Minutes of General Meeting – September 3, 2015

Minutes of General Meeting held at Northbridge Golf Club on Thursday 3rd September 2015.

Attendance:
As per attendance book (22 members and visitors)
Guest Speaker
Ms Debra Just – General Manager, Willoughby City Council
Apologies:
Cr Hugh Eriksson, Malcolm & Penny Lye, Angelos Frangopoulos, Grant and Sue Sheldon, George Contos, Ainslie Quinn, Jenny Roxburgh, Katie Geeves, Steve & Wendy Tufts, Ranald Stewart, Sandra Bridgewater Dunn.
Quorum:
The Chairman noted that a quorum was present.
Welcome:
Rob Coote, Chair, welcomed members, guests and visitors especially the guest speaker, Debra Just General Manager of Willoughby City Council; and Sailors Bay Ward Councillors Cr Rachel Hill and Cr John Hooper.
Approval of Minutes:
The Minutes of the previous General Meeting held on 4th June 2015 were approved.
Moved: Max Menzies: Seconded: Azar Kassis
Suspension of Standing Orders for the Guest Speaker:
The Chair introduced Ms Just, who had accepted an invitation to address residents and provide a brief update of the last six months.

Guest Speaker: Ms Debra Just – General Manager, Willoughby City Council

Staff Review and Re-structure:

A review of Council Operations and Staffing levels was held in the period between February and August. The aim was to achieve a balance between strategic and operational functions and for staff to know exactly what their work should deliver to the community. Ms Just showed graphs comparing Willoughby City Council (WCC) to other Sydney councils and also used a consultancy report carried out by LKS (a specialist company) for her predecessor. The result showed that although WCC is among one of the lowest in terms of population per Council area, that it was amongst those with the highest number of directors and managers and was one of the highest overall for senior staff costs. In addition, ratios of residents per director/manager and ratios of staff per director/manager were examined. These all demonstrated clearly that WCC was top heavy and, therefore, it was decided to re-structure only at the director/manager levels. Consultation and feedback with the staff were undertaken and all redundant staff were encouraged to apply for other jobs (within the new structure). Organisation and design principles such as span of control (the number of personnel reporting to each manager) and demarcation of functions (overlapping of jobs) were also examined to find the most efficient way for the council to work. The focus is now on the areas of “Place”, “Community, Culture and Leisure”, “Customers” and “Risk”. The goal is value for money and a saving of $2 million without losing services. Continuous improvements are being made in the areas of project management, managing budgets and accountability with training and support available. Staff, energised by the changes, now work more efficiently and has received union support.

The Concourse

An independent review of the functioning of the Concourse was commissioned so that our Councillors could have a better understanding and appreciation of its operational cost/benefit. It is envisaged that the commercial side (restaurants, cafes, etc.) will subsidise the arts side (concert hall and theatre). Last year’s profit was $620,000, so The Concourse is paying its way, but further improvement is still sought.

Fit for the future – Possible Merger of Councils:

IPART will finalise its decision in regard the merger of councils on 16th October and will report its finding to the Minister. The criteria being considered include scale and capacity (WCC’s new structure should be beneficial) management of assets (WCC can show improvements) and the findings of consultation with the community. The decision may not be made public. However, we will be “told our fate” in December.

Northbridge Plaza Council Car Park

A report was carried out which gives two options for which WCC are obtaining costings and considering implementation.

Northbridge Baths:

A recent study showed the water quality has improved. New perimeter barrier waste collection “booms” are being installed as part of the upgrade.

Northbridge Bowling Club

In about two months, consultation will commence. No decision has been taken yet, despite rumours circulating that it will be used for long day child care.

Golf Balls on the Oval

Protective nets have and are being erected. A new fence, 15 metres high by 45 metres long, funded by WCC (value of $120,800) will be installed along the Southern Oval perimeter behind the third green. The NGC Board has approved the installation of a new 30 metre high by 45 metres long fence along their boundary with the SE corner of NPS. NGC are seeking funding (approx. $187,000) for this from the State Government via its Community Building Partnership Grants programme. A decision on this funding will not be available until January 2016.The fence will require DA approval. There was some discussion as to whether a reduction in insurance could be achieved once the fence has been erected. The Chairman noted a follow-up meeting will be held as there is still more to be done.

Kameruka Road

WCC has carried out traffic counts and will implement measures to stop the speeding, but first they will consult with the community.

War Memorials

A Development Application from the RSL had been received for the upgrade of the War Memorial located near Bonds Corner.

John Roche Playground

Consultation with the community is due to begin soon.

Bonds Corner Playground

Signs will soon be put up.

Pavilion at Northbridge Oval

A unisex toilet will be provided.

Questions and Discussion:
Attendees congratulated Ms Just on achieving such good results in such a short time but asked whether our Councillors were aware of the top-heaviness. In response, she stated that she didn’t think Councillors had much visibility (going back over the last 8 years); In response to criticism of the high cost ($3,500) of attending an inter-council meeting, Ms Just stated she felt it was understandable that people were concerned, but there was immense value in such networking. She added she would be going by train; Asked whether there was any new LEP in the pipeline, Ms Just said she was not aware of any, but will check and get back to the NPA to confirm.

Ward Councillors’ Reports:

Ward Councillor’s in attendance declined the invitation to address attendees as there was nothing more or new to add to what had already been reported by the General Manager.

Community Update:

Tunks Park:
The Chairman explained that North Sydney Council is preparing a DA and carrying out a consultation to install flood lights at Tunks Park. Representatives of residents who resided in the area overlooking Tunks Park, from both Northbridge and Cammeray were in attendance and had been invited to this meeting to outline the issue. The Chair then introduced Mr Ted Doraisamy (Cammeray resident) to say a few words. Ted explained the problem is that North Sydney Council want to maximise the use of Tunks Park as a sports venue both during the day and fully floodlit at night. Residents (on both sides of the park) are concerned for several reasons. Firstly, there will be a lot more noise, and this amplified due to the amphitheatre effect. Secondly, there will be a lot more traffic and gridlock can be expected. Thirdly, there will be a dramatic negative impact on nocturnal wildlife. This is important because Tunks is one the last parks to remain un-floodlit. Fears are that Tunks Park could end up as a quagmire through over-use, as has been seen at Primrose Park (on the next bay along the harbour). Ted said residents also feared “development creep” and a subsequent decrease in property values. North Sydney Council is consulting but they are not compelled to listen. He feels it is essential to widen awareness and find support as there is no Progress Association representation on the North Sydney Council side. He believes there is also a political aspect to this given the forthcoming local elections. The Chairman asked that the NPA be kept informed.
Northbridge RSL:
Further to the article in the latest copy of The 202, the Chairman advised that he had invited Mr Bronte Pollard (Northbridge Resident and Local RSL Representative) to address attendees. The Chair then introduced Mr Pollard, from North Sydney RSL sub-branch, who gave a short history of the Northbridge RSL. He explained that the war memorial has fallen into disrepair, unbefitting its purpose. Repairs are planned to improve the flagpole and fix the sandstone and are progressing well. Bronte said he had contacted local schools to invite them to join in commemorative events. Councillor Rachel Hill said schools had been given special packs to raise awareness. A discussion followed on the importance of war memorials, contemporary as well as for the two World Wars. The Chairman then informed attendees in regard the unveiling of a new memorial plaque (funded by residents) on the War Memorial Clock at 2.00 pm on 19th September and said everyone was welcome to attend.
Vacancy for NPA Secretary:
The Chair received an offer of assistance from an attendee.
Masterplan for Northbridge:
There was a lively discussion about recent development approvals that appear to be setting a precedent and overturning existing controls. Councillor John Hooper is concerned that Ward Councillors are being seen to argue the case for the developer and Councillors do not have enough power because it has been taken out of their hands. He explained that a report, which does not include concerns raised by the community, is made by a Council Officer and this report can even be used in court against the Council. Another problem is court decisions that try to appease all parties. WCC GM, Debra Just, responded that council officers must be frank and fearless in their reports. She said planning decisions are taken on merit and on balance and officers would get an opinion on the likelihood of success (and the expenditure) if challenged in the Land and Environment Court. This would, of course, influence their recommendation. She explained the system in South Australia where decisions are taken by a panel of independent professionals and where politicians are left in charge of policy. She added there was an increasing trend to referencing Masterplans. Rob Coote informed the meeting that the Northbridge Masterplan is on the NPA website and encouraged members to send feedback as to how relevant they think it is.

Community Events:

  • Morning Tea with Gladys Berejiklian, our State Member of Parliament, at 10.30 am on 23rd September at Northbridge Golf Club. Councillor Rachel Hill pointed out that this date falls within the school holiday period.
  • Spring Fashion Parade, 10.30 am on 25th September at Uniting Church Hall, Gunyah Street. There will be a morning tea, not lunch.
  • Pictures on the Pitch: Rotary Club of Northbridge will be showing the movie “Paper Planes” on 10th October at 7.00 pm (gates open at 5.30 pm) with BBQ, competitions.

Next meeting

The Annual General Meeting will be held on Wednesday 25th November 2015 at 7.45 pm at Northbridge Golf Club.

Close:

The Chairman thanked Ms Just for taking the time to attend and speak to residents. He then thanked the Ward Councillors and all Members, residents and visitors for their attendance and for their time and valuable input. He then invited everyone to take the time to meet and greet – with tea, coffee and drinks available at the bar.

Meeting Closed at 9.15 pm

Chairperson: ………………………………………. Date: ………………………..

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