Credibility, Transparency and Trust are probably the most important ingredients of good government. And right now in the Goodwood South Ward the City of Unley is struggling with all three.
It hurts me to say this as I have always felt, long before I became a Ward Councillor 3 years ago, that Unley is one of the better councils. I still do mind you but as a member of that organisation I am being challenged however with this paradigm.
Unfortunately our credibility will always be challenged when people perceive we are responsible for matters that the state government or other government institutions are getting wrong. Guilty by association as it were. Lets face it we are all government aren’t we.
There has been much of that in the last year, courtesy of the rail revitalization project. We have been inundated with claims by DPTI that Council is responsible for this, Council is responsible for that; or Council approved this, or (more recently) Council staff approved this. Jennie & I have been fighting to maintain our credibility in the face of what seemed an unending barrage by DPTI deflecting their competencies toward council.
That is not the purpose of this blog however.
Council don’t need DPTI to look foolish, we can do that all by ourself. I can think of many things in my 3 years as a Councillor, including the Kelvin Avenue consultation that impacted on Goodwood South residents.
Ironically we have not made a good fist of things in one of the very areas that have created angst and mistrust by DPTI, the area of Canterbury Terrace Black Forest. We have had three overlapping consultation projects going on concerning these residents (and a small section of Byron Road).
First was an LATM (which I have posted on previously and will again soon), followed by seeking opinions on the future of the Canterbury Terrace, Parker Terrace Trees which were dying or dead. And then finally a consultation about re configuring Canterbury Terrace due to the impact on increased use by bike riders due to the construction by DPTI of the Greenways bike path.
It has culminated this week with Council chopping down a tree in the Princess Margaret Playground that DPTI had twice attempted to late last year because it interfered with their infrastructure. In spite of removal having State Government Development Assessment Commission approval I was able to save the tree because it clearly had no impact on the electrification of the rail corridor. You can read about this in previous posts on this blog site.
Unfortunately Council later attempted to remove the tree and again I was able to put a stop on it as due process demanded we go through a local development assessment process. This was agreed to by our management. Councils arborist had recommended its removal after inspecting it as part of the DPTI scene previously noted. He found the tree to no long be stable and to be structurally unsound and therefore unsafe.
We proceeded with the development assessment process, sending out invitations as required under the Act to people owning property within 60 metres of the playground who may wish to make a representation on the removal. This letter went out on 6 January, received by me as one of those residents early this week. We had until 21st January to make the representation.
To my utter amazement we (yes WE, Council) came in yesterday and DOWN she came. So we send out invitations to people to provide their input and assist the decision making process but ignore this and chop it down any way.
So what is a guy, sorry an elected member, to do about this. I cant get the tree back, but by golly I can challenge our CEO and our General managers as to how we can allow this to happen. An administration acutely aware of the devastation that the people of this immediate neighbourhood have felt at the hands of DPTI, and to a lesser extent by ourselves. and acutely aware of how sensitive these people are towards this tree, allowed this to happen the way it did.
Our administration were well aware of my campaign to save the tree from the DPTI marauders. Management agreed with me that, even if this tree was suffering, that we should avoid doing anything to it for two years because this neighbourhood had suffered too much loss already.
Our arborist’s concerns outweighed this however and I agreed to allow it to go through a development assessment process to ensure full transparency. Hence the letters to neighbours within 60 metres.
At the end of the day, with the information I now have, the tree was never going to survive the process. It was so severely compromised it appears it presented an immediate danger to the kids in the playground, and I am not going to argue this with our arborist.
Section 54 of the Development Act 1993 allows for immediate removal of a significant tree in this circumstance and with a retrospective approval to follow. This is what finally happened here but to happen in the face of it going through the process of an approval just smacks of ineptitude in the eyes of a public sympathetic to the tree, and a public licking its wounds from the previous 12 months of DPTI activity and having now a level of mistrust for anything government.
A lot of damage has been done and I have sought and been granted an audience with our CEO to address how we can allow such a mess to occur and how to prevent it happening in the future, or at least reduce the chances of it happening in the future. I will take him through a series of events that I don’t want to bore you all with here.
Thank you also to those encouraging me to stick at this and concerned for me that I should have to.