CITY OF CANADA BAY COUNCIL
Mr CHRIS HARTCHER
(Terrigal) [5.58 p.m.]: I am saddened to have to draw to the attention of the House concerns regarding the administration of the City of Canada Bay Council that have been brought to my attention by the residents of Park Avenue, Concord, and which I have previously raised in this House. Residents of Park Avenue, Concord, have been in conflict with Canada Bay council for more than 12 months over development application number 485/2006, which relates to a property at 12 Park Avenue, Concord. During this period residents have witnessed events and behaviour that have led them to question the integrity of staff and some councillors. The conclusion that they make is that either the council is somewhat incompetent or it deliberately undertakes a process to ensure a predetermined outcome that is consistent with council's desired outcomes, regardless of any other external input or information. On two occasions the Land and Environment Court has found against Canada Bay council in making determinations that were essentially of a predetermined nature.
On the surface, council's actions could appear to be reasonable. However, in the opinion of residents, matters and circumstances have been manipulated. Residents have been gagged at council meetings. It is only with a full and detailed public inquiry that all facts have a chance of being seen in context. Residents have raised the point that in 1998 Concord Council established Park Avenue, Concord, as a heritage conservation area. It contains a total of 11 homes and includes three heritage-listed items. The statement of significance for the street states that the conservation area is identified as being a notable group of old homes on large allotments enjoying an outlook over public parkland. This includes a number of outstanding Victorian villas with large front gardens, which is rare for Concord. The large lots and deep setbacks are unique in the Canada Bay council area.
In September 2006 development application 485/2006—12 Park Avenue, Concord—was submitted to council. The property at 12 Park Avenue, Concord, is an excellent example of an inter-war Californian bungalow with considerable aesthetic and historical significance. During the 14 months that this development application has been with council a significant number of objections—approximately 60—have been received by council from residents and a petition with 235 residents' signatures has been tabled with Canada Bay council.
The residents of Park Avenue engaged two leading heritage experts after being told by council that they were not qualified and therefore their opinion did not stand up against council's heritage advisor or the opinions of the applicant's heritage advisors. Residents also sought the opinion of the National Trust of New South Wales and the Heritage Office of New South Wales, both well-regarded independent bodies acknowledged as the authorities on heritage within New South Wales. Both organisations clearly stated that 12 Park Avenue, Concord, was a contributory item to the Park Avenue heritage conservation area and must not be demolished. Council's heritage advisor, however, did not agree with this advice.
Council has now determined the matter. The determination was made last week. Council determined to approve the development and allow a modern structure in what is a heritage area. Residents demand answers. Why did council prior to purchase tell the applicant that the dwelling could be demolished when it was in a heritage conservation area? Why did residents have to guide council to the fact that this development required advertising? Why did council suppress a summary of mediation written by Patrick Robinson on 1 May 2007? Those present have challenged the accuracy of this document, yet it still appears on council minutes of meeting.
Why did council refuse to accept the advice from the National Trust and the heritage office? Why did council advertise and confirm 12 Park Avenue's contributory status during the public exhibition of the draft local environmental plan and development control plan? Why did council's heritage advisor, after the display period, suggest that a mistake had in fact been made and 12 Park Avenue was not contributory to the heritage conservation area? Why is the only house in error the particular item subject to the pending development application? Why has council manoeuvred so as not to allow residents' experts to address council? Why does council give the applicant advance notification of council's process, but only gives residents one working day's notice? When asked if this was the case why did the mayor refuse to answer?
Why in open council did the mayor advise the applicant not to answer questions relating to the building costs of the project? Are the section 94 contributions accurate? It would appear that an additional $15,000 windfall would go to council due to the inclusion of the initial purchase cost of the property in the development costs. There is genuine concern about the council's administration process and its responsibilities in relation to heritage. I ask the Minister if he would be prepared to support the views of the Heritage Office and investigate this matter.