Kogarah Council’s strategy to get a vote on New City Plan

Screenshot 2016-03-26 00.39.49FRONT PAGE ARTICLE – March 23, 2016: St George & Sutherland Shire Leader
Kogarah Council’s strategy to get a vote on New City Plan  By Murray Trembath
(Link to the Leader’s online article here)

Kogarah Council proposes to divide the contentious New City Plan into two geographic areas so there are enough eligible councillors to vote.

The strategy was attacked as “a desperate measure” by the peak residents group, and an environmental lawyer said, “if they go down this path, I will go take them to court”.

An extraordinary council meeting has been called for April 4 to consider a report by council officers on feedback from residents to the New City Plan.

Residents groups believe a vote could take place as early as that night.

Under recently amended laws, councillors would be barred from voting if they have pecuniary interests other than their home in the affected area.

The council discovered so many councillors would have to refrain from voting on the overall plan there would not be a quorum.

The Office of Local Government advised the council to consider breaking the New City Plan into geographically separate elements in order to achieve a quorum for each.

Suzanne O’Connor, a committee member of the United Kogarah City Residents Association, said she and her husband Terry were advised at a meeting with a senior council officer it was intended to consider Kogarah CBD separately to the rest of the local government area.

It was expected this would result in a quorum – a minimum of seven out of 12 councillors – to vote on each section.

Ms O’Connor urged residents to come out in force for the extraordinary council meeting, at 7pm on April 4 in the Venus Reception Centre, Kogarah.

A spokeswoman for Local Government Minister Paul Toole confirmed it was one strategy available to councils.

It ensured pecuniary interests continued to be appropriately disclosed and managed without the risk of loss of quorum.

President of United Kogarah City Residents Association Tony Soubris said it was “a desperate measure designed to get this plan over the line at all costs”.

“I would like to know if there is any precedent,” he said.

”The council is supposed to bat for the community, but they are batting for the developers.”

John McCarthy, an environmental lawyer for 25 years said, “It is an unlawful action in my view, and if they go down this path I will take them to court.”

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