CCBR Business Review

14 C E N T R A L CO A S T CO U N C I L N E W S Council rates to be maintained following IPART determination THE INDEPENDENT PRICING and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has approved Central Coast Council’s 2022 Special Variation to maintain rates at their current levels for an additional seven years, equalling ten years in total to 2031. Council’s Administrator, Rik Hart said IPART’s determination supporting the continuation of Central Coast Council’s current rate structure for a further seven years is a sensible decision. This outcome allows Council to continue to maintain current service levels, comply with current banking requirements and most importantly, allows us to continue without interruption our 10-year long-term financial plan that provides long-term financial stability for the organisation,”Mr Hart said. “It’s a decision that factors in the unique situation this Council was in and the recommendation made by the Public Inquiry Commissioner ‘for the Administrator to ensure the completion of the Business Recovery Plan as adopted and amended by Central Coast Council since October 2020.’ “It has taken time, but we now have two independent entities on the same page. “We’ve achieved one of the most significant financial turnarounds of any organisation in under 12 months, with the current and forecasted surpluses repaying the emergency loans over the next 10 years. This is a continuation of the current rates with the exception of the rate peg as determined by IPART every year. “Now that we finally have an outcome, I have requested the CEO and senior staff to examine services where we’re not delivering to community expectations and reflect this in future operational plans for an incoming Council to consider. Council’s CEO, David Farmer said this major milestone will draw a line under the Council’s financial crisis, and the organisation can focus on consolidating and improving the performance of the organisation. “We are currently performing better than budget, with a high level of staff vacancies, but we know this is causing difficulty in our delivery of services to our customers in a number of areas,” Mr Farmer said. Now that we have longer-term stability for our rates revenue, we can carefully reinvest in services where we are not currently meeting community expectations of service levels, for example into our vast road network and vegetation management. “I recognise this has been a difficult time for the community, and I thank you for your patience, understanding, and for your comments and contributions about what needs to be done to improve Council and services,” Mr Farmer said. The Draft Long Term Financial Plan and Delivery Program will be considered in the Ordinary Council Meeting on 24 May 2022 to be placed on Public Exhibition for public comment at At its May 24th meeting Central Coast Council re-affirmed the appointments of the following representatives as Council nominees to the Hunter Central Coast Regional Planning Panel: Greg Flynn (Panel Expert Nominee) Anthony Tuxworth (Panel Community Nominee) Stephen Leathley (Alternative Expert Nominee) Lynette Hunt (Alternate Community Nominee) The representation will continue until the next council elections in 2023 or 2024. Mr Flynn is Principal Planner at idep Consulting and was from 1998 to 2014 Principal Town Planner at Gosford City Council and between 1988 and 1994 Manager Urban Planning at Gosford City Council. Mr Tuxworth is Principal Town Planner at Coastplan Consulting. From 1999 until 2004 he was Manager Development Assessment at Gosford City Council Mr Leathley is Planning Director at Insite Planning Services. He has been a member of Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Hawkesbury and Wingecarribee Regional Planning Panels since December 2017. Lynette Hunt has worked in varying senior roles in the NSW government for over 20 years. Council reluctantly voted on Monday, May 11 2020, to accept the constitution of the Local Planning Panel that took over the councilors’ previous role in deciding development applications. A most unhappy Cr Jan Smith (formerly Mayor) claimed that the planning panel was being forced on the community and the council. She is reported to have said that taking away council’s decision powers was an abomination. Cr Smith put forward an alternative list to that provided by council staff, of ten community members for the panel which only included one name from the list recommended. Those invited were: Gregory Flynn, Sue Francis, Stephen Glenn, Lynette Hunt, Geoffrey Mitchell, Paul Dignam, Glenn Watts, Scott McGrath, Marc Elsie, David Kitson. The expert members included Gregory Flynn, Sue Francis, Stephen Leachley, Linda McClure, Grant Christmas and Garry Fielding and were chosen by council from a field of 220 provided by the State Government. Significantly Council kept the background of the appointees confidential in attachments provided to councilors but not the public. At the time Cr Marquat, Greg Best, Jilly Pilon, Rebecca Gale and Bruce McLachlan abstained while Cr Bourke voted against it. Cr Holstein did not take part in the vote as he had a conflict of interest. Labor Councillors plus Cr Smith and Cr Greenway voted in favor. The planning panel now decides development applications that are: contentious; depart from standards by more than 10 per cent; are sensitive such as those involving heritage, liquor licences, or have more than three storeys. Council staff deal with lesser developments by delegated authority. In the time since the Regional Planning Panel was constituted it has “approved’ two significant developments in Gosford CBD with impossible conditions. St Hilliers has been forced to reconsider their entertainment and hotel precinct which was to be the second stage of their Central Coast Quarter development on the old Gosford Primary School site in favour of a twin tower residential development which only received approval earlier this year. Similarly, the Lederer Group’s Gosford Alive project on the Kibbleplex site in Gosford was “approved’ with impossible conditions. They have now put the property on the market and having sold the Imperial Centre which they had invested some $20 million have quit the Central Coast. In both cases, as with numerous othes over the years, the conditions were generally in line with the objections raised by two serial objectors: Community Environment Network (CEN) of which Jane Smith was a long time CEO and a private company Friends of Gosford Pty Ltd the sole shareholder and director was the late Malcom Brooks and now his wife Particia Brooks. Both of these developments were seen to be significant drivers of the Gosford economy into the future and had they been approved in a timely manner and with these conditions construction of both would not be well underway and possibly completed. Council to re-affirm Central Coast Regional Planning Panel members CENTRAL COAST BUSINESS REVIEW JUNE 2022