Wollondilly Council condemns ‘erosion of local democracy’

Wollondilly councillors and senior staff are “outraged” and “appalled” that the power to approve large development proposals will be taken out their hands.

The NSW Minister for Planning Anthony Roberts announced yesterday that Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels will become mandatory for all councils in Sydney and Wollongong.

This means that development proposals above a threshold value of $5 million will be placed in the hands of government-appointed experts.

Mr Roberts wrote on Facebook that the legislation would end “the dodgy and dirty backroom deals that have gone on for far too long inside local councils”.

In response, Wollondilly mayor Judith Hannan condemned the new legislation and personally challenged the minister to show her a ‘dodgy, corrupt backroom deal’ done by herself or her councillors.

“I am appalled by these inflammatory and inappropriate comments which defame local government and deeply insult the thousands of councillors who represent their communities with honesty, integrity and dedication,” she said.

Mr Roberts said the panel meant that “shonky developers and their mates will no longer be able to flaunt their power with elected councillors in order to get their development applications through”.

“To the lurk merchants and spivs who inhabit the dark corridors of council chambers across Sydney, your trade is done,” he said.

“Get another job. The jig is up. The NSW Government is done with your corrupt and dodgy behaviour.”

Council spokesman Peter Wright said councillors were accountable to the community through the electoral process and were best placed to make decisions on significant local matters on behalf of their community with the interests of the community at heart.

“Government-appointed panel members on the other hand have no local connection and no democratic accountability,” he said.

“Furthermore, the proposed panels will just add another layer of needless bureaucracy and cost for applicants and councils.

“Wollondilly Council, in its advocacy for the best possible planning outcomes for the new town at Wilton, has been requesting a meeting with the minister for months, but to no avail.

“The recent decision by the Department of Environment and Planning to press ahead with the exhibition of housing proposals at Wilton ahead of, and despite, unresolved key infrastructure issues would suggest that the NSW State Government has its own “dark corridors”.”​