrickville Historical Society, so of course I prefer the older buildings.

Only last week Paul Keating said on Lateline, “Well, I can’t teach you good taste” when speaking about the 60 storey glass hotel in red planned for a finger pier at Barangaroo. Interesting that I liked much of the proposed development, but not this particular building.

streetscape

I mention the issue of development & taste because our suburbs are changing.  Marrickville LGA is about to embark on major new development & much of it will be high-rise.  A lot will get through because the state government wants us to have housing for something like another 10,000 people & frankly Marrickville Council desperately needs the money which comes from Section 94 contributions (what the developers pay to Council).

The Councillors need our input either directly or via community lobby groups.  Mayor Iskandar said this in both Marrickville Matters & the Inner West Courier recently.  He also said that the changes coming would affect the community for at least the next 25 years.  If we don’t let the Councillors know what we don’t want, then we will have to accept what the developers give us.

Very soon, a DA for a Backpackers in Addison Road Enmore will come before Council.  This is a 130 plus bed establishment with 7 parking spaces, 2 of them designated Disabled Parking.  Is this of consequence?  Judging by the speakers last night & other recent community action regarding the proposed development on the old Marrickville RSL site, parking is a huge issue in people’s minds.  Council is passing DAs where residents question the parking ratio & sincerely believe parking opportunities will be worse with the new development.

It’s changing times.  Denser living will further impact on parking.  Backpackers often have sufficient funds to buy a car & most residences have at least one car & sometimes more than two.  Council & the government are encouraging public transport use, but living close to a railway station really doesn’t have much of an impact on vehicle ownership yet.  Perhaps later it will when petrol becomes costlier.  For now, there is the problem with a transport system that is already deemed inadequate.  It’s all food for thought.

Moving to trees, a DA at 23 West Street was passed last night.  This site will have 8 double storey modern townhouses built on a block where there are two 9 metre Council protected Canary Island Palm trees & a Fiddle Leafed Fig tree on the boundary of the back property.  Council’s own report stated that Canary Island Palm trees only live for 15-40 years so the development would ‘outlive’ them.  In fact, these trees generally live for 150-160 years, which is an enormous difference.

The Councillors agreed these 2 trees will be relocated to the back of the development, stipulating the root protection zone of the Fig tree will also be protected.  This is a good thing, though I’m sorry we will lose the Palms from the streetscape, which has or is about to lose 31 trees on the opposite side of the street.  Change.

It was good to hear that Palms relocated at Enmore Park for the swimming pool development are doing well.

Another DA passed was 63 Grove Street St Peters which will erect 34 double storey dwellings.  2 mature trees will be removed, yet the landscaping is great.  They intend to plant 10 trees capable of growing to 15 metres, 19 trees reaching 5 metres, 9 trees reaching 7 metres, 10 trees reaching 8 metres & 46 trees reaching 5 metres.  94 trees in total.  They also intend to preserve the current street trees.  I wish all developments planted this percentage of tall growing trees.

One final point of interest is that various sites across Marrickville LGA are considered contaminated, so don’t eat the dirt.  There is some serious toxic stuff around from poor industry practices in the past & dumping.  Like toxins that live on to create problems decades later, we need to think if an upcoming development will also be like that & whether we want to be involved in community consultation to shape our community for the better.

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