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Council Meeting. Absent: Clr Iskandar. The following is how I understood the meeting & all mistakes are mine.

Community hall hire – A speaker she had researched who used the halls in Marrickville & found it was mostly people from a NESB & that attending was the highlight of their week. She said they were independent, but still disadvantaged. She said these functions improve quality of life, happiness & well-being & as such there should be no fees charged for hall & meeting room use. If Council could not do this, then they should do community consultation & assess which groups did not have

Pansies in a public space in Botany

ability to pay. She said group bookings should be a separate issue & people from outside the LGA should be able to hire the facilities to help pay for the upkeep of the facilities.

Clr Thanos said Council was asking $10/hr/per group & had done a budget adjustment for groups that can’t afford hire charges giving them $1,000/yr towards this. He said Council want to help disadvantaged groups, but stop other NFP groups who make money by taking advantage of Council.  Clr Wright opposed the recommendation saying if it was passed she would put up a foreshadowed motion to revert back to Council’s previous policy. Clr Kontellis opposed the motion saying she thought the process would be labour intensive & she wasn’t sure it would deliver equity. Clr Phillips said he would support Clr Wright’s foreshadowed motion & said the process is creating unnecessary bureaucracy.

Clr Macri supported the motion saying disadvantaged groups will be looked after & that it was difficult for Council not to look at revenue streams when council is in such a dire financial position. Clr Hanna was against the recommendation & said political parties must pay to use the facilities. Clr Thanos said Council cannot exclude NFP groups & a return to the previous policy would be endorsing a $60,000 budgetary hole. He also said the current operating surplus of Council was “$100 or close to.” He said this was a well-endorsed decision that took 6 years to make & should be trialed for 12 months. The recommendation was lost. Only Clrs Macri & Thanos voted for it.

Clr Wright put up the motion to revert back to previous policy not to charge NFP organizations & said those who charge an entrance fee should pay $19/hr for halls & $15/hr for meeting rooms. Clr Hanna said again that political parties must pay.  This motion was lost with Clrs Thanos, Byrne, Macri & Tsardoulias voting for it. They then voted to revert back to Council’s previous policy, which was carried. Clrs Thanos, Hanna & Macri voted against it.

Most of the verges around Marrickville LGA look like this at the moment

Verge mowing – Council wants to do a staged cessation of verge mowing over 3 years encouraging the community to plant these spaces.  2 residents spoke for the recommendation saying they were impressed with the quality of the Report & if implemented, could transform the streets of the LGA. They said issues such as better stormwater management & minimal use of impermeable surfaces would help the Cooks River, biodiversity would increase as would community input & participation, safety & social harmony. Using the money to clean up shopping areas would improve amenity & make Marrickville LGA look more attractive & planting verges would result in less dumping. One mentioned that Bush Pocket sites look after themselves after 6 years & that the pollution from 1 small petrol lawn mower operating for 1 hour was equivalent to 10 standard cars.

Verge garden in Marrickville

Another resident spoke against saying that Bush Pockets shouldn’t be included in the Report as they are a separate issue. She also said that there needed to be community consultation before Council decided to stop mowing verges. She said Council couldn’t dictate that people mow verges, that Council has too many grassed areas that should be removed & that areas along the Cooks River should be planted out so people cannot get to into these areas to assist wildlife. She thought the report had many flaws & did not consider those in the community who would not be able to mow their verge.

Clr Thanos moved that the Report be noted & delayed for 3 months for further consultation & be included in the community consultation for the Urban Forest Policy. He said Musselbrook Council had removed verges from some of their median strips saving the Council millions of dollars & the residents were happy with the plants chosen. He said different community groups have different needs, that it was a shame that more in the community did not want to volunteer for Bush Pockets, but Council wanted to massively change services that have been provided for 40 years. He had no problem asking for a special rate levy to pay for this. He thought the change should be over 10-20 years.  He was also concerned that Council workers would fear they may lose the jobs.

Clr O’Sullivan thought it was an ambitious policy that had pitfalls & wanted an amendment that Council was planning to present the Public Domain Policy in the next 2 months & as verges are a part of this, should be included in that policy. Clr Wright said she supported Clr Thanos & Bush Pockets initiatives, but was opposed to removing essential services.  She thought that providing mowing for all the exceptions would result in extra costs & that this is a traditional service.

Clr Phillips also supported Clr Thanos saying it was a long-term project & Council needed to support the community who were interested in planting out verges. Clr Peters also supported Clr Thanos & said she thought Council needed to encourage the community to view verges in a different way. She said Randwick, Waverley, Ashfield, Manly & Burwood Councils don’t mow the verges. She was supportive of saving money. Clr Olive also supported Clr Thanos saying he would never support cutting mowing to this extent. He said he hoped Council would cut down 1-2 cycles from the 11 per year & the money saved could support the community taking measures that they want. Clr Kontellis supported Clr Thanos saying this issue was greater than merely saving money.

Clr Hanna also supported Cr Thanos & said the residents don’t get this service for free, they pay rates & are paying enough money for this service. Clr Macri didn’t support the motion, but said he did not support ceasing mowing. He said the

Verge garden in St Peters

residents are not happy with the edging not being done & reducing mowing cycles only means that cutting the grass takes longer labour hours. He supported Bush Pockets & thought most in the community didn’t know that they could garden their verges.  He said Council’s policy on tree planting was less than desirable with trees pulled out & broken.

Clr Tsardoulias supported Clr Thanos saying it was an alarming report & asked who is responsible if someone trips over something someone other than Council has planted. He was concerned about access for prams & people with disabilities. He said he would not support cutting services, job loss or redundancies & proposed an amendment to restore edging. Clr Thanos said he couldn’t support this as it saved around $500,000/year. Staff said instead of edging, better street cleaning was done. If edging wasn’t done they could employ less summer staff. Clr Hanna supported Clr Tsardoulias’ amendment. Clr Peters did not, saying St Peters residents were happy at the increased cleaning of streets. Mayor Byrne said she didn’t support immediate reinstatement, but was happy to investigate further & look into a special rate levy. Clr Tsardoulias’ motion was lost. Clr O’Sullivan’s motion was carried unanimously.

The new Urban Forest Policy was also part of the agenda. I will post about this separately.

 

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