21 October 2015
It has been a busy few days in New South Wales Parliament. Below is an update on what I have been working on and local community news.
FIT FOR WHAT FUTURE?
The IPART ‘Fit for the Future’ report released yesterday determines that City of Sydney and Woollahra councils are unfit based purely on the arbitrary criterion imposed by the government on size. In fact the City of Sydney was the only council to get a ‘strong’ financial sustainability rating; it was identified as having low residential rates and proactively partnering with government infrastructure and urban renewal. Even though IPART deemed it big enough to standalone, it had to get the ‘unfit’ stamp highlighting how ridiculous – and politically motivated – this process is.
Councils have 30 days to respond and it is not clear what will happen next. The size criterion that IPART was forced to use to define ‘fitness’ is based on a ‘Global City Council’ that merges the City of Sydney, Woollahra, Botany, Waverley and Randwick councils and the Premier and minister have indicated support for this model. The future of local government is unclear.
The government wants centralised power within politically favourable boundaries – particularly in economically strong areas like the City – over community and business outcomes.
The Hon Mike Baird MP, NSW Premier
www.nsw.gov.au/your-government/contact-premier-new-south-wales; firstname.lastname@example.org; tel 9976 2773; facebook.com/mikebairdMP; or @mikebairdMP
The Hon Paul Toole MP, Minister for Local Government: email@example.com; tel 8574 7000; facebook.com/PaulTooleMP; @PaulTooleMP
Long awaited strata reforms passed the lower House yesterday following years of advocacy from Clover Moore and me. People will no longer be able to control management through proxies with limits on the amount one person can hold and absent voting methods like Skype permitted. Owner corporations will be able to pass a by-law to ban overcrowding, although I argued this should be mandatory.
Obtaining enough evidence for an order remains a problem and the minister reiterated his commitment to work with me to deliver further reforms that stop overcrowding. Residents subject to smoke in their homes from other apartments or common property will be able to take action at the tribunal and there will be more opportunities for renters to get involved in the management of buildings. I welcomed the new developer bond of two per cent of contract prices that can be used for rectification if an independent inspector identifies defects. The bill will likely pass the upper House given multi-partisan support however it is not clear when it will become law.
Unfortunately, these vital reforms were packaged with another bill which I strongly opposed. The government is pushing a new model to terminate strata schemes with the agreement of only 75 per cent of owners – currently it must be unanimous. Vulnerable people could be forced from their homes and priced out of their neighbourhoods to profit developers and other owners. The Land and Environment Court must approve all terminations which provides some safeguards but I am not confident that that is enough. It is not clear whether this bill will pass the upper House.
My speech is HERE.
STREET TREE PRUNING
I’ve repeatedly raised community concerns about destructive pruning of street trees with the government. In the inner city, street trees may be the only location where there is enough space for mature trees to grow, but this is also where electricity and telephone cables are located.
Aerial bundling of cables can reduce the need for pruning, but councils have to request and pay for this. Ausgrid should be doing this as a matter of course in densely populated inner city areas.
Ausgrid is now consulting on its tree pruning program, information available HERE. Unfortunately this material presents this as a choice between trees and safety and security of electricity supply. I recommend sending a message with your views because this should not be an ‘either or’ situation.
SYDNEY’S NURSING HISTORY
In Parliament, I spoke about the Lucy Osburn-Nightingale Foundation Museum, which records the history of nursing in NSW and houses the unique Kanematsu morbid anatomy collection.