The Local Representation Committee (LRC) established by Central Coast Council Administrator, Mr Ian Reynolds, has been a useful exercise, according to former Gosford Councillors.
The committee has been wound up by Mr Reynolds as the current Council administration moves into caretaker mode in the lead up to the September 9 Central Coast Council election.
Former Greens’ councillor, Ms Hillary Morris, said the monthly LRC meetings have given the former councillors a vehicle to bring community issues to the attention of Mr Reynolds and CEO, Mr Rob Noble.
Ms Morris said the issues she had raised at LRC meetings since June 2016 included: Mangrove Mountain landfill issues around operation and water quality; the former Wyong Council tree policy, its impact and whether Central Coast Council will implement this policy; the sea level rise figure used by the former Gosford Council against the Wyong Council policy and how this will work in the new combined council; Davistown Wetlands; Clean Up Australia Day; Warnervale Airport; Koala habitat in the Glenning Valley development; a suggestion regarding an advertising campaign regarding roadside dumping and kerbside collections; and, the section 96 application for Rindean Quarry.
“The reader can determine whether or not action has been taken in regard to those issues,” she said.
“Central Coast Council also provided updates as to how the amalgamation was progressing at each of the general quarterly meetings.
“As someone who was opposed to the amalgamation, I am still uncertain of the benefits, but it will be interesting to see what transpires after the election of the new Council.
“I do think senior executives should not have been appointed until a new General Manager had the chance to choose a team for themselves.
“However, it is a decision of the current CEO and not councillors to determine the staffing of the council, although the new councillors should have had the chance to appoint a CEO prior to any appointments that lock in contracts,” she said.
“If not the Local Representation Committee then what?” asked former independent Gosford Councillor and its last Deputy Mayor, Mr Craig Doyle.
“Without the LRC, there would have been no voice at all for the community, just a benevolent dictatorship, and the State Government said Mr Reynolds needed an LRC to prevent the administration from having the look of a benevolent dictatorship,” Mr Doyle said.
“The vast majority of the 18 councillors treated it with seriousness, but a small number did treat it as a bit of a joke,” he said.
“Things of some significance were presented to the Administrator via the LRC that would not have been drawn to his attention without the committee.
“The thing I struggled with was that we were given only one hour per month to provide advice to the Administrator and he could’ve got much better value out of the 18 former councillors if he had given us more time,” Mr Doyle said.
Former Labor councillor, Ms Vicky Scott, said the LRC was set up by the NSW Government “to make it look as if the community had some representation but I felt it was more for show and to keep the former local councillors quiet.
“I kept going to the meetings in the hope that it would improve, but it didn’t,” she said.
“A lot of information was asked for by the members of the LRC on various issues, but we did not get answers.
“I am now really concerned about decisions being pushed through at the last minute before a new council is elected.
“For instance, the leadership contracts are being determined by the current CEO, when the new CEO should be able to choose the staff with whom they work.
“The new contracts for four years will take the community into the council after this one, when I would want to see a CEO appointed by the new Council.
“The Council’s first appointment should be the mayor, then the CEO, and that is a really important decision, as it will mark the flavour of the Council for the next three years.
“I believe the NSW Government is continuing to try to set the agenda for the Council, for example, a community reference group is being hand-picked by Mr Reynolds and Mr Noble, and I think that is a State Government directive,” she said.
The community reference group will be utilised to assist the Council to formulate its strategic plan however, Ms Scott said it was not clear whether or not the reference group would also be used as a future community consultation body.
One of the things I would like to see from the new Council is a way to do community consultation that is best practice, and I don’t think that this is the way to do it.
“My feeling is that none of those people who have been critical of Council will get on the reference group, and I wonder whether the members of the group will be chosen for their politics.
“I would rather develop a consultation policy that is best practice and that we can then stick to.
“All sorts of things are being done in the dying days of this unelected Council, such as the urban design consultation panel.
“The June meeting of the LRC will be the end of something that made me feel very patronised.
“For an hour a month, we met to come up with concerns, and most didn’t receive a response from Council.
“For example, an item I put up in November was not answered until May.
“I hope the community can recognise that this isn’t just being done on the Central Coast, this is the same in every amalgamated Council, and it is a State Government approach,” Ms Scott said.
Interview, Jun 5
Vicky Scott, former Gosford Councillor
Interview, Jun 13
Craig Doyle, former Gosford Councillor
Media statement, Jun 7
Hillary Morris, former Gosford Councillor
Jackie Pearson, journalist