Watch Out for Improvement in carparking in King William Road.

Improvement in carparking was one of the major considerations in the design of the new King William Road. I expect you will be delighted with Council’s solutions to what has been a perennial problem in King William Road.

 

For as long as I have been on Council we have been seeking collaboration for the property owners, the landlords, to improve carparking in the precinct. This has been met with limited success. With the redevelopment, I am hopeful we may meet with some more success.

As I have reported previously there are over 400 off street carparks available in the precinct. These are behind the various shops.

I detailed in my blog post on 5 July what we are doing. I encourage you to check it out, if you have not already.

 

We have approached this challenge with an understanding that there are two types of shopper that use the road. They are mission oriented shoppers and leisure oriented shoppers.

City of Casey Smart Sign

City of Casey Smart Sign

One is intent on parking, buying their goods, and departing in the least amount of time possible. The other is looking for an experience. They will be looking to stay a while and shop at multiple outlets.

Truthfully the street has always catered well for the mission oriented shopper. A loss of a few on street carparks I doubt will dissuade or limit these shoppers.

Opening up the rear carparks (the off street carparks) is catering for the leisure oriented shopper. The shopper, I suggest that will bring more business to the street. Needless to say, the shopper on which the ultimate success of the street will rely.

 

Before the project is complete, why not venture down to the street and check it out for yourself.

 

The smart technology will not be available until the completion of the project. But the carparks will. Because the construction is focusing now on the footpath areas there will remain no on street parking, at least until the construction goes into Christmas hibernation at the end of this month as has been widely reported. This means you have to seek out the alternatives in order to shop there, whether mission oriented or leisure oriented.

This will gear you to take advantage of the improvement in carparking that will soon be a reality.

 

 

New Planning & Design Code is Introducing Environmental Initiatives

The draft Planning & Design Code is introducing some environmental initiatives or controls but there is no detail yet. At least I am struggling to find them.

 

Pilots licences aside, the author of the Code and now the Minister are on record as sprouting that the Planning & Design Code is introducing some environmental initiatives. Initiatives hitherto not incorporated in Planning legislation.

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Initiatives such as:

  • Identifying tree canopy cover as a planning requirement
  • Providing for Deep Soil Zones
  • Likewise permeable surfaces
  • Regulated Tree Overlay

I am confused however by what I read in the Code concerning each of these initiatives.

Identifying tree canopy cover as a planning requirement

The City of Unley has been promoting for some time now the need to incorporate some form of development controls around ensuring tree canopy cover. The Government’s 30 year plan calls for an increase in tree canopy cover.

They have set a goal for Unley to have a 30% canopy cover by 2030. This cannot be achieved unless the are mechanisms to increase the overage on private property. The Code has an aim to do this.

The only references I find regarding trees on private property so far talks of planting trees at the front of development of 4 or more storeys. The only other reference I can find is for tree planting provided on public streets and public open space. Hardly an initiative of significance I would have thought.

Providing Deep Soil Zones

Again the only reference to deep soil zones is on multi storey development.

If I simply have not found the detail on both of these initiatives I trust the Minister will direct me to it. If it has been omitted then I trust it will now be included.

Permeable Surfaces

A number of references have been made in respect of carparking areas and/or driveways containing at least 50% permeable surfaces. This is encouraging but I would like to see a more general requirement for permeable surfaces on all properties. Too many properties are totally paved out or have fake lawn.

Regulated Tree Overlay

Sounds a lot like we now have areas where we wish to protect trees. Areas rather than focus on quantifying what constitutes a regulated tree. I believe I need assistance understanding what the legislators are trying to achieve here.

It seeks to preserve regulated trees listed as rare or endangered under the National parks & Wildlife Act 1972. Trouble is I don’t see any tree species listed in that Act.

This Overlay talks of trees within 20 metres of a building. It seems that the distance from a building within which trees do not need development approval for removal has been extended.

If I am reading this right, I trust it is in error. Otherwise the legislation is watering down restrictions.

 

 

 

Council’s tree Strategy Should Recognise Nuisance Trees

Having a strategy to deal with nuisance trees was one of my many election promises. Placing a weighting on the nuisance a tree represents must surely apply to any responsible tree strategy.

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It is timely, as we lament the loss of significant trees as blogged last week in Black Forest, to remember that some trees are nuisance trees.

Nuisance Tree

Nuisance Tree

While this loss of the Black Forest trees is hurting, we must recognise that trees do need to be removed if and when:

  1. The tree is dead
  2. The tree is unhealthy.
  3. It is structurally unsound and inclined to drop limbs
  4. Likewise it presents a danger to person or property.

These issues are dealt with by the Development Act for trees deemed to be regulated or significant trees.  It requires even Council owned trees go through this process.

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Council, as a responsible tree owner, has indeed a similar process for their trees that aren’t regulated, significant. Only trees authorised however by our arborist as either unhealthy or presenting a physical danger can be removed. Trees that may be a nuisance but don’t present as a physical danger are subsequently ignored.

 

As a responsible tree owner and neighbour Council should have a policy to deal with trees that are causing (for want of a better word) a nuisance to one of our neighbours.

 

A policy covering nuisances that don’t necessarily fit that criteria but sufficient to cause understandable stress for the neighbour. Given this, such a tree that was put before the elected body in the Chamber last night for direction.

Council approved a motion moved by Cr Boisvert and seconded by myself for removal of the tree. You can access details of the level of nuisance in this case in the agenda., commencing at page 155 of the agenda.

This need to take a motion to the chamber for a tree creating a health issue for one of our neighbours is clumsy and costly. This experience will surely inform the new tree strategy we have commenced working on.

Is the new Planning & Design Code simpler?

Is the new Planning & Design Code a simpler, easier to use code or a document of complexity that will require a pilot’s licence to navigate.

 

Renewing Our Heritage PlanningThe core of the Planning & Design Code is the data base that will sit behind it. This data base will allow anyone, not just those with a pilot’s licence, to pull up their own property on a map and find out what develop is or is not allowed on that site.

To that end it is clearly going to be easier to understand the planning system in South Australia. Behind this however is a regime of legislation far more complex than the totality of the 68 Council development plans now in operation. A far cry and the complete opposite of what we expected when former Minister Rau announced the changes and a reduction to only 5 zones. A code by the way that would not recognise character zones.

Minister Knoll advised the community attending last week’s forum that the current zones have all been transferred to the Code. This one might expect means without change. He also reinforced that current demolition controls would be maintained.

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This code has some 50 zones. I have not counted how many layers over these. This makes the process of evaluating the code an onerous one. A process that is testing those of us with knowledge in matters planning.

 

As I said in my last blog post I have found the draft Code to be full of errors and omissions. The transfer of zones has not been seamless. The errors and omissions are extensive. So extensive it does lead to the speculation that the Government cannot be trusted. It seems that we need to identify them (each and one by one), failing which the intent may not be achieved and there will change by stealth.

I am working through the Code to do just that and undertake to continue so doing and keeping you informed. Your Council, through its Principal Planner David Brown, is doing the same thing.

The City of Unley will be seeking further interaction with the Minister and the SA Planning Commission. We will be putting in what clearly will be a detailed submission. We have to given the observations I am making.

 

Draft Planning & Design Code Errors & Ommissions that need Correcting

The draft Planning & Design Code errors and omissions are many. As it is a complex document it is proving hard to identify them.

 

Renewing Our Heritage PlanningTo start the conversation that Minister Knoll has invited, let’s look at some of the more essential. At least from a City of Unley community point of view.

The Minister indicated to us that all the zones in the Current Unley Development plan have been transferred to the draft. He also advises there will be no reduction in demolition controls.

On my first couple of reads of the draft, not so.

A look at the very basic of zones sees a reduction in area applicable for each house. If our zones were to have been transferred without change, the RB 350 zone (in which I live) would not now read 300 m2 as being the size of allotment per house as a minimum.

Unley has a zone called Streetscape Built Form. It is a zone afforded demolition controls, but not as stringent as those applying to Historic Conservation Zones.

Under the Code, these zones are shown to be part of what is now to be called a Character Area Overlay. This overlay has no demolition controls.

This needs to be addressed. Either demolition controls need to be introduced into the Character Area overlay, or those current zones in Unley would have to be redefined as a Historic Conservation.

Our new Corridor Zones have a 30 degree interface with neighbouring residential zones. The Code is specifying this only for south bound residential zones. A 45 degree interface therefore is relevant to all other geographical sides.

Are these errors and omissions that will be corrected once they are pointed out? Or are they deliberate changes, as suggested by those in our community who are cynical about Government promises.

Whatever, they could have a profound impact on our community if left unaltered.

Call me Naive with the new Planning & Design Code

Call me Naive but I do believe we need to get on board and work with the Government on the new Planning & Design Code.

Naïve maybe. Focused on outcomes definitely.

Minister Knoll continues to give assurances, that they will listen to us during the current 5 month long consultation period. Assurances that we have also been hearing from the SA Planning Commission chair, Michael Lennon.

Call me naïve, call me mad, but I believe him.

Trouble is my neighbours, my rate payers don’t believe him. They don’t trust him. They don’t trust the SA Planning Commission.

Since the initial draft of the Code was released I have taken my usual pragmatic approach and delved into the detail, or lack of it. Others, given their lack of trust and maybe expertise in reading development plans, have focused on complaining about a lack of consultation. Complaining that they are not going to be heard anyway.

Minister Knoll indicated at a recent heritage focused public meeting, held by local State MP and fellow Minister David Pisoni, that Ministers and Governments should be judged on what they do. He then tried to assure the heritage conservation focused audience that the cabinet is made up of inner city seats, whose constituents are heritage focused. Cabinet members, in other words, attuned to the needs of their constituents.

The cabinet will make the final decisions he told us. This is not what we have previously understood. We believed that the Commission is responsible for making the final determination of what is included or not. This belief has led to many in the community believing  this legislation is undemocratic legislation.

Trouble is, as I pointed out at the meeting, the complexity of the draft code makes learned consultation very difficult. It is laden with errors and omissions.

Such does not give rise to trust and I made sure the Minister heard this observation. It actually breeds cynicism.

I pointed to examples of the errors and omissions to applause from the audience. In so doing I urged the Government to consider extending the implementation date. I did this to ensure consultation and the opportunity to respond to that consultation is as accurate as it can be.

I am not sure he heard me.

That said I firmly believe, and call me naïve if you want, that we must focus on what is in the Code and what is NOT in the code. Watch therefore this space.

Have you experienced Walking Footy? I have! And I loved it.

You might well ask what Walking Footy is. It is an opportunity for those who would love to participate in the game we love, even though we may have reached or passed the age of 50.

 

Launched this week, the program was organised in partnership between the City of Unley, the SANFL and ECH. Council played host this week at Unley Oval to the official launch of Walking Footy.

We hosted this as part of our Zest Fest 2019. Zest Fest is a project by the Council of the Ageing aimed at celebrating longevity, challenging stereotypes and unlocking the possibilities that modern ageing brings.

Because of Unley’s involvement, I received a Walking Footy invitation to participate. I am glad I did. Experiencing it first hand I can say without fear or favour that this is a great concept.

Don Palmer. BOG at launch of Walking Footy

At my ripe old age, I found my competitive juices are still running high. Loved it. Loved the competition, the interaction, the involvement in team success. Yes, my team won. I would like to think I won the medal for best on ground.

And yes that is my balding head in the picture.

Although I have a few aches and pains, I can’t wait to experience it all over again. Given my history however, I might offer to pull my Acme Thunderer out of the top drawer. Yep. I still have it.

 

Walking Footy is a great Concept. A chance for us seniors (both genders) to be active, to regain or improve fitness, and to mix with others with a similar passion.

 

Two teams of mixed gender numbering six participate. Two backs, two mid-fields and two forwards. It is played on a very much shorter field, thankfully. The two major rules are:

  • No Running
  • No tackling

They are hard to abide by too. Trust me. I got called up for running.

If you want to know more about it check out the SANFL website. They are organising an inaugural season to commence probably in March 2020.

Are the Trees in Black Forest Going Missing. And Clarence Park.

The saga of trees in Black Forest going missing continued yesterday with a tree in Byron Road being felled.

 

I found myself cutting my shopping short early yesterday. A distraught rate payer rang me concerned that a lemon scented gum on the property next door was being felled.

The third tree in the adjacent area within twelve months. The second on a neighbouring property to this resident. Changing forever the amenity of this neighbourhood.

The pair of trees in the centre of this picture are both gone missing.

The two neighbouring trees, between them, were a significant contributor to the amenity of the neighbourhood. With both gone there is nothing.

I am not saying nothing left. I am saying nothing. The loss is immeasurable.

I share grief of this rate payer (and others who have contacted me). A fourth tree on my side of the Seaford Line (in Clarence Park) was felled recently. A tree behind my rear boundary. Our amenity has been forever compromised as a result.

 

The Question has been asked, was Council responsible for this occurring?

The tree was on private property. It is one of many trees in the last decade on private land within the Unley Council that have been removed.

Council therefore was not involved. If it were a street or park tree, then obviously it would be Council.

 

A subsequent question raised is what Did Council Do About it?

Prior to ringing me the rate payer had rung the Council, who advised they would contact the contractor. Such was the level of her stress however, I simply had to make sure Council was responding appropriately. If this tree was a regulated tree and approval not sought, then we would need to put a stop to the tree damaging activity

I contacted our Regulatory Management, completed my shopping, deserted my wife and headed down to Byron Road. The removal of the tree was already well advanced when I arrived a short while later.

So! Was the tree protected or not? Was the felling of this tree legal or illegal?

On completing their inspection our inspection team reported to myself and the neighbour. Their conclusion was the tree was not protected under the State Government’s Development Regulations.

The species being cut down has no protection under the regulations if it is within 10 metres of a building. This tree would you believe was 9.7 metres from a building on a neighbouring property.

Does this mean the saga of trees in Black Forest going missing will continue?

Yes it will. The felling of trees such as the four mentioned in this blog post will continue to be felled, unless there is change in the State Legislation.

What can we do about it?

As I noted earlier in this blog the controls are State Government controls, via their Development Regulations. If you want change, you need to speak with your local member of Parliament.

The legislation rightfully must consider the danger the tree may present to person or property. It is however meant to protect trees from indiscriminate felling. Notwithstanding this, it often appears that too much emphasis is put on removing the tree just for the sake of moving it, or because it is simply inconvenient to the home owner.

Out here in the west of the City of Unley that is Jayne Stinson. The member for Badcoe. Elsewhere in the City of Unley the local member (and a member of the Cabinet) is David Pisoni.

I am happy to assist in this process.

You might also benefit from joining a lobby group, the Friends of the City of Unley Society. Their focus is the preservation of our history. That includes saving our trees. Check out their website.

Tree Canopy CoverFortuitously, they will be discussing increasing the green cover of Unley at their next meeting.

The other side of the storey.

But wait. There is more. There is another side of the storey. One that will play out in Council next week. I will blog on this after the Council meeting.

 

 

Option 5 No Change A Winner Highlighting Unanimous Approval for LATM 3.

Option 5 No Change a Winner as Council unanimously supported the the final recommendations on the recent Clarence Park LATM 3.

 

LATM map for Clarence ParkA resolution by Council that is owned by everyone. That is the result of the recent Clarence Park Local Area Traffic Management Survey LATM 3. The big news last night was: Option 5 no change a Winner.

LATM 3, as noted in my blog post titled Draft Clarence Park LATM awaits your final input, addressed concerns around traffic in Clarence Park. Council last night unanimously supported the final recommendations provided by our staff.

During the debate Cr Jane Russo complemented Jennie & I on the work we personally did with you and our staff. This was unexpected, but appreciated.

The fact of the matter is we all need congratulating. You, the staff and Jennie & I. We all contributed positively to what I believe is a great solution.

A number of you identified the problems. Our staff back up your concerns with data they collected. We went back out to you to confirm we were on the right track.

Those of you who had concerns appreciated the options we put in front of you. Those who did not participate last year wondered why we were putting solutions in front of them for problems that did not believe existed. By engaging with each other, this was soon understood.

19 recommendations over the whole local area were made, one which was additional to the original list.  As a result of your input, some changes were made. Some remained the same.

The biggest change by far was the change to option 4. We split recommendation 4 into two parts. A stand-alone Mills Street recommendation and a south of Mills Street option.

The latter of the two saw an additional option become apparent. On that night and suggested by me in response to what I was hearing saw an additional option emerge. Enter Option 5 no change a Winner. Given this was the overwhelming response, it was adopted.

Mills Street, on the other hand, will see the biggest changes. The number of approved infrastructure recommendations should make life much better for the residents of that street.

Many of the recommendations will be completed in the current budget. Some, like the two pedestrian refuges and the Mills Street infrastructure changes will require a budget bid for next year (2020-2021).

For more detailed information check out page 8 through page 108 of the agenda which can be found here.

 

Is the New Planning & Design Code Undemocratic legislation

Communities from across the state attended a forum last night believing the New Planning & Design Code is Undemocratic Legislation.

Held at the splendid heritage listed Norwood Concert Hall, the forum was conducted by Protect Our Heritage. Protect Our Heritage is an alliance of local community organisations whose primary aim is protecting our heritage. Their website is https://protectourheritage.nationbuilder.com/

Renewing Our Heritage PlanningThe forum was designed to inform and encourage communities to respond to the State Government’s new Planning & Design Code. Speakers on the night all spoke with concern that  hard won protections for our treasured heritage places are under threat.

The common belief expressed was that the Government’s State Planning Commission is not looking to maintain those heard fought protections. This flies in the face of assurances I have received from the Chair of the State Planning Commission. Assurances expressed in blogs I wrote in May and earlier this month.

How the Commission will treat (what have been called until now) contributory items was the biggest concern. Public utterances from the Government, the Minister and the Commission have left members of the alliance believing protections are going to be removed in the new Planning & Design Code.

They are concerned that the Commission will determine, not the parliament, what will or will not be included. In other words, they believe that there is not going to be any public input into the final decisions. In other words, undemocratic legislation.

At the heart of the concerns and energy in the room last night then is a lack of community consultation.  

Rather than consult us, the Commission has been saying trust us. Given a lack of consultation to date, attendees do not trust the Commission and the Government.

I believe the problem here is when should a government (whether Federal, State or Local) commence consulting on any issue. Should they consult when a project is at the formative (blank sheet) stage. Or should it be when there has been sufficient information for informed public observation to be possible.

Here at Unley we have tried both ways. Either way we have been criticised. When consulting on a blank piece of paper for not providing substance to respond to. When consulting on a prepared position for hiding facts until the end.

As reported in my blog earlier this month the Commission will be putting their proposals out to consultation from October. At this time there should be sufficient information for informed debate by the community.

The consultation period for metropolitan council areas will extend until early next year. This should provide ample opportunity for such informed debate.

Finally, as I have said in both mentioned blog posts, we must respond when the opportunity presents itself shortly. We must look at the detail (the devil is in the detail). We then must put our submissions into the Commission. That is all us. Collectively and individually.

As I have often said in my blogs, only then can you be assured your voice is heard. Let us all ensure by participating that we are not the reason for any undemocratic legislation.

I know I will be. Will you?

Food for thought. Green Waste v Landfill. It’s up to us. You & Me.

Here is some food for thought for you. Are you helping to keep the amount of waste going to landfill or not. Are you aware of “if it grows, it goes”.

Can I encourage you to undertake to understand the need to put your food scraps into the green bin, not the blue bin. If you already do, thank you.

If you don’t then I encourage you to take up one or both of the opportunities I speak of in this blog.

Taking waste to landfill is already the dearest form of waste disposal. It will soon, as I revealed in a recent blog post, be way more expensive courtesy of the State Government increasing the levy.

If you can follow my lead and the lead of all our councillors, you will start putting your food waste into the green bin. Speaking for myself I put out my blue bin maybe once every three or four weeks. If I could put my green bin our weekly (as I have previously blogged about) I would.

The first opportunity is to commit to the Less To Landfill October Challenge. This is a challenge put on by a group called the Adelaide Waste Collective.

Why not give it a go, challenge yourself. See if you can keep you blue bin off the street for the month of October. I wont have a problem doing so. Will you?

The Second opportunity is to sign up to Council’s own initiative. Join Council’s Take the Pledge Program.

Take the Pledge Green Bin

Take the Pledge Green Bin

If you join Council’s take the pledge program you’ll be in the running to win a $25 Mitre 10 Barrow & Bench – Malvern Store gift card. Join Unley’s war on waste by increasing the amount of items you recycle, and by diverting more food scraps and compostable paper to your organics bin.

You can take the pledge by completing the online form. Pledge takers will receive stickers to place on their green or yellow-lidded bin to demonstrate their commitment to reducing landfill.

Thank you and keep up the good work!

Community Engagement Reform a Necessary Local Government Reform

Community Engagement Reform, the 4th area of the Governments Local Government Reform proposals, is necessary.

 

Many in the community consider community engagement is something that Councils are poor at. The Government’s local government reform package must therefore include a look into community engagement.

Much of the problem with community engagement is that council’s hands are tied. Tied in regulation that is not applicable to the world today. Regulation that is a one size fits all approach.

Replacing therefore the current prescriptive community engagement requirements in the Local Government Act with a more flexible ‘Community Engagement Charter’ is a no-brainer.  The consultation requirements under which we currently have to act are way too complex and prescriptive. The whole industry therefore looks forward I believe to a complete overhaul.

An overhaul in keeping with my previous utterances about our own ability to communicate with our community. An overhaul that allows individual councils the flexibility to engage with “their” community. Furthermore, an overhaul that recognises there should NOT be a one size fits all approach.

The issue of public notices also requires attention. The Act requires publication in a local newspaper. This is hardly a recipe for good communication today.

The Government has recognised that the current “informal gathering” legislation is causing distress and limiting elected members. It is true, under the existing legislation, that elected members worry that having legitimate conversations on the business of the council, will land them in trouble. We therefore need to find a way to promote transparency in councils without criminalising legitimate conversations.

The proposals however appear to be placing (yet again) an administrative burden on councils that will add cost to local government, not reduce cost. There will need to be some deep and meaningful discussion about how to balance the two, without creating another cost impediment to Councils. An impediment that will ultimately be transferred to you.

Local Government Reform Area 3 – a positive change in the main

The State Government’s Local Government Reform Area 3, one of 4 reform areas, focuses on efficient and transparent representation.

 

This Reform Area attempts to provide a range of proposals aimed at improving the local government elections in South Australia.

 

During the earlier call for reform ideas, the most popular idea received was to introduce electronic—online—voting for councils.

 

Disturbingly there is no proposal to consider this. The government is telling us that technical difficulties are too great at this time. I would however appreciate at least new legislation recognising the potential future role for electronic voting.

 

As with my blog posts on the other reform areas I agree with many (if not most) of the recommendations.

 

I agree with their proposal NOT to move to compulsory voting. Their reasoning is that enforcing compulsory voting in a postal voting system is difficult and resource intensive. My reasoning is compulsory voting, I believe, will see the potential intrusion of the political parties into local government. This is indeed the case where compulsory voting exists in the eastern states.

I also agree with the proposal to avoid local government elections being in the same calendar year as state government elections. Being in the same year can invite voter fatigue. Of note is the next election year will be 2022. As the federal government is due for election also in that year (as part of their 3 year cycle) By the time our elections come round, there will surely be voter fatigue.

I support the re-introduce the automatic enrolment of property franchise holders. Currently they have to painstakingly re-apply before each election.

Being independent, I absolutely agree with candidates having to confirm, at the time of announcing their candidacy, any affiliation with political parties. You deserve to know about any such political affiliation before you vote, not after. The same for donations received and whether or not a candidate lives in the Ward.

Candidates should, in today’s world, be provided with a choice of receiving a paper copy (as now) of the electoral role for their ward, or a digital copy of the roll. We are the only level of government where an electronic copy is denied.

The rest of the initiatives are pretty much administrative in nature. They will simply improve things without you necessarily seeing the benefit.

All in all, the recommendations in the State Government Local Government Reform Area 3, will bring about a better more transparent local government.

Your worst fears won’t be realised in the new Planning & Design Code

YOU will get a say in the Planning & Design Code. YOUR worst fears should not be realised. The SA Planning Commission has listened and understands. your concerns.

 

Expect the new Planning & Design Code to capture many of the things you want to see. Expect also the fears of what may be lost (which have you concerned) will not happen. Having said that you will need to see this for yourself and reinforce your views when the opportunity presents itself.

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YOU will get a say in the new Planning & Design Code. That opportunity is just around the corner. I expect, after attending a second elected member briefing by the SA Planning Commission, that the first draft will be available in October. More than that, you will have an opportunity until early in 2020 to have your say.

Your worst fears should not be realised. Indeed, the Commission has been hearing what we have been saying on several issues, important to you.

As I indicated in my blog post dated May 2, the Commission want to provide the protections for heritage and character housing that we believe exist now. It will not be done by way of zones (with which we are now familiar) but by overlays.

Tree canopy, deep soil, single driveways & carparking requirements etc WILL be included in the new deemed to comply component of the new Planning & Development Code, unlike the current Res Code. It will also introduce policy to ensure streetscape presence unlike current res code.

All numerical parameters will be retained.

Having said all that the SA Planning Commission is expecting’ that their first draft will include errors. For all the best will in the world they expect they will get it wrong. Input from you will ensure that these errors are identified and addressed. When you do please engage with them honestly but fairly.

Lower Costs and Enhanced Financial Accountability for Local Government.

Lower costs and enhanced financial accountability for Local Government. A noble 2nd area of reform in the Government’s program of Local Government Reform.

 

The Government went to the people in March of last year with a promise to lower the cost of running local governments. A noble ambition.

Eleven recommendations have been put to you and I for comment. Many I don’t have a problem with.

Indeed, Unley already voluntarily does what is proposed in the first four recommendations. That includes having more independent members on the committee than elected members. It includes those independent members having due qualifications to sit on the committee. Furthermore, our committee is already charged as an audit and “risk” committee.

As a metropolitan Council we don’t have much trouble with doing this. I can imagine however regional councils may have trouble due to a lack of suitably qualified candidates.

 

What I do have a problem with is requiring the Auditor General to oversight of all Council Audits. 

 

This I see as one of those measures I noted in my first blog post of this series that will add to the cost of local government. Significantly.

The Auditor General has got powers of investigation over the industry already. Powers he can use at his discretion. Similarly, like the powers he used recently to oversee the workings of the Brownhill Creek Project.

To have oversight over all 68 councils each year is an overkill. The AG would have to resource this work. He would likely direct the work to the same organisations/people conducting the audits on behalf of councils now.

As the AG would be responsible for the work, he would have to oversee the work. This would require increased resourcing. This adds another layer of administration, which must add to the cost of reporting and therefore to the industry.

Doubts about the adequacy of some current or past auditing contracts would be better served by the Government setting up a register of accredited auditors. Councils can seek their auditor from this list. Restricting auditors to working more than a set number of successive years with a given council would also be worth considering.

Productivity Council Publishes Draft Report Ahead of Time.

The Productivity Council has released the draft report I recently blogged about. They have done this ahead of time to maximise the Local Government sector’s opportunity for an informed response.

 

As the Productivity Council’s report will feed into the Government’s Local Government reform agenda, I interrupt my series on the reforms to include this.

After being briefed by the PC chair yesterday I am gratified at their efforts to truly understand the industry. They have consulted well. Their draft report, on the surface, recognises the constraints under which the local government industry operates. Their report certainly does not present as the Government, I suspect, may have expected.

They recognised that just under 50% of our activities are mandated. Activities over which we have no control. It recognised the cost shifting State Governments of both persuasions thrust upon local government. The chair preferred to call this cost sharing. Nonetheless it was recognised.

It also recognised the need for local government to develop in the non-mandatory areas in keeping with the needs of their community.

Finally, it recognises that wages growth in the sector has escalated beyond CPI. This is an important conversation in that wages represent 1/3rd of our costs.

In other words, the report demonstrates that the Local Government sector, by running a tape measure over it relative to each other, as being an efficient sector. This diagnosis albeit with a caveat that there is significant room for improvement.

 

The report, which can be read here, makes three distinct recommendations. They are as follows:

 

  1. Lift the capacity of local councils to identify and address opportunities to reduce their cost base and improve their operations.
  1. Facilitating bench marking by clusters of councils through an appropriate mix of incentives for councils to participate and expectations that they will report information publicly in a format consistent with the framework.
  1. Further lower council costs by addressing aspects of the relationship between the South Australian Government and local government.

The Commission is looking for a response from us (councils and the community) on the draft report. Before preparing the final report to be presented to the minister, they are asking us 19 specific questions they are still seeking answers to.

We have until the end of next month (October) to do this in order they meet the deadlines imposed on them by the Government.

Elected Member Conflict of Interest an Area in Need of Reform.

Elected member conflict of interest is the last of the areas of concern in the Government’s 1st Reform Area. I agree. It is absolutely an area in need of reform.

The ‘elected member conflict of interest’ model in the Local Government Act is unnecessarily complicated and confusing. As a result, many councillors do not participate in debates, when their expertise would be valuable.

I have seen this play out in the current council. I myself have felt compromised on occasion, unsure of whether I have a conflict or not. Worse yet, there is potential for a member to use conflict of interest as a way of avoiding voting on a contentious issue.

The rules around elected member conflict of interest are complex. They need simplifying. They need to recognise that elected members invariably will be members of other community organisations. Be that sporting clubs, service clubs, churches, neighbourhood watch or other like community based organisations.

Being a member of any such club should not in itself constitute a conflict. Often the aims of the organisation and council are the same. A conflict should therefore centre around the original intention of the act. That is that the elected member should not personally gain.

The current provisions also cloud the area of where you or your family may live as a potential conflict of interest. A member should be able to vote on matters relevant to their street or suburb. If they can’t then their immediate neighbours do not have  a voice in Council. This played out to the consternation of the community in the last Council as they dealt with the DPA in Unley Central.

If these rules are not simplified we run the very real risk of community minded people not running in future for Council. Given this, you have to ask the question. Who do we want running for Council.

The very same people I would have thought.

Unley seeking to liaise with the Government on the North South Corridor.

What is happening to South Road through Black Forest and Everard Park. Don’t know? That is why the City of Unley is seeking to liaise with the Government.

 

Residents & property owners are desperate to know what Government’s plans are for our section of South Road. That includes the section that runs through the City of Unley.

Many ratepayers have expressed concern, anguish and/or just a keen interest in what will happen to our section of South Road. And for good reason. Everywhere work has already occurred the landscape has changed dramatically.

Access into and out of Black Forest will change dramatically.

It is possible that rat running through Black Forest will disappear. Likewise we should see a reduction in traffic on East Avenue. On the other hand, residents are likely to have to use a different route to leave and return home.

And it is not just properties on South Road that are affected. It is those properties in the side streets connecting to South Road and beyond.

The last Council made overtures to the then State Government for Council to be informed. We remain without knowledge. Information has been scarce and lacking sufficiency to allay concerns and fears that many in our community have.

The current Government recently publicly announced a desire to provide a tunnel solution through our section of the north-south corridor. This is as much as we know.

Assuming a leadership role to ensure we can all be on the same page, I moved at our last Council meeting the following motion on notice.

This approach will hopefully encourage a better recognition and co-operation with local residents and business owners than we experienced during the electrification of the Seaford Rail Corridor.

Seeking to liaise with the Government, their trusting us to contribute positively does work. We saw that with a range of development plan amendments a few years back with the previous Government.

I am looking forward the Government will respond in kind. Commencing of course with a briefing of Council.

Matters of Integrity, behavioural Matters and the Role of the Mayor.

Matters of Integrity must be dealt with outside of Council and include consequences for breaches.

 

Who should deal with matters of integrity I am not sure. The Government is proposing some options.

No matter what or who it will come at a cost, just as we have now. It may not matter in the end, who.

It must however be an external body, and not handled in house.

What will matter is members who have committed a breach of integrity must be subject to swift investigation and include consequences for breaches.

We must avoid the lengthy process that occurs now. The consequences must be more than just being sanctioned as happens now.

 

Behavioural matters on the other hand are probably best dealt with in house.

 

The use of outside bodies to investigate and/or make recommendations needs to be questioned. I say that in as much as this potentially extends the time of investigation. Consequences, particularly for repeat offenders must be strengthened beyond the current practice of sanctioning.

It may be that a set of behavioural standard needs to be developed. I am not sure this can reasonably be achieved however. I question too, whether this is better achieved by each council rather than have another body establish it. The current Unley Council is working through, as we speak, a similar standard.

 

Greater Controls for the Mayor

 

The Government is right to consider this and seek yours and my input. It is a vexing question. Install powers like the Speaker has in the Government’s House of Assembly and Legislative Council.

The City of Unley has not, in my time, had behavioural issues warranting such action. It is hard to imagine therefore a need for such to be addressed in a new Local Government Act.

In my time as Deputy Mayor a couple of years back, I did hear from a few Mayors of the problems they faced in their chambers. Problems that, coupled with what we hear in the Media, lead me to believe implementing some Mayoral oversight may be appropriate.

It has the potential of course to be manipulated if the Mayor was one to take advantage of this power. Any change in legislation in his area needs to have inbuilt protections to guard therefore against misuse.

Poor Page Park. In Need of Love and Attention

Much loved Page Park is today a poor park. A park in need of love and attention.

Poor Page Park TurfA well used park, as are all in the City of Unley, it has seen some dramatic change in activity in recent years. Corresponding to this change in activity the condition of the turf has deteriorated.

 

 

So concerned am I about the condition, I moved a motion on notice this week at Council. The motion read.

A report be prepared for the November 2019 Council meeting regarding
the condition of the turf at Page Park, including:
– An assessment of causes of disintegration;
– Possible solutions to rectifying disintegration.

We have seen families picnic under the trees, kids kicking (in the past) footballs. Others shooting rings on the recently updated basketball ring. Members of the community have likewise taken advantage of the outdoor gym provided at this location. Tennis is played at the adjacent bitumen paved public tennis courts.

More recently (since the fencing off and the later provision of self closing gates) it has become a favourite venue for exercising dogs.

 

Sparse Turf at Page ParkUntil the last two winters the turf and the general condition under foot has been no different to other parks in the City of Unley. The last two years, by my observation, the turf has deteriorated dramatically.

 

There are significant sections/areas with no turf. Poor Page Park DivetThere are also a number of divots in the ground. If there is any presence of rain the affected areas are quite slippery. This combination presents in my opinion as a work health safety concern.

 

 

Council has been concerned for a few seasons now about the condition of nearby Goodwood Oval. A current comparison however between the two facilities would suggest Goodwood Oval to be in very good condition, notwithstanding the pounding it would get from the sprigs of footballers.

Although the reason for the deterioration is not apparent, the numerous divots can probably be considered as the result of dogs digging. Given it is worse than Goodwood Oval and unsafe when wet I believe it timely to request an investigation and report.

Council backed my motion unanimously. This gives poor Page Park and chance to look forward to improved health, whatever use it accommodates in the future.