Tweed Shire Council Inquiry
|About this Item||Subjects||Inquiries; Tweed Shire Council; Planning and Development
||Speakers||Greene Mr Kevin; Knowles Mr Craig
||Business||Questions Without Notice
Mr KEVIN GREENE: My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning, and Minister for Natural Resources. What is the latest information on the inquiry into Tweed Shire Council?
Mr CRAIG KNOWLES: Honourable members may recall that in November last year the Minister for Local Government appointed Emeritus Professor Maurice Daly as commissioner of a public inquiry into Tweed Shire Council. The inquiry followed serious concerns raised by the local community about the manner in which a number of planning decisions had been conducted. I am advised that the inquiry has taken an extensive amount of complex evidence, including 427 written submissions, and that at more than five weeks of public hearings 133 witnesses gave evidence.
The public hearings concluded last Friday. I am advised that the presentation of Commissioner Daly's final report to the Minister for Local Government is some time away. However, I can advise the House that as a consequence of his inquiry thus far, Commissioner Daly wrote to me on 15 March advising that his inquiry has "received a great body of evidence that suggests that the Council has not given effect to and has not enforced various provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act".
Commissioner Daly advises that he has formed his conclusion from the various submissions and evidence to the inquiry, as well as from a review of a number of the council's development application files. The commissioner advises that the information may affect not only the elected representatives but council staff as well. In that context, the Government has no choice but to act on Commissioner Daly's concerns. I give the council fair warning that the work that will now commence as a result of Commissioner Daly's concerns may lead to the appointment of a planning administrator under the provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act.
I have replied to Commissioner Daly's correspondence, and I have also written to the Minister for Local Government, the Hon. Tony Kelly, requesting that his department immediately initiate an investigation under section 430 of the Local Government Act into the exercise of council's planning and assessment functions. Minister Kelly has agreed to that request and the director-general of the Department of Local Government has initiated that investigation. I understand that Commissioner Daly is particularly concerned about Tweed Shire Council's use of section 96 modifications and section 94 developer levies and contributions.
The section 430 investigation will examine council's processes for performing its environmental planning and assessment functions, including the processing, assessment and determination of significant development applications, the determination of contributions under section 94 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, and applications to modify development consent conditions under section 96 of that Act. The investigation will also examine whether there has been any failure by council to comply with, carry into effect, or enforce, the provisions of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and/or any environmental planning instrument. The investigation will further examine whether sufficient grounds exist to recommend the appointment of an environmental planning administrator pursuant to section 118 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. The section 430 investigation will also examine any other matter that warrants mention.
I can confirm to the House that Commissioner Daly has responded to my actions confirming that the process I have initiated is "the best way to proceed" and that my actions are most appropriate. I thank him for his advice. There is a clear warning here for local government authorities, especially those involved in the assessment of large-scale developments, such as our coastal councils. We choose to protect our coastal strip, not concrete it. We require our local authorities to comply with the rules.
I understand that the Deputy Director-General of the Department of Local Government, Mr Ross Woodward, has been appointed to undertake the investigation as a matter of urgency. It is important that the council understands that it is still under scrutiny even in the hiatus period between the conclusion of Commissioner Daly's public hearings and the finalisation of his report to the Minister for Local Government. I have no doubt that they will co-operate fully with Mr Woodward during the course of his investigation, and we will report further as matters progress.