Oct 5, 2011

Joint Regional Planning Panel - Secret Briefing Meetings

The Council has received correspondence from Mr John Roseth, Chair Sydney East Region, Joint Regional Planning Panel advising that, to date, the City of Botany Bay has not participated in any Briefing Meetings with the Panel to discuss applications prior to formal Panel Meetings.

He advised that these Briefing Meetings are to provide the Panel with an overview of the Development Application and to outline and discuss any major issues at the Panel/Officer level. The Joint Regional Planning Panels were introduced by the former State Government to take the place of Council in dealing with major Development Applications.

It is my view that the attendance at any secret Briefing Meetings, which are informal discussions about a Development Application with Council Officers would be improper and possibly even unlawful. It is a fundamental requirement that the decisions, deliberations, and material upon which Councillors rely in determining Development Applications be subject to public scrutiny. These deliberations are required to be in the presence of the press and public and not behind closed doors.

The Joint Regional Planning Panel sits in the place of this Council and this Council requires its Committee and Council Meetings not only to be in the presence of the press and public but goes to extraordinary extent by being one of the very few Councils in this country that broadcast its meeting by Webcast.

Any information that is provided to a Councillor about a Development Application in my view should not be in an informal context.  As well, the suggestion of building stronger relationships between the Panel and Council and to achieve a better understanding of the objectives of the Council by the Panel is something that can be dealt with in the absence of the press and public is, to me, an alien concept. It is also a concept that does not, and would not, have my support.

Development Applications affect the fundamental rights of individuals to the extent of hundreds of millions of dollars. Members of this Council do not discuss privately with objectors or developers the merits of a Development Application. The suggestion by Mr Roseth is, in my view, a misunderstanding of the public scrutiny and responsibilities of Consent Authorities.

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