The March Council Meeting has seen councillors choose to side with community sentiment and the representations of the Combined Community Advocacy Group (CCAG – which represents the precincts and the Jamberoo Valley Ratepayers and Residents Association) rather than take the advice of staff on two issues.
One issue concerned the adoption of guidelines for the operation of precincts.
CCAG lobbied strongly for the deletion of a phrase which limited their ability to make representations to other bodies on matters Council is responsible for.
General Manager Kerry McMurray, who developed the guidelines in consultation with CCAG, has concerns about not limiting the precincts role in this way.
“They are advisory committees to Council.
“Therefore if they want to represent the views of their members regarding a matter that sits in the council remit, they should be making their representations to Council not going somewhere else to make representations.
“Councillors supported the view of the precincts, which means they can make representations about whatever they like, to whoever they like. It doesn’t have to even be aligned to council’s position.”
Mayor Mark Honey was the only councillor to vote against the deletion of the restriction.
“The duely elected council are the voice of the community, and in the vast amount of cases are the decision making body,” he says.
“Come September there is an opportunity for them [precinct members] to join in the festival of democracy and put their hand up for election.”
Karen Lang, President of CCAG, says, “I think it is terrific we got the support from councillors when they listened to our concerns.”
Later in the meeting, councillors voted five to four not to classify key commercial sites on Council managed Crown Land as operational, given fears of the land being sold off.
“Misinformation has been circulating in the community about Kiama Council wanting to make the land operational so they can sell it and some of the councillors have responded to the community’s anxiety,” says a frustrated Mayor Honey.
“Unfortunately that is a huge lie, perpetrated by certain people in social media, and that lie has caused the confusion amongst the councillors.”
As part of a new legislative requirement for managers of Crown Land to prepare Plans of Management, it has become necessary for all Crown Land to be classified as community or operational for the first time.
All community land requires Plans of Management to be prepared by June 2021.
Council staff were seeking to have the caravan parks and other specific sites classified as operational, but was unable to persuade councillors about the necessity for it, despite having the matter deferred twice to give councillors more time to digest the advice.
“The complication now is that we have to do plans of management for holiday parks,” says General Manager Kerry McMurray.
“The form and structure of these plans is very detailed and specified, making them an inflexible tool.
“Public exhibition will be required for even small changes, which will slow the decision making processes of the businesses.”
According to Councillor Kathy Rice, “Operational land doesn’t involve the community in deliberations over the future development of that land.
“I think it is important at this time, when there are no compelling reasons to classify it as operational land, that we classify it initially as community.
“In the future, if there are profound reasons why we want to change it, then we can invite the community in to discuss those changes with us.”
Mr McMurray says his role is now to implement the decision made.
“We have provided the professional advice and reasoning behind it and the elected members have made their decision as the governing body.”