Minutes of General Meeting – March 3, 2016

Minutes of General Meeting held at Northbridge Golf Club on Thursday 3rd March 2016 commencing at 7:45 pm

Attendance:
As per attendance book (16 signed in members and 3 visitors)
Visitors:
Cr Jilly Gibson, Mayor of North Sydney Council; and Cr John Hooper
Apologies:
Mayor Gail Giles-Gidney, Cr Rachel Hill, Cr Hugh Eriksson, Angelos Frangopoulos, Simon Craddock, Belinda Cachia
Quorum:
The Chairman noted that a quorum was present.
Chairperson’s Welcome:
Rob Coote, Chair, welcomed members, guests and visitors especially the guest speaker, the Mayor of North Sydney – Cr Jilly Gibson, and Ward Councillor John Hooper.
Suspension of Standing Orders for the Guest Speaker
The Chair suspended the ordinary course of the meeting in favour of the address by the Mayor of North Sydney – Cr Jilly Gibson
Introduction of Guest Speaker:
The Chairman introduced Ms Gibson, who has been a North Sydney Councillor for 16 years and Mayor since September 2012. He acknowledged that the State Government have initiated a review and a proposed restructure of our Local Government and boundaries. Before last week, we, as a community, were asked to provide comment on a Willoughby / North Sydney Council merger. Last Thursday, the review was expanded to a Mosman, North Sydney, Willoughby merger. While there is much media opposition all over Sydney, it is likely that the amalgamations will go ahead and therefore, Progress Association members and residents would like to know how these mergers will play out and what the benefits are for us, the residents.

Guest Speaker – Cr Jilly Gibson, Mayor of North Sydney

Mayor Gibson stated she was happy to speak informally and that she, along with everybody else, was surprised to learn that Mosman was now in the picture. She confirmed that she, and most of the residents of North Sydney, whom she represents, are not in favour of amalgamating, but we must look beyond the scare and worry to find the positives. The NSW Government is on a mission to transform Sydney and they have been working on it for the last four years. She advocates being sensible as she believes the mergers will happen and the NSW Government will act around the end of May 2016. Therefore, we have to make it work – the alternative would be years of uncertainty and unpleasantness fighting it. She said Mayors and Councillors have a hard time keeping track of developments so she identified several issues to speak about that affect both Willoughby and North Sydney.

St Leonards Redevelopment:

This area, a major hub for business, is currently divided between North Sydney, Willoughby and Lane Cove Councils, making it cumbersome to administer. If one entity managed it, there would be much better planning and social outcomes. With additional housing required for a growing population, new residential developments can be situated near railways and workplaces in areas such as St Leonards.

Tunks Park Floodlighting:

The plan to make greater use of sporting facilities, which includes instaling floodlighting, has sparked huge protests on both the North Sydney side and the Willoughby side of the park. This has brought forth complaints about the larger volume of noise, traffic, and parking requirements which would have an adverse impact on nearby residents. There is also an argument whether organised sport should take precedence over passive recreation. There is a trend to use synthetic surfacing in modern sporting grounds but, Ms Gibson feels it does not make sense to do so on the harbourside and take away the natural resource we already have. North Sydney covers a very small area and has an Olympic Pool. She questioned whether NSC needs to provide facilities for sporting clubs a long way out of the area, e.g., the Northern Beaches. There is much space in Chatswood, e.g., the light industrial zone near Bunnings, where such facilities would not impact residential areas. If for example, WCC and NSC merged, the obvious benefits would be mutual.

Lack of Parking:

This is an increasing problem everywhere as more people come to live here. She receives many calls and complaints.

Questions and Discussion:

Pam Clifford asked what sort of difference it makes if Mosman is included. Ms Gibson felt there would be more diversity. For some reason, residents of Willoughby and Mosman do not seem to feel they have much in common, although North Sydney residents feel there is commonality with both.

Peter McNair observed that rates in North Sydney are low and would go up. He asked what benefit their residents would find. Ms Gibson replied that there would be savings made from greater efficiency of services and from some (senior very well-paid) staff salaries where positions are currently duplicated. However, the new councillors would have to be of a very high calibre and so it all depends on who gets elected. The State Government would also contribute with money for the infrastructure.

Michael Conder asked whether some major decisions, such as whether to go ahead with floodlights in Tunks Park, would be deferred. Ms Gibson said we already need to wait while both Willoughby City Council and North Sydney Council carry out public consultations.

Michael Conder also asked whether she was in favour of a Mayor elected by fellow councillors or would she prefer a Mayor elected directly by the people. Ms Gibson replied that Mayors should be popularly elected. She is in no doubt that a Mayor is working for the people and should answer to them, not their fellow councillors.

The Chairperson thanked Mayor Jilly Gibson for taking time out and attending and speaking at the meeting. Members appreciated her giving us an interesting talk and sharing her views candidly.

General Meeting opened at 8.30 pm

Minutes of the Previous Meeting:
The Minutes of the previous General Meeting held on September 3rd, 2015 were approved at the AGM on November 25th, 2015 and are currently available on the website.
Matters Arising:
There were none.
Approval of Membership Applications:
Rob Coote explained that non-residents can be members of the NPA on condition that 75% of members votes at a general meeting are obtained.
The membership of Mr John Holder was approved.

Councillor’s Reports:

Cr John Hooper offered his thoughts on amalgamation. First, he spoke on the question of popularly elected Mayors. He explained that there should be an uneven number of councillors per ward so that there can be a majority for decisions voted on. He warned that a popularly elected mayor implies an even number of ward councillors and this should be avoided.

Although he would like to see WCC continue to stand alone, he feels there is a good business case for merging with North Sydney, but not Mosman. There is an excellent opportunity should Chatswood, St Leonards and North Sydney CBD’s become a large source of income (through business rates) for the new council to pay for services. However, North Sydney has many more units than Willoughby where detached housing is subsidising 3 and 4 bedroom unit-dwellers. Therefore, all unit dwellers must still face a large, unwelcome increase in their rates.

Willoughby is one of the very few councils in NSW, which is financially transparent. They hold $650 million in assets and have imposed an infrastructure levy to maintain them. They have $100 million in reserves. They have a loan, but given the above, repayment is not a problem. In contrast, NSC has $350 million in assets and their residents do not want to pay higher rates.

Various questions were discussed, including whether a “productivity commissioner” could be asked to intervene in the process of merging because councils themselves cannot calculate the cost of any particular thing. This means they will have difficulty identifying where to make savings and improvements – at the moment; it is all a matter of guestimates and good faith.

There will be more and larger wards and, therefore, each councillor will have to represent two or three times the number of constituents they do now. John said that he, and others like him, will cope because they are dedicated to the task and will manage to do whatever is required. However, councillors with young families will be very hard pressed. Capable, devoted people – and plenty of volunteers to help them – will have to be found, as well as enough money.

John said it was a vast subject and he would be happy to continue discussions. If anyone would like to know more, please contact him.

Community Update:

Traffic in Kameruka Road: Max Menzies will attend a meeting at WCC next week.

Community Events:

Clean Up Australia Sunday 6th March:
Grant Sheldon is co-ordinating the NPA’s effort and seeking more volunteers to work near the Mens’ Shed. Please register online in advance as it will not be possible to do so on the day.
Rotary Fireworks on 7th May:
Rotary are looking for 100 volunteers to help. Please contact Peter McNair or Rob Coote if you are interested.
WCC Fauna Fair on 20th March at Curry Park, Chatswood:
don’t forget it is always a great outing. See Council website for further details.
Editors for The 202:
after nearly four years the current editors are stepping down. Please contact Rob Coote for further details.
Vacancies on NPA Committee:
we are looking for people to fill the posts of Membership Officer and Treasurer. Please contact Rob Coote for further details.
Angophera Tree outside 160 Sailors Bay Road:
Following a letter from John Scott in The 202, Dierdre James proposed the following:

MOTION:

That the NPA:
requests that Council takes steps (required urgently) to protect the significant local tree growing outside number 160 Sailors Bay Road, including a fence to prevent customers of the coffee shop from compacting the soil around the tree, a permanent water supply adjacent to the tree to facilitate watering and loosening the compacted soil around the base of the tree.

MOVED: Diedre James
SECONDED: Graham James

After some discussion on the best way to approach the council, an amended Motion was put forward.

RESOLUTION:
That the NPA write to the General Manager expressing concern about the welfare of the tree outside 160 Sailors Bay Road and Ritual Coffee Traders asking her to refer the matter to an appropriate officer to provide a solution.

MOVED: Max Menzies
SECONDED: Ranald Stewart

Voting: CARRIED
For the Resolution: 15 Members
Against: 1 member
Abandoned Plaza Trolleys:
Carol Coney said that trolleys are not being collected and returned to the Plaza. John Hooper recommended telephoning the Council as they could impose significant fines. Marion Feibush said she had recently written to the Council including photographs when Northbridge Gardens had a similar problem. The trolleys vanished overnight and are now being collected on a regular basis.
Next meeting:
The next General Meeting will be held on Wednesday, 1st June 2016 at 7.45 pm at Northbridge Golf Club.
The subsequent General Meeting will be on Thursday, 1st September and the Annual General Meeting on Wednesday, 23rd November.
Please note that meetings are on Wednesdays as well as Thursdays.

The Meeting Closed at 9.10 pm

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

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