Summary of February Council Meeting

Key decisions included:

Roseville Chase Bowling Site – Council voted to ask the Department of Planning to undertake the final steps of rezoning the entirety of this public land to Low Density Residential (with the next obvious step to sell the entire site). The vote was close, 5 vs 5 plus the mayor’s casting vote in support of land rezoning. Our alternate proposal was to take a step back, consider potential community use, and retain part of the site for recreation but this was defeated 5 vs 5 with the mayor’s casting vote against the proposal.

Marian Street Theatre – Design work put on hold for three months so that members of the community could have further input into the design.

Norman Griffiths Oval – Review of Environmental Factors (REF) and other supporting documents to be made available on council website once available. It is noted by some that at other councils, the REF is usually conducted before a contract is awarded however there were concerns that at Ku-ring-gai the process was the other way around. Personally, I found that there were residents from various camps who were incredibly rude to councillors during the weeks leading up and although it didn’t affect me on this occasion, I felt sorry for those who had to put up with it.

Code of Meeting Practice – Glad to see that councillors supported my proposal to align our meeting practices with the majority of other councils in the North Shore (and in line with Office of Local Government Guidelines). Previously our Public Forums had very little interaction between residents and councillors, but with a revised code we hope to improve the public interaction and engagement.

Superannuation for Councillors – There was some debate over whether councillors should get paid superannuation, in line with basically every other job in Australia. Council’s resolved position was that councillors should get super, and that councillors may choose to opt out of receiving super if they choose to do so.

Ku-ring-gai’s Housing Legacy (and the mess that next term’s Councillors will inherit)

Some of us have a Will, a legal document that provides instructions on what to do with our estate once we are gone. And for those of us who have a Will, especially a complex one, we take extra care to make sure that every word is crafted such that there can only be one (intended) interpretation. And if our lawyer drafts a Will and we are unsatisfied with it, we ask for the changes to be made and presented to us for review again before signing it.

In recent years, the State Government asked each of the Sydney Metro councils to prepare a Housing Strategy through to 2036. In many ways it is similar to a Will. I’m not going to be a Councillor by 2036 however the decisions that we make as a Council today affect our children though to 2036 and beyond. If council works collaboratively on a Housing Strategy, the State Government can then plan the appropriate transport, education, hospital, and other infrastructure delivery. And because I intend to live in Ku-ring-gai in the decades to come, and I want my children to do the same, the Housing Strategy through to 2036 is very important to me.

In September and October 2020 there was a bit of drama regarding Ku-ring-gai’s Housing Strategy and I am disappointed that the former-mayor, who used to be my mentor, used Council’s resources of 31,000 mailing list as well as ratepayer funded newspaper ads to misrepresent my position on the matter. I asked councillors and General Managers from other LGAs as to whether this activity was normal, and they said no definitely not.

So what was the drama about? In preparing a draft Housing Strategy for Ku-ring-gai, council staff had proposed 15 storeys in Lindfield and 20 storeys in Gordon. All ten councillors opposed this proposal (as demonstrated by the September 2020 minutes and webcast) however there were two views on how to best move forward.

One group of councillors including myself proposed that given the slowed population growth due to COVID, the population projections were no longer accurate and that we should require council staff to prepare an amended strategy with lower dwelling targets and a more diverse mix of housing to include townhouses and duplexes in sensible places. We proposed that staff should prepare the revised plan and put it out for public consultation and councillor consideration.

The other group of councillors proposed that Ku-ring-gai would do absolutely nothing at all. All land zoning to remain exactly the way it is now. The 600+ page housing strategy to be revised to reflect this and submitted to the Department of Planning without further consultation with members of the public or consideration by councillors.

I had strong objections to this alternate approach for the following reasons:

  1. Despite their claims it did not provide a housing plan through to 2036. It was 2031 at best, or potentially 2026.
  2. It bypassed all community and councillor consultation, akin to asking your lawyer to drastically amending your will and getting you to sign it without any review.
  3. It leaves Ku-ring-gai exposed to further property developer spot-rezoning. So instead of the community having a say on where townhouses should go and what they should look like, the buck was being passed to property developers who would do it without appropriate consultation.
  4. It places Ku-ring-gai at much greater risk of significant 10+ height increases under a state Labor government (whereas if we had gone with brand new 2-3 storey townhouses 200m from the train station, with Ku-ring-gai-specific R3 development controls to conform with local character, nobody would think to replace them with 10 storeys next decade).

The former mayor got her way with the casting vote. The housing strategy was revised and then lodged with the Department of Planning. Councillors were notified less than 2 hours before lodgement, however there’s no way that you can expect any Councillor to read a 377 page document in that period of time, and provide meaningful feedback. A subsequent review revealed that council staff had left some inclusions that left some parts of the LGA especially St Ives exposed.

More recently in July 2021, the Department responded with a letter of conditional approval for the Housing Strategy. The message was basically that no, Ku-ring-gai’s proposed Housing Strategy in isolation was insufficient to provide the diverse housing needs of Ku-ring-gai through to 2036. 2026 yes, but not 2036. So in order to achieve approval, twelve additional conditions were added to close out the remaining gap. You can read the document in the following link, in particular point 6 which says that if Ku-ring-gai is unwilling to do the rezoning, the property developers will.

https://shared-drupal-s3fs.s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/master-test/fapub_pdf/Ku-ring-gai+Council+-+LHS+Letter+of+Approval+20210716.pdf

At the November Council meeting, 6 out of 10 councillors rejected the twelve conditions of approval. I personally said that I wasn’t a fan of the conditions either, but that I’d prefer staff to prepare the material and let the next council decide what to do next. But with the twelve conditions of approval outright being rejected now, it means that the housing strategy itself also has no approval.

Yes, Ku-ring-gai fought the housing targets but Ku-ring-gai certainly has not won. We had a great opportunity for residents to have a say in what they would like the future to look like, and to set appropriate development controls so that our residents’ downsizing needs could be met while ensuring that future multi-dwelling homes are consistent with Ku-ring-gai’s character, but that opportunity has been given away now and this messy legacy is left to next term’s councillors to tackle.

I am disappointed at the use of these short-sighted political stunts for short-term political gain, at the cost of Ku-ring-gai’s future and legacy, by people who don’t plan to hang around to live with the legacy. This is the legacy that my children and I have to live with, and it’s not fair. We would never sign a Will without reviewing it and understanding the implications, why would we ever allow a Housing Strategy through to 2036 to be pre-signed even before reviewing the legal document? 

In the attached image you can see a great example of what a multi-dwelling home could look like. It looks like a regular house set in a Heritage Conservation Area. It has a massive yard for residents to enjoy. But it actually contains four very pleasant dwellings (I know because my friends used to live in one of them).

Outcome of November Council Meeting

Lindfield Netball Club and Ku-Ring-Gai Netball Association. In recent months I’ve been working with some of your executive to ensure that the Tryon Road courts could be set aside for Training in 2022 however last month council staff argued that for ‘Equity’ reasons Tennis Permanent Hirers should have first dibs on court hire in November, with Sporting Codes (including Netball) having second dibs in January. For Tryon Road this means that if a single tennis court is booked, both of the perpendicular netball training courts are unavailable.

I disagreed with this ‘Equity’ argument as there are ~50 tennis courts in the local area and only three multipurpose netball courts (all prioritised for tennis to maximise profit). I have nothing against Tennis and there are plenty of options for Tennis to use. However I’m disappointed to report that six of the ten councillors including Councillor Anderson voted against the proposal, so you will have reduced access to Netball Training courts next year because of this decision.

Similarly the (realistic) proposal for staff to investigate increasing the number of basketball hoops in the area from 5 to 12 were shut down by the same councillors.

We’ll try again next council term.

The other main decision of the night was that the majority of councillors outright rejected the conditions of approval for the Ku-ring-gai Housing Strategy. With the conditions of approval rejected, it also follows that the Housing Strategy itself has no approval. Without an approved Housing Strategy, next term’s councillors will have to deal with the consequences of this legacy (including additional property developer spot rezoning).

To be honest I was not completely happy with the conditions of approval either, but I thought it was more appropriate for staff to prepare the options, buy us some time to negotiate with the State Government, and let the new councillors digest the issues early next year. This reflects my personal work style, I prefer to first consult with the community, stakeholders, and higher levels of government to achieve the best outcome possible.

The option for Online Council Meetings to become permanent

This is exciting news for the Local Government sector, especially regional and rural councils where councillors may live hours away from their council chambers.

What’s especially great is the acknowledgement that “Councils will now have the option to allow councillors to be present for official meetings by audio-visual link if they can’t attend in person because of illness, disability, caring and work responsibilities or other reasons agreed to by council.

The extra flexibility will be appreciated by those councillors who are serious about carrying out their civic duties and attending meetings.

What’s happening at Ku-ring-gai?

Residents and journalists have asked me to comment on what’s happening at Ku-ring-gai. At this stage I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to say much other than the following.

1) The same five councillors have not attended council meetings in October, on eight separate occasions. Because of the lack of quorum (six councillors required out of ten), council has been unable to meet and conduct business.

2) I have attended each time that we tried to meet.

3) Meetings were available for attendance via Zoom. I attended one of the occasions on my iPad at a park. Another occasion clashed with a family reunion so I attended via Zoom from a separate room.

4) I’m disappointed that we cannot get through some of the big agenda items for October such as Lindfield Village Hub, pedestrian bridge, basketball and netball facilities, various project tenders, net zero, Trucks on Pacific Highway, etc. Some of these things will have to be decided by the next council in February as caretaker period starts soon.

5) There’s a lot more behind the scenes than what the public knows, and things are not always black and white.

6) At this stage I do not think it’s appropriate for me to make any further comments. I didn’t call for any of these meetings and I’m not the council spokesperson.

7) I might be moderating this post and page as I don’t want to be held responsible for defamatory comments made by others.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/unacceptable-government-poised-to-intervene-in-chaotic-north-shore-council-20211027-p593nl.html

Lessons from Lockdown

While it’s unfortunate that we’ve had to protect our loved ones through the lockdown process, we’ve also been forced to innovate and find better ways of doing things. One such benefit is the increased adoption of platforms such as Zoom, Teams and FaceTime which allow us to work remotely while reducing our carbon footprint.

This week our council attempted to meet on three separate occasions to discuss a very serious matter, and with Zoom we had the flexibility of meeting at home, in the council chambers, or even while outside such as during a picnic. On all three occasions, it was unfortunate that five councillors happened to not be available to connect on Zoom, and without a quorum (6 required) we were unable to carry on with the council agenda. What’s especially bizarre is that we see some of these councillors actively posting on social media these last few days but then they are somehow unable to connect to Zoom via their phone, tablet or laptop, or desktop computer.

As for the specifics of this agenda item, as I mentioned in a previous post, it’s not appropriate for me to comment on this further at this point in time because I didn’t call for the meeting, because I am not the council’s spokesperson, and because of the confidentiality attached to the agenda item.

Big Agenda for the October Council Meetings

For the Ordinary Meeting of Council (19/10) we are voting on 33 items. I haven’t had the chance to read through the details yet but for me the five highlights are:

C1/GB22 – Lindfield Village Hub; a confidential item proposing a way forward with negotiations for construction as well as the consideration of a planning proposal

GB24 – School Infrastructure NSW and Ku-ring-gai Council; a proposal to meet monthly with the Department of Education to explore ways of improving the utilisation of public assets

GB25 – Cities Race to Zero; an opportunity to consider joining the COP26 Race to Zero initiative (which also includes the recognition of a climate emergency), I’m curious to see how councillors will vote

NM2 – Basketball and Netball Facilities in Roseville, Lindfield and Killara; my proposal to take practical steps to delivering the facilities that residents have asked for

NM3 – Saving Bates Park; our second motion to Save Bates Park after the first one was delayed by councillors three months ago

In addition to the Ordinary Meeting of Council we also have an Extraordinary Meeting of Council (09/10) that’s been called by two other councillors. It is a confidential item with the topic of “Appointment of General Manager“. Because of the confidentiality, because I didn’t call for the meeting, and because I am not the council’s spokesperson, it’s not appropriate for me to comment on the matter at this point in time.

Outcome of Mayoral / Deputy Mayoral Election

I’d like to thank Councillors Cedric Spencer, Christine Kay, Peter Kelly and Jeff Pettett for giving me a turn at being Deputy Mayor (Sep-Dec 2021). In the same meeting, Councillor Spencer was also elected as Mayor. Both positions were randomly drawn 50/50 out of a box.

It will be an extremely short mayoral / deputy mayoral term with 10 weeks to go before the local government election. Caretaker period starts in six weeks and there’s only one council meeting between now and then. With the little time we have, we’d like to make meaningful improvements for our community and we will provide you with updates along the way.

Upgrade of Norman Griffiths Sportsground

Last night the councillors voted unanimously to proceed with the design and upgrade of the Norman Griffiths Oval in West Pymble. This project has been a long time coming with the NSW Government, West Pymble FC , Northern Suburbs Football Association and a range of other sporting funds all having made financial contributions in the last five years.

In the interim, there was also a period of time when council was considering whether to relocate the project to Mimosa. My personal view has consistently been that Mimosa was not the right location from a public amenity, traffic and environmental perspective and that Norman Griffiths (the homeground of West Pymble FC) was the more appropriate location, especially with its access to readily available parking and adjacent green spaces for dog walkers.

It’s good to see that the councillors ended up on the same page on this occasion, and I look forward to seeing the community benefit from this in the coming years.

Note: The image is an indicative concept design only, not final.

Outcome of August 2021 Council Meeting

St Ives Cultural annd Environmental Education Centre – Council committed to spending $4.3m to design and construct the education centre. I know some residents have criticized this decision as they’d rather see $4.3m spent to support local businesses, however it’s important to point out that this money comes from restricted funds ($1.2m environmental levy, $3.0m development contributions) and legally there is no option for council to collect money for one purpose then spend it for an entirely different purpose.

St Ives Showground and Precinct – Council recognised the importance of potentially heritage listing some of the built structures in the precinct. Before the heritage listing of any specific structure, it will be assessed against the usual eight criteria for heritage assessments.

Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic Orchestra – Council voted unanimously to sponsor the KPO an amount of $28,000 for community activity throughout 2021/22.

Where do your rates go? – Council voted to investigate the possibility of adding an attachment to the annual rates notice to indicate how much money will be spent on each initiative. This isn’t exactly a groundbreaking idea, it’s been done by other councils before where the feedback has been that some residents have found it helpful. Personally, when talking to residents about the way our council spends money I usually just guide them through our annual report which contains much more detail. In the image below I’ve provided a page from our annual report showing you where $100 was spent in 2019/20.

Outcome of July 2021 Council Meeting

Samuel King Oval – Council to explore re-allocating $500,00 of Sport Australia grant funding towards toilet, kitchen, changing room and store room upgrades at Samuel King Oval, North Turramurra.

Women’s Advisory Committee – The concept is to give women the opportunity to participate in planning and improving council services, facilities, programs and projects.

Sale of Bates Park – Mixed news. The sale has been postponed by a few months while a consultant ($15-20k) further looks into the matter. I disagreed with this approach and instead proposed to just cancel the sale on the spot. That consultant money could have gone towards providing other public benefits, and during my time on council I’ve seen occasions where consultants are used to support / validate an outcome that did not reflect the reality of what local residents (including myself) have observed or experienced.

Roseville Chase and Gordon Bowling Clubs – Based on my discussions with local residents, the majority thought that starting the process to rezone and sell 21,000 sqm of public recreational land two months before an election was not a good idea. I proposed to defer the matter to the next council term and this was defeated. Instead, council will proceed with plans to rezone with a final decision to sell the land at market value likely to occur next council term. We still have some time to ponder the implications of selling public land (noting that any money gained from land sale will also theoretically be reinvested in other projects of community benefit).

Confidential Item: Lindfield Village Green – This was in relation to the Lindfield Village Green where the intention is to have an additional café or restaurant in the area.

Confidential Item: Lindfield Village Hub – There has been some meaningful work in this space, though due to the sensitivity of what was reported, I can’t talk about it.

Our Last Chance to Save Bates Park 🦜🦔🦎🦃🦉🦘

This month we are seeking to reverse a decision made by the previous term councillors to sell Bates Park (97 Babbage Road, Roseville Chase). Bates Park is a small parcel of land rich in native flora and abundant with native wildlife including Echidnae, Wallabies, endangered Bandicoots, the Powerful Owl, and a range of other native birds. Based on observations of what has happened in similar situations in the past, our concerns are that once sold there will be no effective way to protect our wildlife and that the ecological damage does not justify the tiny (and once off) financial gain.

If you agree (or disagree) with stopping the land sale there are two ways in which you can contribute.

First, in the absence of a public forum due to COVID, you can officially make an online submission either as written text or a video, to be presented to the councillors. Submissions are due Monday 12 July 2021, 5pm and further information is in the link below.

https://www.krg.nsw.gov.au/Council/Council-meetings/Council-Meetings-and-Public-Forums

Secondly, there is also a petition organised by residents associated with saving the park. For more information see the following link.

https://www.facebook.com/kuringgaiparks/posts/789118758417090

I’d like to thank Councillor Jeff Pettett and our Deputy Mayor Cedric Spencer for their support in stopping the land sale. Without their care and support we might not have had this opportunity to even propose a reversal of our predecessors’ decision to sell.

I’d also like to thank the local residents who organised the awareness campaign on this important matter. I’ve actually wanted to reverse this decision ever since finding out about it in 2018 but it was difficult to establish a base case for reversing the decision without know that there was local support.

Outcome of June 2021 Council Meeting

Public Domain Plan (including Havilah Underpass) – Councillors asked for a site inspection to better understand the issues. Matter deferred to July or August.

Killara Bowling Club and Lawn Tennis Club – Council to work towards heritage listing the site.

Mona Vale Road – Council to ask the State Government what can be done to improve cyclist safety.

St Ives Showground – Council to ask the State Government to investigate measures to make the entry / exit on Mona Vale Road safer. Measures to be investigated may include traffic lights and a reduced speed limit.

Local Character Background Study – Document amended to reflect community feedback and adopted. Indicative timeline of next steps to be provided to councillors.

Roseville RSL – Majority of councillors voted to adopt site specific development controls for the site to allow for seven storey apartments.

Confidential Item: Land Acquisition for Open Space and Public Roads and Divestment of Surplus Council Land – Majority of councillors voted to support the staff recommendation. I voted against this because I don’t like voting in relation to the sale of assets when members of the public don’t know which public assets we are talking about.

Havilah Underpass FAQ

Many residents have contacted councillors in the past week with objections to council staff’s proposed plans to remove the westbound lane of the Havilah Underpass and replace it with a cycleway.

I will answer the most frequently asked questions below.

If the westbound lane is removed, how will we get to Coles, to Holy Family, to Highfields, to West Lindfield and beyond?

In addition to the removal of the westbound lane in Havilah, traffic lights will be installed at the intersection of Strickland Avenue and Pacific Highway. The staff (most who don’t live locally) believe that this will be sufficient to offset the loss of westbound Havilah, however as a local resident who knows just how bad both Havilah and Strickland can get even in the current state, my gut feel is that the proposed changes won’t be enough to allow effective flow and will have unintended consequences (especially at the intersection of Strickland and Lindfield Ave). This is also the view of many other residents that I talk to.

In the future residents on the East side wanting to head North on Pacific Highway via traffic light, there will only be four options. Roseville’s Clanville, Lindfield’s Strickland, Killara’s Lorne, and Gordon’s St Johns.

Has there been any statistics or modelling of traffic at these intersecitons?

There was a 2014 report on traffic in the Lindfield Town Centre. If you look at pages 34, 36 and 38 of the report, it indicates that Pacific x Balfour was one of the worst intersections and required attention. I think it’s important to note here that the study is nearly 7 years old and that traffic conditions are arguably worse today.

Agenda of Ordinary Meeting of Council – 10 November 2015 (nsw.gov.au)

Is Balfour x Pacific dangerous? What’s the crash history?

In the five years from 2010-2015 there were 23 recorded crashes, 5 of which involved vehicles turning right from Balfour and conflicting with pedestrians.

In the five years from 2015 to 2020 there were 5 recorded crashes, 1 of which involved vehicles turning right from Balfour and conflicting with pedestrians.

Sometime between 2013 and 2016, Transport for NSW installed a no right turn light at this intersection and this appears to have reduced the number of pedestrian collisions.

Why is the performance of this intersection so bad?

Local residents know that it’s because there are cautious drivers who want to turn right but don’t want to creep into the middle of the intersection to allow the vehicles behind them to go straight or turn left. This causes unnecessary holdups and worsens the performance of the intersection.

What are Transport for NSW’s priorities?

Transport for NSW prioritises the overall network performance of state roads and generally holds these with higher regard than traffic issues at local roads. I’ve previously presented sensible solutions / requests to them about other network performance or safety issues at intersections such as Archbold x Boundary, Pacific x Clanville, Lady Game x Delhi, Boundary in front of the Roseville Chase shops and on each occasion the focus of non-local staff is on state road performance without understanding whether reasonable adjustments can lead to overall better state and local road performance.

With regard to the Lindfield Town Centre, their priority is the performance of Pacific Highway so a simplified version of their logic is that if we add a traffic light at Strickland, something else has to go (i.e. Havilah). Hence Transport for NSW has been in discussions with Council Staff about the possibility of turning Havilah into one way.

Having said that, the Havilah one lane is only one of many options and I think it’s reasonable to say that there may be other solutions that improve State and Local network performance without severely compromising the Pacific Highway. One such suggestion by local residents as well as our State MP Jonathan O’Dea (in his submission to the public domain plan) was to leave Havilah Underpass as two lanes of traffic with a no right turn onto Pacific during peak. With the no right turn in place, the flow of traffic from the East will be much smoother and without significantly impacting the performance of the Pacific Highway (in fact it may improve Pacific Highway performance as we won’t have cars unnecessarily going south to Strickland and then driving back up North on the highway towards Coles / Holy Family / Highfields). I haven’t seen any evidence that this suggestion from residents and our State MP has been seriously considered or modelled vs. the one way design.

What about widening the underpass to three lanes?

The railway bridge and the underpass is a state government asset so it requires state government funding to widen. If you look at the structure it’s obviously quite an expensive project. I asked our State MP (again) about this last week and due to the cost-benefit of such a proposal along with the significant needs elsewhere in NSW, it’s not a current priority.

We are, however, getting pedestrian lifts at Roseville and Killara Station and so that’s something that we can appreciate.

What about a right turn green light similar to St Johns Ave x Pacific?

Right turn green lights only work if you have two lanes of traffic heading out. With the current arrangement we only have one lane of traffic out and we cannot create space for a second lane of traffic out without significantly reducing the pedestrian walkways, relocating traffic light and streetlighting poles, having to redo the support structures of the railway bridge, etc. It’s an expensive exercise for limited benefit (and the no right turn during peak sign would be much more cost effective).

Will Councillors move a Notice of Motion for a cost-benefit analysis of a pedestrian tunnel?

What I plan to do with this is to instead raise a Question with Notice and have the answers published in the July or August council papers. Council staff are required to answer Questions with Notice, whereas a similar Notice of Motion will be subject to councillor vote and will likely fail.

I will ask council staff for a high level cost-benefit analysis and let’s see what answer they come up with.

My gut feel is that it’s going to be very expensive and we won’t have any way of realistically funding it. Council (when going down its current resolved path) has found it challenging to deliver things like the Lindfield Village Hub and a Pedestrian Bridge, so if those are already a challenge to fund then a properly built 90m pedestrian tunnel even more so.

What’s this that I hear about Transport for NSW prioritising pedestrians and cycleways over vehicles?

Link to the document below. My gut feel is that the document is simplistic, a bit ambiguous, and can lead to interesting interpretations and outcomes.

https://www.transport.nsw.gov.au/system/files/media/documents/2021/road-user-space-allocation-policy.pdf

I’m a cyclist and I think this plan is crazy.

I agree, I’m a cyclist as well and I think it’s perfectly fine to use the road on this occasion if it means we can retain two lanes.

Why are we in this situation where significant changes are made to town centre plans without extensive consultation with the public?

My personal view is that when significant changes like this are proposed ($24m plan to revamp Turramurra, Gordon and Lindfield), residents should be notified by mail and invited to provide feedback.

When I ask council staff about sending out notifications by mail, the general message is that notifying residents by mail is expensive and not required. Instead the preference is to rely on council’s email newsletter and advertisements in the North Shore Times.

I don’t agree with this approach, and I also think it’s inconsistent with the Ku-ring-gai Community Consultation Plan adopted by Council in November 2020. The community consultation plan will need to be reviewed to remove any ambiguities. Refer to the attached pictures for more information.

Asset Sales, Development, and Good / Bad Reasons for Heritage Listing [Part 1 of 2]

At this Tuesday’s council meeting we will be voting on whether or not the Killara Bowling Club and Killara Lawn Tennis Club Sites should be established as a proposed heritage item (GB13). What does this mean? When a property is heritage listed, it’s usually a limited or unique asset which we aim to safeguard so that present and future generations can learn and benefit from it. The property is then recognised under law, a stricter standard and approvals process is applied for development on the site, and the government provides extra support for heritage owners to upkeep their site in the form of grants, reduced council rates and reduced taxes. And in this particular case, I personally believe the site should receive such protections.

How do we decide what to heritage list and what not to heritage list? Heritage experts usually assess a potential site based on eight criteria. These are:

  1. Importance to cultural or natural history
  2. Possession of uncommon, rare or endangered aspects of our cultural or natural history
  3. Potential to yield information to contribute to our understanding of our cultural or natural history
  4. Ability to demonstrate principal characteristics of a cultural or natural place or environment
  5. Ability to exhibit particular aesthetic characteristics
  6. Importance in demonstrating a creative or technical achievement at a particular period
  7. Special association with a particular community or cultural group (including indigenous)
  8. Special association with the life or works of a person or group of persons important to our history

Heritage listings occur quite regularly at Ku-ring-gai but what I’ve found these four years is that proponents of heritage listing are often advocating heritage listing for the wrong reasons. Their reasons are not the eight criteria mentioned above, rather, they are using heritage listing as a proxy for preventing further development and congestion. And in the case of the Killara Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club Sites I’ve certainly met some residents who are using heritage as a proxy for anti-development (there’s also some internal drama within and between the two sporting clubs).

My job as a councillor is to vote on heritage listing based on the eight criteria above and my feelings regarding development, traffic congestion, internal political dramas, etc. are not relevant. So in this particular case of Killara Bowls/Tennis, based on the information available to me, I do think that the site meets the threshold for Local heritage listing (but not State, National or World). How will the other councillors vote on Tuesday? We will find out soon.

Changes to Lindfield Traffic

Thank you everyone for your submissions to the Ku-ring-gai Public Domain Plan. We received over 50 submissions in relation to Lindfield’s extensive pedestrian, cycleway, parking, outdoor dining and traffic flow changes, and council staff have amended the proposed plans in response to this.

Positive amendments include the removal of the proposed dedicated cycleway immediately in front of the shops on Lindfield Avenue. This allows for more ground-level parking which residents, especially the elderly, have told me is something that they value. I don’t think cyclists are disadvantaged by this change as the plans retain the dedicated cycleway on Lindfield Avenue North and South of the shops, and the lane immediately in front of the shops has and will always be a safe, low-speed area which cars and bicycles can easily share.

Another positive change is the retention of what is currently a temporary roundabout at the intersection of Lindfield and Woodside Avenue.

The most controversial remaining issue is the Havilah Road Tunnel, which faces a reduction from two lanes of traffic to only one lane. The outbound lane onto Pacific Highway is proposed to be given up, making room for pedestrians and cyclists. Under this proposal, people wanting to exit onto Pacific Highway will have to use other options such as Strickland (with traffic lights installed), Treatts, or Lorne.

If you would like to see further amendments to these plans, there is one more opportunity to do so. Prior to the council meeting on 15 June, there is also a “public forum” on 08 June where members of the public can each speak for 3 minutes on anything they want (including these proposals for changes to traffic flows). More information on how you can register to speak at the public forum (by Monday 07 June 5pm) can be found in the following link.

https://www.krg.nsw.gov.au/Council/Council-meetings/Council-Meetings-and-Public-Forums

For further details of the Ku-ring-gai Public Domain Plan, refer to GB20 (page 376) of the upcoming council meeting agenda.

https://eservices.kmc.nsw.gov.au/Infocouncil.Web/Open/2021/06/OMC_15062021_AGN_AT.PDF

The original draft plans for Lindfield can be found here.

https://www.krg.nsw.gov.au/Council/Your-say/Projects-open-for-comment/Draft-Ku-ring-gai-Public-Domain-Plan/Draft-Lindfield-Public-Domain-Plan

It must also be noted that these are high-level concept plans for desired long term outcomes and some proposed concept designs have remained the same in the final plan. In most instances additional funding or further studies, collaboration with Transport for NSW, changes to the LEP and DCP or targeted community consultation, or all of these, will be required to realise these designs. Though the design intent has been demonstrated, the final design may be delivered differently.

Outcome of April 2021 Council Meeting

In the picture below you can see three trucks bolting down southbound on Pacific Highway, turning right onto Ryde Road. It appeared that most councillors including myself agreed that this sort of thing had an undesirable impact to residents from a safety and acoustics perspective, though we did not share the same view on what would be the most appropriate way forward.

The majority of councillors voted to ask the state government to ban vehicles over 12.5m from using the Pacific Highway (except for those which have an immediate requirement to use the Pacific Highway).

Other councillors voted against this for a variety of reasons. Some of us voted against because while we agreed that action had to be taken, we disagreed with the tone of the preamble, the accuracy of the media statement surrounding the matter, as well as the tone of the speeches given by ‘the other side’ on the night. Personally speaking, these came across as being unnecessarily hostile and I would have personally preferred to approach such situations diplomatically, seeking to get a more thoroughly considered outcome by working co-operatively and constructively with the State Government. We proposed that we ask the State Government for their traffic data, gather some independent data ourselves to verify, and work collaboratively to promptly reach a range of solutions by June in a civil manner. (This is also close to what we normally would have done through the Ku-ring-gai Traffic Committee.) But our alternate motion did not receive the 50%+1 support required.

Other exciting things from last night were the approval of some Men’s Health Week activities, the trial of a Youth Leadership Program, and a request to get a report to investigate the feasibility of an expanded St Ives Nursery and Garden.

Overall it was quite a long meeting (nearly four hours) with moments of intense debate. There were also numerous accusations and conjectures flying in all sorts of directions on the night so my suggestion is that if you hear something wild and fanciful, it’s best to watch the video of the council meeting to verify for yourself whether the wild claims are true or whether the people laying the accusations have misunderstood the situation. Having said all that, this is democracy in action.

Also, it’s good to be back to meeting in person. Online meetings have been great but after a while I start to miss the face to face element.

Pacific Highway Trucks?

It’s been a long day. 🌅 5am Dawn Service and 🚚🚛 1am Truck Watching.

Should vehicles over 12.5m be allowed on Pacific Highway? I’m still forming a vew but what’s clear to me right now is that the issue is far more complex than what people have made it out to be. If you have any thoughts (and in particular anything more sophisticated than the usual narrative) please let me know.