Ballina council wants Minister to stop interfering in its business
By MARY MANN firstname.lastname@example.org BALLINA Shire Council is fed up with NSW Planning Minister Frank Sartor sticking his nose in its business and it plans to do something about it.
Recently re-elected Ballina mayor Phillip Silver said he wanted to meet face-to-face with Mr Sartor.
"I want to sit down and tell him the council and community are unhappy so many planning decisions are being usurped by the State Government," Cr Silver said.
"I want to prove to him that Ballina council is not a greenie council wanting to knock back every development, nor is it a red-neck council wanting to over-develop and approve absolutely everything. We are balanced and we can make our own decisions.
"I'm sure it will take quite a bit of work to prove that, and we will have to go back through our past planning decisions, but it needs to be done."
In a bid to claw back control over its major project development assessments, Ballina Shire Council will write to the State Government expressing its concerns.
Mr Sartor's authority to overrule local government planning decisions has already given the green light to projects such as Ballina's six-storey Gateway development, the Becton tourist development at Byron Bay and, most recently, the Survey Street subdivision at Lennox Head.
Cr Silver said he was considering asking other coastal councils in the area Byron Shire, Richmond Valley, Tweed and Clarence Valley to come on board.
Under the Major Projects State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP), the State Government can take over the planning decisions for projects deemed to be of State significance.
But the problem is, according to Cr Silver and other North Coast mayors, the planning decisions being taken over are not of State significance.
Ballina council's acting regulatory services group manager, Andrew Smith, said he doubted people in Port Macquarie, for example, would be too concerned about what happens at Survey Street in Lennox Head.
"The subdivision doesn't exactly have State significance," he said.
"From a planning perspective, the local council and staff have the best local knowledge in terms of planning issues and familiarity with community aspirations.
"The concern is that the council and community lose their ability to be involved adequately in the assessment and decision-making of these projects."
Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham said there was a lack of good planning when isolated decisions were made without a sense of context.
"It is a bit hard from Sydney for them to understand our local issues," Cr Barham said.
"We are the ones who have to live with the decisions forever."
Cr Barham said State interference also cost local councils in development application fees.
Richmond Valley mayor Charlie Cox agreed the Minister didn't have enough local knowledge to make such decisions.