Frank news on planning power play
BUTT out Frank Sartor. That is the message local mayors and residents have for the NSW Planning Minister. The Local Government Association (LGA) says the Minister has just been given the authority to strip local councils of their planning powers. And they say he doesn't need much of a reason to appoint a planning administrator over their heads. It's a move the association has described as a complete disregard for community rights. Mr Sartor's authority to overrule local government planning decisions is what has already allowed controversial projects such as Ballina's six-storey Gateway development and the Becton tourist development at Byron Bay to get the green light. Genia McCaffery, president of the LGA, said the reasons Mr Sartor could give for appointing an administrator over a local council were completely subjective. "The one which is most alarming is if a development 'is in the public interest'," Cr McCaffery said. "But what does that mean? Our main concern is that the criteria are so open ended." However, Acting Planning Minister John Hatzistergos yesterday hit back at such claims. He said it was outrageous to claim the Minister could sack a council if he decided he didn't like it. Mr Hatzistergos said the Minister must take into account a whole range of issues before he could appoint a planning administrator to take over planning functions of council staff or councillors.
Byron Shire mayor Jan Barham said there was a lack of good planning when isolated decisions were made without a sense of context. "If someone else steps in without having a feel for the community, who knows what you'll get," she said. Richmond Valley mayor Charlie Cox said the Minister didn't have enough local knowledge to make such decisions.