Food Organics in Green Bin (coming in the distant future)

At the moment many Ku-ring-gai households are just chucking their food scraps in the red bin and believe it or not, that’s actually a good thing. Red bin waste is sent to Woodlawn where this mix of organic and non-organic material is used to generate electricity and re-habilitate an old mining site. And back in 2017, the EPA valued the Woodlawn concept so much that when I inquired about holding a separate composting trial for Ku-ring-gai, I was discouraged by the EPA as it would cause the Woodlawn bioreactor to cease working to spec.

Somehow things have changed and now in 2022, the EPA’s position is that all councils must implement FOGO (Food Organics and Garden Organics) thrown into the green bin by 2030. Ku-ring-gai is not yet ready to implement this and while some people at other councils have been critical of the delay, I don’t think the criticism is well thought out or justified. There is currently very limited capacity in NSW to support FOGO; it requires facilities that have not yet been built, so Ku-ring-gai will join in when the market develops and the capacity is there. FOGO will likely come at an increased cost to ratepayers due to the complexity of dealing with food contamination in green waste, and in the interim our practice of capturing organic emissions to generate electricity is quite a reasonable one.

There will also be new practices that come along with FOGO, especially for apartment dwellers. At the moment it’s sufficient for many apartments to have red, yellow and blue bins. In the future we will have to add the additional green bin and the concentration of predominantly food organics (only) will be particularly smelly.

Lindfield Village Hub Confidentiality and Communication

Earlier this week the councillors were given an update on the Village Hub and I am satisfied with recent progress. Having said that I want to talk about confidentiality and communication as they both affect the way that the public perceives the project.

At the moment much of the project remains confidential because it is against the public interest for particular details to be released. We are negotiating with potential developers to see which one can give us the best design at the best cost, and it is inappropriate for them to see each other’s designs and costings. If developers knew what each other were proposing, they would work less hard to produce a good design and/or offer an inferior price, and it is ultimately you as the ratepayer that loses out (by tens of millions of dollars).

However the project has been plagued throughout its life with poor communication which I believe has been less frequent and detailed than it could be. Members of the public are keen to hear what’s going on with Council’s biggest project to date (biggest in size, biggest in cost, biggest in success and/or failure) and for council to sometimes not provide an update for well over half a year is disappointing. Also, sometimes council votes on village hub-related matters but all of the file attachments are flagged as confidential. And in the absence of regular communication, members of the public start to speculate in unhelpful ways.

What’s frustrating for me as an individual councillor is that I’ve done the best that I can to improve project communication. With the mode of communication, I asked for more information to be made available on our website and this has been done. I also asked that council provide a regular project status report on major projects and initiatives, and this has also been done (but unfortunately with content that is bare minimum rather than informative). But I also believe that sometimes council has been excessive in marking project-related documents as confidential and I have sometimes voted in dissent to excessive confidentiality.

In recent years, Support Lindfield sought for confidential documents to be made public through a freedom of information process (which any member of the public has the right to do). It somehow ended up in the legal system and the tribunal decided that 5 out of 47 documents should be released (i.e. not confidential). The cost of the legal action from council’s side was close to $80,000, and while it is unfortunate that so much money had to be spent to defend the confidentiality of these documents, I think that the costs could have easily been avoided had council been more transparent with the project and had council made various reports available to public when they obviously should have been. By applying the confidential flag to any and every document regardless of its content, public trust had been undermined. And while we have a former-mayor actively trying to cast poor light on this incident with Support Lindfield, I think it’s ironic that she fails to realise that this incident would not have occurred had communication been more transparent under her leadership.

I’ve noticed that things have improved under the two more recent mayors and I will continue to advocate behind the scenes for information to be made available where appropriate. The information about the project will be available through council’s website, through items reported in council meetings, and through messages from council’s spokesperson (the mayor). I’m not going to say anything beyond what information has officially been released.

https://www.krg.nsw.gov.au/Planning-and-development/Projects-and-current-works/Lindfield/Lindfield-Village-Hub

Net Zero Champions

Ku-ring-gai Council is searching for residents to become Net Zero Champions, people who are willing to promote good practice in the community. In a recent webinar it was mentioned that:

📈 Perhaps the most effective way for each of us to make an impact is to ensure that our superannuation is invested in ethical options. In the local government sector, I know for example that Active Super is committed to sustainable investments while delivering good returns.

🥕🥦🌽 Other participants were of the view that vegetarianism was the best way to reduce our impact, noting the immense amount of water and emissions that go into meat production. While this is true (and probably good for our health), the presenter admitted that it may be a practice that is difficult for most people to adopt.

🌲🌳🌴 There was a lot of talk about solar and batteries at home, but personally I feel that even more important is the careful selection and placement of trees.

For more information, watch the recording of our information session.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THaA83NmGtc

Tree Canopy

There’s been a lot of talk this month about the role of trees and the value that they provide to our residents.

Trees provide us with fresh air, shelter from the sun, and a home for our wildlife. During major storms, trees also play a role in mitigating the impacts of flooding as they reduce the amount that instantly hits the stormwater system.

At Ku-ring-gai, tree canopy covers 45% of our residential land though it’s a little bit lower in Roseville Ward. Sydney’s stats are lower at 23% with the state government is targeting 40% long term.

Apartment blocks have a reputation for reducing tree canopy but if it is done right, the impact is only temporary. In the attached image, we see a block of 31 apartments across the road from Lindfield Public School. At one point there was significant land clearing to establish these homes but we are now at a point where tree canopy has grown back to over 40%. I think most councillors are committed to policies which will help increase canopy over time while making us more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Thoughts on Racism, Conflict and War

In the coming months there will be further talk about economic sanctions, boycotts, lethal aid, armed conflict, and war. And I can’t help but notice that in both our printed and social media there appears to be people out there who are (consciously or subconsciously) promoting a universal hatred of anything and anyone Russian. While I understand the sentiment, I think it may be taking it too far.

The actions of a leader do not necessarily infer anything about the values of the people they seek to represent. If ScoMo holds up a lump of coal in parliament, would you want the International Community to think that all Australians are the same? If our Premier, Mayor, or even I as your lowly councillor do something silly, do you think that we therefore speak and act on behalf of all of you?

Yes the people of Ukraine need our support and yes there is a time and place for appropriate economic sanctions, but I also hope that we can still treat Russian and Belarusian people here in Ku-ring-gai with respect and not make assumptions about their values. They are probably just ordinary people like you and I, hoping to live a harmonious life here in Australia without people giving them a hard time about things that they may or may not agree with. I know I’ve personally been given a hard time on occasion for my appearance, country of birth (a British Colony), or for false rumours that other petty people in politics or in the community have raised and it’s quite disrespectful, painful, and not fun at all. So I hope that we can reach out to other residents and treat them with respect rather than just make assumptions about their values.

Local Government NSW Special Conference

This week we had councillors across NSW meet to exchange ideas, discuss policy, and agree on State and Federal advocacy matters. Key themes were financial sustainability, climate change and resilience, housing stress, domestic violence, reconciliation, and the impact of recent economic developments to the delivery of council services.

I was encouraged to see eight Ku-ring-gai Councillors engaged and attending the conference this time around (usually there’s only 2 or 3 of us). Hopefully we will bring some ideas back to benefit our residents here in Ku-ring-gai.

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.

Help us find a new home

Larry and Leo are both domestic and extremely affectionate cats that have been looking for a new home since December.

I visited the Ku-ring-gai Pound today where Kristy, our Veterinary Nurse, showed me around and shared about Ku-ring-gai’s process of rehoming dogs and cats. Council drops off lost animals and do their best to contact owners who have up to 2 weeks to come and collect. After this period, the pets are up for adoption. (Some pets also come in because their owners are no longer able to look after them.)

If you know anyone who may be interested, please share this with them.

For more info and the list of available pets, please visit

https://www.thornleighvet.com.au/ku-ring-gai-pound/

New Commuter Parking

I’m working in the city today so tried out the 105 commuter parking spots at the new Lindfield Village Green. Arrived at 8am and only three parking spots were in use, I think this is in part due to Covid and also the fact that not many are presently aware of this option.

It was also great to see a kid (and mum) enjoying the water play on the ground floor.

What do YOU think council’s priorities should be these next 10+ years?

The Community Strategic Plan sets our priorities for the council term and covers traffic, footpaths, playgrounds, etc. but there may be gaps which you believe deserve greater attention.

Climate change adaptation? Better community consultation? Affordable Housing? These are themes that other councils emphasise but they don’t get as much (direct) coverage at Ku-ring-gai.

There’s an initial survey that is due this Friday 18 February.

https://krg.engagementhub.com.au/ourkrg

Checking out The Canopy

As councillors we can learn a lot from what other councils do well. This evening we visited The Canopy at Lane Cove Council and it seems to have it all.

✅ 500 parking spaces
✅ Green space with performance area / screen (currently playing Nadal vs Medvedev)
✅ Children’s playground, sandpit, and shade
✅ Street Dining
✅ Two major supermarkets
✅ Electric vehicle charging
✅ Pedestrian Bridge

With the Lindfield Village Green completing next month, we will get a mini version of this although I know residents would like to explore making it even better (with shade and play equipment). We’ll explore the possibility late in the year.

The Lindfield Village Hub will provide us a greater opportunity to do this and as a start, Ku-ring-gai has poached the person responsible for delivering The Canopy in Lane Cove to also deliver the Hub in Lindfield.

How Reliable are your RATs?

With the increased availability of RATs and the return to school, I found this ABC article helpful in explaining false negatives (sensitivity) and false positives (specificity).

The TGA also recently published a list that suggests that some RATs are not as good at picking up Delta and/or Omicron than others. It leads to confusing situations such as two weeks ago when I was consistently getting a positive result from one brand but getting negative results from another brand and from the PCR. As a precaution I isolated from the rest of my family and the world for a week, and things got pretty lonely in my room though it was nice to have family meals over Zoom.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-01-27/how-accurate-rapid-antigen-test-more-looking-for-lines/100782662

https://www.tga.gov.au/post-market-review-antigen-and-rapid-antigen-tests

Citizenship Ceremony and Awards

It was great to see 135 residents from 27 countries become Australian Citizens today. This is a great nation to be part of.

Council also presented Citizen of the year awards to five of our residents / groups.

Easy Care Gardening was recognised for their outstanding contribution to the community bay assisting housebound, elderly and vulnerable residents.

Yoel Hyman was recognised for his contributions to the community through RFS, Killara Brigade, and other community forums.

Jen Stokes was recognised for her contribution to the environment through @kuringgaiboomerangbags and the West Pymble Community Garden.

Oliver Conolly was recognised as young environmental citizen of the year for raising awareness of Ku-ring-gai’s vulnerable bird populations.

And our dear friend Helen Jarvis was awarded citizen of the year for her contribution to KYDS Youth Development Service during this difficult time of the pandemic when our young people and their families are in need of support more than ever. I have personally witnessed how she selflessly gives her time and money to the welfare of our people.

Holiday Photos & EV Infrastructure

Sharing some photos from our recent break in Country NSW (and ACT). It was good to have some time off with family; as a councillor it’s very rare to be able to focus 100% on them.

Also went to check out some of the regional EV chargers. As a general trend the Tesla ones are paid, fast and very reliable whereas the NRMA ones were decent speed but slower, with some of the EV drivers that I spoke to (including myself) experiencing reliability issues with them from time to time. We counted 35 electric vehicles over 11 days and across six sites.

I’m keen to see what we can do to encourage uptake in Ku-ring-gai by introducing a charging network, however want to first do research into what our neighbouring councils are doing and how they are finding the experience so far (as each seems to have gone with a different networking provider).

Mayoral Election

Congratulations to Councillor Jeff Pettett and Councillor Barbara Ward for being elected as the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Ku-ring-gai respectively. I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with both over the last four years and I know that they will do their best to represent the interests of the residents of Ku-ring-gai.

Back from Holidays

I’m back in Sydney after a holiday through regional NSW. Was surprised to see some of our supermarket shelves so bare, and to see the fairy lights at the soon-to-open Lindfield Village Green.

The councillors will be sworn in tomorrow night, and that’s when we will officially commence our jobs. There’s a list of things to catch up on, so I’m looking forward to sorting through it.

Addressing Delays in Processing Development Applications

It’s not a surprise to some that Ku-ring-gai is the slowest council in Northern Sydney when it comes to processing Development Applications, and as a councillor I get contacted a few times a year from residents who are disatisfied with the process. The usual story is either that they had submitted their DA a few months ago and haven’t heard from council since, or that after several months they finally are contacted by council only to be told that unanticipated additional reports (traffic, acoustic, geo, landscaping, etc.) are required, adding further to the delay.

In these situations there’s not much that we as councillors can do to directly influence the outcome because it is an operational matter under the authority of staff, however, if the majority of the governing body this council term is open to reviewing the process, setting appropriate performance measures instead of moving goalposts when things get too hard, and identifying improvements (e.g. re-engineering the process, triaging certain DA’s to earlier identify issues, improving the system to allow residents to track progress, or allocating greater budget) then we can be on the way to restoring Ku-ring-gai’s reputation in this space.

In the past I’ve asked these process improvement questions on an annual basis but the usual response has been no, not needed and not interested. Which is really weird and I hope the new council will be better.

Yes there is also the explanation of an increase in CDCs resulting in an increase in the complexity of DA cases, and you can see some limited evidence of that in the data below, however I don’t think it tells the full story and it doesn’t explain why the other councils are so much better than us. Anyway, this is one of the areas where I’ll be talking to councillors behind the scenes to test if there’s more appetite to explore doing it more efficiently without unnecessarily dropping standards.

Elected Council Confirmed

Elected Council was confirmed just moments ago.

Comenarra Ward – Jeff Pettett, Greg Taylor

Gordon Ward – Barbara Ward, Simon Lennon

Roseville Ward – Sam Ngai, Alec Taylor

St Ives Ward – Martin Smith, Christine Kay

Wahroonga Ward – Kim Wheatley, Cedric Spencer

Positions such as Mayor, committee memberships, etc will be determined on 11th January.

Ku-ring-gai’s Community Strategic Plan

At the start of each term, councils across NSW consult with the community to create a 10+ year ‘Community Strategic Plan’ (CSP) which frames and guides all decisions made at council.

I’ve had a look through Ku-ring-gai’s two most recent CSP’s and while they are above average compared to our peers in Northern Sydney, there’s still a lot that can be done to make it a more meaningful, effective and inclusive document.
Some of the early stage improvements include:

  1. Considering whether we are focussing on the right objectives. Are some priorities not high enough (or absent) while others over-emphasised?
  2. Incorporating a more inclusive community consultation process (similar to Willoughby) and ensuring that the objectives that we settle on represent the diverse needs of residents across the LGA.
  3. Encouraging more active engagement and representation by the full governing body (similar to Hornsby) rather than just the Mayor.
  4. Including a more direct link between specific objectives and the actions required to achieve this (Lane Cove does this, but there are even better ways of communicating it on a page).
  5. Directly tying metrics, performance targets, actions and ownership to each objective (similar to the long-term strategic plans that I see in the corporate world).
  6. Stating how the community can be involved in producing a better outcome (similar to Hornsby).

It’s going to be a quiet month and while we aren’t yet technically councillors until 11th Jan, I’ll be brainstorming more suggestions to make the CSP process better this time around. I would love to be in a position in June 2022 to say that out of all the 128 councils in NSW, Ku-ring-gai’s CSP is the best, and if we can get there then I think it’s something that Ku-ring-gai’s residents and council staff should be proud of.

After the CSP is finalised, the challenge is to then stick to the plan, monitor performance, and tweak the course if circumstances change.

Reflections on Transparency

It’s been a month since the HKPost Town Hall event which I personally found to be the most enjoyable night of the month-long campaign. The candidates had a good time sharing their views on policy without the usual nastiness of debate from the previous council term.

Interestingly, although just over a third of the lead candidates accepted the invite to attend, a much higher proportion of two thirds of those who did attend will end up on council. It might say something about the people’s preference of choosing candidates who are approachable and transparent. Thanks to the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Post for organising this enjoyable and informative evening, it plays an important role in keeping our residents informed of the candidates and issues.

Council Rate Increases from July 2022 – June 2023

Here’s some good news or bad news, depending on how you want to see things.

The rates that you pay are set by IPART (the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal) and in the last decade the increases have on average been at 2.46%, a tad above inflation.

For the 2022-23 period, IPART has decided (with a new calculation method) that Ku-ring-gai’s increase (excluding waste levy, land valuations, etc.) will be limited to 0.7%. It’s good news for those who don’t like paying rates. It’s bad news for council in that 0.7% is certainly less than the cost increases that we expect from providing services, upgrading our infrastructure, and paying our staff. Things are going to be tight next year. Ultimately there will have to be some sort of cost cutting or efficiency measures, and while you do save some money you will probably also get less for what you pay.

Festive Season at St Ives

We visited St Ives Shopping Village to have a quick lunch, charge up the car for free (25% in 71 minutes), and visit the seasonal attractions.

There is the Community Tree of Joy run by St Ives Rotary where we are encouraged to pick up a card from the tree, purchase a gift for the person in need, wrap it up, and return to Rotary for distribution. It’s something worth doing if you are in the area.

This year there is also an art exhibition to celebrate the International Day of People with Disability. The Gallery is located on the ramp in the middle immediately above the EV chargers, and the art is on display from today through to 21 January 2022. Worth checking out if you dare to brave the shops at this time of year.

Thank You

I’d like to thank the residents of Roseville Ward for asking me to serve them as a councillor for a second term. The election result was quite a surprise and it goes to show that if incumbent councillors do their job of listening to and representing their residents, they will be recognised for it.

It was an incredibly hectic three weeks and this election campaign would not have been possible without the support of volunteers. We appreciate all of you who were willing to dedicate time to the cause, whether it be an hour or a few dozen hours, and I will be coming to thank each of you personally in the weeks to come.

The full election result is not yet known, with ballots still being counted and some postals still coming in til 17th December. We actually won’t know who the ten councillors are until the week commencing 20th December which is when the preferences are distributed. Until then, we can only be certain about one councillor for each ward so I would like to congratulate Barbara Ward (Gordon), Martin Smith (St Ives), Kim Wheatley (Wahroonga), and Jeff Pettett (Comenarra) for getting elected. Each of us have been elected on a particular platform or set of objectives, and I look forward to working with you to see if we can deliver on these in a collegiate manner.

Focussing on Roseville Ward, we do not yet know who the other councillor will be. It will most likely be Alec Taylor, with Amanda Blackman being a possibility and a remote chance for Jennifer Anderson. It will really depend on the distribution of preferences in two weeks’ time. Each of these candidates have worked hard to seek election and I look forward to working with the one that gets elected.

I would also like to thank Amanda Blackman and Mitchell Frater-Baird for being such amazing running mates. I do genuinely believe that we are stronger together as a team and look forward to seeking your input to policies and motions over the next three years.

As a Christian, I would also like to thank God for the election result. As some of you know, last decade I was actually training to become an Anglican Church minister and serving the local community through the church. I never really expected to become a politician, but had at the spur of the moment in 2017 wondered whether my commercial skills could be applied to serving the community in a different way as a councillor. My Christian values guide my approach; I strive to serve with integrity and there is a stronger emphasis on seeking the interests of others than on promoting myself.

Finally I’d like to thank my wife Kathryn and our kids for putting up with this election campaign. It’s been a tough few months with all the dramas at council followed by an election, and Kathryn has had to juggle a lot in my absence.

It will be very interesting to see what the future council of ten looks likes. Each councillor will have been elected on their own platform and our challenge is to, where possible, assist each councillor in delivering on this. From the election result and from speaking to residents, I think it’s also clear that many residents aren’t interested in dysfunction and instead want a council that focuses on delivery of outcomes. But I don’t think it will be possible for us to hit the ground running on all outcomes; at least half of the council will be new councillors and it will take some time for them to settle in and become familiar with local government concepts and organisational culture.

As usual, if you have any queries as residents then feel free to contact us and we will do what we can to help you.

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).

Chanukah on the Green

Despite yesterday’s rain forecast we had a pleasant day and the annual Chanukah on the Green organised by @ChabadNS went ahead.

Chanukah is an eight day religious festival where the Jewish people celebrate their victory over the armies of Antiochus Epiphanes IV during 2nd Century BC. (Some people believe that this was foretold in the book of Daniel.)

We got to see the lighting of the Menorah (candle) as well as a range of other shows and dancing.

Two other councillors chose to attend this event. St Ives Ward Councillor Christine Kay and Gordon Ward Councillor Peter Kelly. Their regular support for the Jewish Community is appreciated.

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.

Roseville Station Lifts

At the last election, many residents asked for lifts at Roseville Station and I said that while it was a State Government matter, I would advocate on their behalf for both lifts AND increased frequency of train services at Roseville and Killara.

The Roseville Station lifts opened earlier this month and our residents enjoy the improved level of accessibility for the elderly, for those with prams, for those lugging suitcases, etc. Other upgrades include a safer train platform, better toilets, and a much more attractive garden setting. Train services were also increased significantly pre-covid, we thank the State Government for these upgrades, and Killara Station is next on the list.

Designing a Mountain Bike Track in Lindfield

With COVID Lockdowns and the Tokyo Olympics, kids have shown renewed interest in mountain biking and building their own ramps, berms, jumps and pump tracks. Unfortunately the activity is often unauthorised and sometimes conducted in environmentally sensitive or dangerous areas so council has historically gone in and put things to a halt, which is very discouraging for the kids involved.

A more recent trend with Councils across Sydney is that we are now actively engaging with the mountain biking community to build authorised tracks in an environmentally sensitive and safe manner. Earlier in the year our Council built a fantastic track at the back of Golden Jubilee Field in collaboration with the biking community, and yesterday our Council held a workshop with ~25 kids and their parents to explore what they would like to see happen at Little Soldiers Memorial Park Lindfield.

Mitch and I attended the event and were encouraged to see Council working consultatively with the biking community to work towards a design. Kids were given the opportunity to design their own tracks and present their ideas to the wider group. We also spoke about what it means for the mountain biking to be good neighbours to other users in the area (e.g. tennis, netball, cricket and bushwalkers), incorporating safety features in design, which areas were ecologically sensitive, and how to leave a positive legacy for future generations.

I spoke with organisers after the event to also confirm that discussions were actively being held with other user groups as part of the consultation process.

We would like to thank both the Council staff and community members from the Tryon Trail Crew for organising this workshop.

Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Policy

Did you know that our neighbouring councils all have public EV charging infrastructure plans in place? Willoughby partnered with ChargeFox and introduced theirs in 2015. Ryde partnered with Exploren and introduced infrastructure this year. Hornsby and Northern Beaches have also recently introduced plans.

But at Ku-ring-gai we have yet to adopt a plan, and that makes it difficult to encourage uptake for those who don’t have the luxury of charging at a home garage. Ku-ring-gai did recently change its Development Control Plans to require future apartments to provide charging conduits, but that doesn’t do anything to address the needs of existing apartment dwellers.

The only publicly accessible charger in Ku-ring-gai is in St Ives Shopping Centre so in September I went to check it out. It was pretty cool, the first hour of charge was free and it charged the car six times faster than charging at home when plugged into a regular wall socket. But we need much more of these to promote a serious level of uptake, not just at retail locations but also on public land.

If elected we will start the process of developing an Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Plan. We will also seek to put the charging infrastructure to tender, exploring whether or not any of the current suppliers are able to provide infrastructure at a price that is acceptable to us as ratepayers.

Maintenance of Sporting Facilities

I recently met with Ed Ferguson from Northern Suburbs Football Association to discuss the recreational needs of our residents as well as the role that Council plays in providing for these needs.

A challenge faced by all sporting codes is that playing surfaces wear out from regular use and extreme weather, and they do not last forever. In recent months council has invested in returfing or upgrading Wellington Oval, Tryon Oval, and Acron Oval for Football, Cricket and AFL. Council has also upgraded the Roseville Park Pavilion used mainly for Tennis, and the Roseville Park Oval will be returfed and upgraded in early 2022.

We also discussed Primula Oval in West Lindfield, and the prospects of upgrading to a hybrid surface which is 95% natural grass reinforced by a 5% artificial frame. Hybrid technologies can substantially increase the durability and playtime of pitch, however are expensive and council needs to assess the cost/benefit as well as the funding.

Council spends ~$4.3m on sporting facility improvements each year, with staff typically proposing a funding allocation that evenly spreads the benefits across the entire LGA and multiple sporting codes. Sometimes there is scope for councillors to prioritise one initiative over another, and staff recommend funding adjustments for the following year. However $4.3m doesn’t go very far so it’s difficult to promise everything straight away, and there is benefit in seeking State/Federal Government support as well as additional fundraising.

During this election season I also find it bizarre that some incumbent candidates are claiming that they delivered this and that project when most of it comes from standard operational staff recommendations for which councillors give final approval. I mean yes, we as councillors did approve the final plans so in a sense can claim credit, but unless we played a personal role in steering a particular outcome I’d feel uncomfortable leading residents to believe that we were responsible for it. Unfortunately most residents will not have the opportunity to do their research so will take these claims at face value.

Life after Bowling for Bowling Green Sites

I recently asked some friends and councillors in Willoughby about what they did with their bowling greens. Is selling off such land something that all councils do, or is Ku-ring-gai more of an exception

Artarmon Bowling was acquired by Willoughby Council in 2016 with a condition of purchase that it remains a community facility. There is a Parklands district including community garden, open space, outdoor exercise area, and children’s playground. The clubhouse itself is work in progress, and is set to become community rooms and family BBQ.

https://www.haveyoursaywilloughby.com.au/artarmonbcsite2019

Northbridge Bowling similarly is now a cafe site (though currently looking for a tenant) with community hall, garden, and open space.

By way of contrast, Roseville Chase Bowling was acquired by Ku-ring-gai in 1955 and Gordon Bowling was acquired by Ku-ring-gai in 1953. In the Declaration of Trust for each bowling site, it says that each site “shall and henceforth be held by Council as a public reserve“. But right now the staff recommendation is to prepare to sell off both sites for development.

Neither site has been sold off yet and it remains as a decision of future councillors. But an important question to ask is that if our neighbours at Willoughby are doing just fine with retaining their bowling greens as community land, then why is Ku-ring-gai considering sale to property developers? Can’t Ku-ring-gai balance its books some other way? I have internally sought for a review of operational costs this term, but there has been limited appetite to look for different ways of doing things. There is also the question of whether Ku-ring-gai should be selling off land that under a Deed of Trust has been set aside as a public reserve.

Life as a First Term Councillor

This month I shared about Life as a First Term Councillor in the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Post. Text below.

I’m thankful to the residents of Roseville and Lindfield for electing me in 2017 and I encourage newcomers to run for council.

While those who get elected will hit the ground running, they will rarely possess all the skills required to fulfill their duties, skills such as finance, law, planning, infrastructure, environment, waste services, and heritage. In early years, great reliance is placed on council officers who have more experience, and sometimes mistakes are made.

Fortunately, the peak body (Local Government NSW) offers optional training and networking events to share best practice with other councillors and general managers. Not many councillors take on these opportunities for professional development, however they have helped me become more effective in listening to the community, challenging project assumptions, and delivering for ratepayers.

Like any new starter it took time to familiarise with the council’s systems, processes and organisational culture. Ku-ring-gai residents should be proud of our road maintenance, financial reporting, and waste collection. However, I’ve also come to realise that other services can be better, and I hope that next year we will have councillors who take their civic duties seriously and seek to change the status quo.

I encourage all residents to think carefully before they vote. You want new blood to bring in fresh ideas. You also want to retain capable experienced councillors for stability as it takes a few years to skill up and contribute meaningfully. But beware of those with long tenures; long tenures may affect a person’s capacity to exercise independent judgement.

For more information visit https://roseville.online

Lindfield Deserves a Better Library

Lindfield has a tiny 300sqm library. Now 300sqm is better than nothing at all but the reality is that many residents don’t even know that it exists and for those that do, many prefer to go to Chatswood Library or Gordon Library to get a range of books, find some space away from a crowded home to study, or hang out.

I was visiting another part of Sydney six months ago and absolutely loved their library. So spacious, modern, inviting and it even came with a good-sized theatre to the side. I told their mayor (Khal Asfour, Canterbury Bankstown) that I was jealous, and that I hoped that one day we can do something just as good in Lindfield.

What prompted their library project was a fire that had unfortunately destroyed the old building. Hopefully we don’t need anything that dramatic to get the Lindfield Village Hub’s 2400sqm library + community centre going, and there have been some signs that we can make meaningful progress in coming months.

Lessons from an Electric Vehicle Early Adopter

With the NSW Government EV incentives we thought we’d give it a go. There have been pain points for early adoption, but our kids love the car. Five things that we’ve learnt so far.

The car is amazing – The base model Tesla is quiet with responsive acceleration and zero tailpipe emissions.

Charging the car at home can be slow – if you charge from a regular power point it charges 2-3% per hour and a full charge over 30 hours.

Faster charging in Australian homes might not always be possible – Most Australian homes have a single phase power connection and a faster charger may take up to half the capacity, leaving little room for other appliances like air con, cooktop, fridge, computer, etc. Overloading the connection may cause the circuit breaker to trip or blow a switch (permanently), depending on the configuration. We installed a 32amp industrial outlet at home to enable faster charging.

It’s hard for apartment dwellers – Body corp may not agree to running extension cables or sharing common power. Many councils now require new apartments to provide EV-related electrical conduits in their carpark design, but it doesn’t help those in pre-existing apartments.

‘Range Anxiety’ is real – Cars are less efficient at high speed. Our vehicle can theoretically travel 480km on a single charge at 90km/h but the range drops to 380km at 110km/h. Certain regional trips will be difficult before widescale charging infrastructure rollout.

Comments re: Candidate Independence

I am writing on this topic as there have been unhelpful and inaccurate rumours in other parts of social media, comments which I am concerned may have the effect of misinforming residents.

In this election there are several candidates who are members of the Liberal Party who are running as Independents. What does this mean? Can you possibly be Independent and a member of the Liberal Party at the same time?

Well yes, you can. The NSW Electoral Commission’s own handbook for candidates defines Independents as “𝘈 𝘤𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘥𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘰𝘳 𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘮𝘦𝘮𝘣𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘰𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘣𝘺 𝘢 𝘳𝘦𝘨𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘱𝘰𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘭 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵𝘺.”

In Ku-ring-gai, Willoughby, and many other LGA’s across NSW the Liberal Party chooses not to endorse (i.e. get behind or support) candidates and these party members are left on their own to run on their own platform, own convictions, own beliefs and policies, and with their own money.

In my particular case I fund my own campaign, we come up with our own policies and values, and we recruit our own volunteers. The election campaign is about our team and our policies, not about some political party that doesn’t endorse or provide support. Nobody tells us how to vote.

Political party membership is available for all to see on the Electoral Commission website. No candidates are ‘hiding’ it, and personally I am just waiting til next week to show the link to the Electoral Commission website because there’s an upgrade on the 22nd that will make it much more informative for users, and I like to do things once really well, not twice ineffectively.

But ultimately when it comes to policy alignment, values, etc. we all make our own decisions and have complete freedom to act how we want.

Therefore I believe the term Independent is entirely appropriate.

And I have certainly enjoyed the Independence in the last four years. Just to give some examples.

1) Though the current council has six out of ten councillors as Liberal Party members, they are often in disagreement. 3 vs 3. 4 vs 2. 5 vs. 1. When it’s 5 vs. 1 I’m often the independent lone wolf.

2) In July 2019 Council Staff proposed that the Lindfield Village Hub should be 14 storeys tall, to which I disagreed because I believed that it would set a dangerous precedent in Lindfield. I received pressure from other councillors including the former mayor to support 14 storeys, and if I had caved into her pressure we would be seeing 14 storeys in Lindfield right now. But I was happy to go against the Liberal then-mayor as I am an Independent and can vote however I want.

3) In May 2021 I proposed that council investigate the heritage value of the Roseville Chase and Gordon Bowling Green sites (and it was defeated). This didn’t have the support of other Liberal Party councillors but I wasn’t bothered as I am an Independent and so are they.

4) In the upcoming Roseville Ward elections, three of the four groups have Liberal Party members as lead candidates, but in our group’s view (and therefore in our preferencing), the most appropriate second group is non-party aligned. We do our preferences based on our own values, alignment and competency, not based on party membership. We are independents.

5) To me, party membership is actually quite meaningless because there is such a diverse range of people within the party. I know Liberal Party members who are full-on Trump. I also know Liberal Party members who effectively behave like they are in the Greens. I’m personally a bit of a strange mix of everything, I believe that the Government should take more proactive action to decelerate the effects of climate change and that we need to show more compassion to those in need (especially refugees), but I also have particular convictions based on my religious beliefs.

At every election, there will be those who go around saying this person and that person isn’t an ‘Independent’ because of party membership. But I strongly disagree with them because of all the reasons above (including the Electoral Commission’s definition). Furthermore it is genuinely frustrating that they apply this criticism to a select few candidates rather than all candidates with party membership. The constant cherry-picking of information, and deliberate and selective framing of information to cast candidates in poor light, unfortunately has had the effect of misinforming some residents, and I have had to correct misunderstandings on several occasions. But for every one person who is misinformed and who raises their concerns with me, I’m sure there are several who are misinformed and remain that way. This behaviour does not align with my values and I cannot endorse it.

In other news, Ku-ring-gai Living recently reached out to ALL candidates and asked them to fill a survey, including disclosure of party membership. Some candidates chose to respond, and their answers are found in the link below.

Introducing Our Team

It’s a pleasure to announce our team for the 4 December Ku-ring-gai Council Roseville Ward election. We are a diverse group of three well qualified candidates and each of us are long-term residents who genuinely care about the impact that councillors have on our community and way of life. We will be presenting to you our policies in the coming weeks and are ready to serve if elected.

Candidate #1 – Deputy Mayor Sam Ngai, first term councillor, senior corporate roles with a focus on process improvement. Local resident since 1987, now residing in East Lindfield with wife and two young children.

Candidate #2 – Amanda Blackman, local business owner and solicitor, Lindfield resident since 1994, actively involved in the community, and mother of two adult children.

Candidate #3 – Mitchell Frater-Baird, recipient of the Rotary Youth Leadership Award in 2020 and passionate about developing community and sporting programmes.

Our campaign is self-funded so that we can stay true to our own values. Having said that if you read our policies and would like to support the cause by helping out in the coming weeks, then please reach out.

Lindfield Station Footpaths

One of our council’s strengths is responsiveness to requests that affect residents near our train stations.

Last week I received feedback that on Lindfield Avenue South of the train station there was significant overgrowth making it difficult for pedestrians to use the footpath. Sometimes it was so bad that they would have to do the limbo, and as we know the nature strip on the side isn’t too walker friendly either.

I passed the feedback onto council staff and within a day they were out there chopping off the overgrowth, making life much better for our residents.

The nature strip is another story… it’s well eroded at parts and it is going to be addressed as part of the Lindfield Town Centre Public Domain Plan that I expect will be approved by council early next year. Under that plan, a much nicer footpath will go where the nature strip currently is, so that residents can get straight onto a level footpath the moment they step out of the car.

Pedestrian Safety in Killara

Right now there are no pedestrian crossings across Lindfield and Werona Avenue between Lindfield and Killara Station, and this makes it difficult for less able-bodied people or parents pushing prams to get across the road. Fortunately our Federal Government under the safety-related Black Spot program has funded the conversion of these lights at Werona x Stanhope to support pedestrian crossing, making life much safer for our Lindfield and Killara residents. The pedestrian lights should be coming within the next seven months.

Remembrance Day

This morning at 11am we will pause to reflect on the sacrifices that our war veterans and other support teams have made to protect the freedoms of future generations.

There is a memorial service at the Roseville Club which will be attended by members of the community. Due to COVID restrictions and rain, the numbers will be limited but you can watch the livestream in the link below.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2114351825383127/

Lindfield Pedestrian Bridge

While my kids love our fantastic library at Gordon, what they love even more is the pedestrian bridge. It’s a safe way to cross the six lane highway while watching the cars, buses and cyclists pass by.

Back in 2018 we voted that a pedestrian bridge is highly desirable at Lindfield and subsequently the 2020 Local Strategic Planning Statement also implied (but not specifically called out) a bridge.

It wasn’t possible to include the bridge in the 2021 Lindfield Village Hub Planning Proposal as it could only cover council owned land, but at the October Ordinary Meeting of Council (which failed to meet four times) I was hoping to strengthen the wording so that any design for the Hub should interface with a future pedestrian bridge. This is coming back again for the November Ordinary Meeting of Council, which is scheduled for Tuesday 16 November.

Wheelchair Accessibility near Roseville Station

11 days ago a resident contacted me after an incident where her son’s wheelchair got stuck on Pacific Highway due to a lip in the ramp. They were in a bit of a panic because of the six lanes of traffic but fortunately another resident was nearby to help.

Given that it is right in the middle of the town centre and next to the train station, this sort of accessibility issue wasn’t ideal. I raised the matter with council staff and it looks like they’ve fixed it on the station side with a gentler ramp and no lip. A similar fix appears to be underway on the shop side today.

Scooter Adventures

Earlier in the week I had to meet local residents regarding a traffic issue. Figured that I would go out for a scoot as it’s better for my health and for the planet 🌏.

What I learnt was that some of our footpaths are great for walking but not for scooting. Some of our roads are the preferred option during the day but other roads are not ideal for vehicles with small wheels. Places with steeps hills aren’t fun. More planning is required to select the optimal route.

Local Government NSW Awards

Today I joined Cr Kelly, Cr Kay, and 23 other councillors across NSW in accepting our certificates for completing the UTS Executive Certificate for Elected Members.

The four day course was fantastic and I’d encourage all incoming councillors to complete it after settling 18-24 months into the role. Through this course I met councillors from across NSW. We shared about what’s happening at our councils including what works well and what could be better.

The assessments were extremely relevant and helped me better understand the governance framework within which Local Government operates. It gave me ideas of how we can improve things at Ku-ring-gai, and I hope that next council term we will have a majority of councillors who are receptive to making things better rather than maintaining the status quo.

At the annual award ceremony it was also good to hear about the other councils and projects that made it into the finalist list. There are some ideas that we can borrow at Ku-ring-gai, and when the relevant news article is released by LGNSW I will share the link below.

Congratulations Willoughby!

I congratulate Willoughby Council for joining the UN’s Cities Race to Zero which involves the recognition of a climate emergency and taking steps to reach net zero by the 2040’s or sooner.

Ku-ring-gai too was to debate and consider joining this initiative in the October Ordinary Meeting of Council but unfortunately we did not have enough councillors to proceed on four occasions despite the meeting being available on Zoom.

The latest that I’ve heard is that this along with many other items will be moved to the November Meeting of Council. That’s great news though I expect that for some items such as certain tenders over threshold, we won’t be able to vote on them until February due to the caretaker period.

https://www.hkpost.com.au/news/willoughby-city-council-accelerates-emissions-targets-by-joining-cities-race-to-zero

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.

Roseville Station Footpath Success

You are looking at the happiest ward councillor in Roseville. 🎉🎉🎉

Back in August 2017 I received a phone call from a lady complaining about the footpath immediately outside Roseville Station. It was a high traffic area but paved with really crappy bitumen. Uneven, rocky, large pools of water in the rain, and very unsafe. She had spoken to both of the Roseville Ward councillors before my time (including the mayor) and neither of them were able to produce any outcome, so she hoped that I could make a difference.

I’ve been trying to get this fixed for the last four years and there were technical reasons for the delay, but to my pleasant surprise when I walked past this morning at 1:30am on the way to inspect another issue, I saw that work has been underway. No more crappy and dangerous bitumen, we now have the proper asphalt footpath that our residents deserve.

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

Tonight’s Vote: Basketball and Netball Facilities

I recently visited The Glade at Wahroonga to check out its fantastic outdoor basketball facilities. All five hoops were in use with various groups walking from afar to catch up with their friends and stay physically and mentally fit.

Unfortunately we don’t have anything like this in the Roseville, Lindfield and Killara area. The closest is at Allan Small in Killara and even then it’s only two hoops so if the big kids occupy them then the little kids have no chance to play.

Tonight I am putting forward a motion to increase the number of hoops in the area from 5 to at least 12 and I’ve targeted some quick win options which should have a low impact on surrounding residents such as Tryon Road and Lindfield Library. The target is set but ultimately it is up to council staff to propose the final locations and report back to council by March 2022.

The vote will also cover the topic of provision of netball facilities in Lindfield. At the moment the options for netball training are limited and it’s not helped by council implementation of its booking system, where sometimes tennis bookings boot netball off the only courts they have access to when there are plenty of other under-utilised tennis courts in the area.

Green Hydrogen vs Blue Hydrogen

Today the NSW Government announced plans to invest up to $3b in the Green Hydrogen Industry. So what is Green Hydrogen and why is it important?

We currently rely on fossil fuels such as petrol and gas to power our transportation, domestic and industrial needs. Burning fossil fuels increases our carbon emissions as well as some carcinogens so it’s not that good. But if we burn pure hydrogen gas, the otuput is clean water as opposed to carbon dioxide and it’s much better for the environment.

So why aren’t we using hydrogen now instead of fossil fuels? That’s because the technology to create hydrogen has not yet reached significant commercial scale and it requires further investment.

Creating hydrogen involves the splitting of water molecules (H2O) to hydrogen and oxygen. Energy is required as part of the electrolysis process, so that’s where Renewable Energy (Green Hydrogen) or Fossil Fuels (Blue Hydrogen) come into play. Note that Hydrogen by itself isn’t necessarily that great; what we really want is the Green Hydrogen that comes from Renewable Energy.

There are some technical challenges to conquer before Green Hydrogen reaches commercial scale so it is very encouraging to see the (Liberal) State Government commit to this $3b investment. Some of the biggest questions remain such as whether we have sustainable water sources to create the hydrogen (a bit difficult during a drought unless we use seawater) and whether we have enough excess renewable energy during the daytime to produce the hydrogen.

Green Hydrogen is just one of the technologies which will help us achieve Net Zero as soon as possible.

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.

Lindfield Village Hub Update (Good News)

I know the incredible frustration that members of the public feel when the council papers talk about the Lindfield Village Hub but the entire thing is marked as confidential. In fact sometimes in the past when I do not genuinely believe that the entire paper should be confidential, I have protest voted against the call for confidentiality.

However on this particular occasion of the October Council Meeting, I wholeheartedly believe that the report should remain confidential. The report describes some of council’s negotiations with potential interested parties, offers some hope that the project can be viable, and reflects on how the recent downturn did have a short term impact on various parties’ willingness to participate. Some more information has been made available on the council website, which I will copy and paste below.

PURPOSE OF REPORT: To update Council on the outcomes of the ongoing LVH procurement negotiations and to outline next steps.

BACKGROUND: On 20 July 2021 Council considered a revised market engagement strategy for the LVH project. Having considered the strategy, Council resolved to continue negotiations.

COMMENTS: The initial stage of the negotiations has now been undertaken, with a number of proposals received. Analysis of the proposals suggests that a viable commercial outcome for the project may be possible. The results indicate a significant turnaround from the offers received during the 2020 tender and post tender negotiations.

RECOMMENDATION:
That Council:
A. Note the significant improvement in market conditions, sentiment and commercial responses since the 2020 tender and post tender negotiations.
B. Continue to progress negotiations.

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.

The Missing Footpath and the Temporary Solution

For over forty years the residents of Roseville Chase have been asking for a footpath to be installed at Babbage Road and it’s not difficult to understand why. On one side we have a cliff face and on the other side we have a narrow ledge. This road is the only way in and out of the area and without even a nature strip, all residents (including our school children) have no choice but to walk on the road to access the shops and public transport.

Council’s annual spend on new footpath construction is approximately $1.0m pa however due to the technical complexity of building this particular footpath (involving relocation of critical infrastructure), the cost (of at least a quarter of a million), the relatively low volume of users, and its distance from shops, transport hubs, schools and aged care, this particular footpath upgrade has consistently been low in the footpath priority list. I have been lobbying internally each year for this footpath to be built but it is ultimately an operational decision that is usually outside the influence of councillors.

This area is also known to have high speed vehicles and residents genuinely fear that one day someone walking on the road (not by their own choice) will get hit. I raised the issue with council staff and asked surely, there must be something that we can do at reasonable cost. If not a footpath, then at least some speed cushions to encourage vehicles to slow down around the bend. Staff consulted with local residents on potential locations for speed cushions and based on their feedback, the location of three sets of cushions and concrete barriers was established to encourage people to drive with care.

It’s sad that we had to resort to this (instead of a footpath), but it’s what could be achieved at low cost for now. I will continue to lobby internally for a footpath but for the time being I know that our residents are just a bit safer.

Greengate Park Killara

Undoubtedly one of the best parks in Ku-ring-gai for children under 2, we revisited this place recently (observing social distancing) and saw it with new eyes.

The lawn and path is fantastic for bikes and scooters. The upper terrace is great for social groups and badminton. And the shelter above the picnic area even provided a private space for teens (though I’m not sure if they’re meant to be up there)!

The land for this park was originally purchased from private owners with developer contributions under our Open Spaces Acquisition Strategy, and our council staff have done a fantastic job of making full use of the site.

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.

Overflowing Bins in Lockdown

During this lockdown residents have discovered some of our hidden gems such as Echo Point Park, Roseville Beach and Swain Gardens.

With increased use also comes increased demand for bins. I’ve asked council staff whether we can increase the collection frequency and/or increase the number of bins available for use. So far they have agreed to increasing the frequency to Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

Two Creeks Track

We enjoyed the sights and sounds of this bushwalk over the weekend. Stretching through the suburbs of Roseville Chase, East Lindfield and Lindfield, this is a great way to get exercise and experience nature within our LGA. It’s also amazing to see how many people were on the track; we came across a few dozen whereas pre-pandemic it would have been less than a dozen.

Another Win: Greater Transparency on Unauthorised Works

At Ku-ring-gai we officially have hundreds of developments each year. Most of these developments, whether they be a driveway or fencing upgrade, a building extension, or a knockdown and rebuild, are supported by the following processes.

  1. Development Application (including DA’s, MOD’s and Reviews)
  2. Council Certified Application (including Complying Development Certificates, Construction Certificates and Occupation Certificates)
  3. Privately Certified Application (including Complying Development Certificates, Construction Certificates and Occupation Certificates)

Council’s DA Tracking website allows residents to search for records in relation to the above. However one common problem for residents has been the topic of unauthorised works and the absence of documentation that supports it.

Once allegations of unauthorised works are raised, council officers will investigate and if appropriate, serve the landowner with a notice of intention to stop, demolish or remove the works. At this point the landowner sometimes has the option of fixing up the structure to conform with the rules and receive retrospective approval in the form of a Building Information Certificate.

These Building Information Certificates for unauthorised works did not use to be available on Council’s DA Tracking Database but after several negative experiences by our residents, I politely asked council staff whether we could do anything to improve transparency on the matter. And as of last month, residents can now look up the DA Tracking Database to confirm the existence of recently issued Building Information Certificates.

Ku-ring-gai Council – eProperty – Production – DA Tracking Application Search (nsw.gov.au)

Please note however that while the database includes all of the supporting documents for Development Applications, the other processes (certified applications, building information certificates) are not readily available from the database. It was technically too difficult to achieve. If residents want to access the supporting documents for these then they will need to lodge a GIPA (Government Information Public Access) application. More information about GIPA applications is available here.

https://www.krg.nsw.gov.au/Council/Access-to-information/How-to-apply-for-access-to-information

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.

All Playgrounds to Reopen from Saturday 21st August

Yesterday the State Government provided new guidance urging councils to keep playgrounds open where possible, and today our council staff made the decision that all playgrounds will reopen from this Saturday.

Please note that under public health orders, no more than 2 people should gather (excluding members of the same household) and that we should continue to observe social distancing, good health and hygiene practices.

Personally I’m still reluctant to send my children to playgrounds if I can at all keep them entertained in the home, in the yard, or at other local walks and ovals. Delta is easily transmittable. However the number of cases in Ku-ring-gai is relatively low and like many other things in life, it is up to each family to make their own risk-based decisions on the risks vs. mental and physical health benefits.

For more information refer to the following links.

https://www.olg.nsw.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/COVID-19-guidance-for-councils-on-FAQs-17-August-2021.pdf

https://www.krg.nsw.gov.au/Council/News-and-media/Latest-news/Important-information-about-COVID-19

Lindfield Village Hub Planning Proposal [Part Two]

This week we received over 80 submissions to the public exhibition and while I can say that I agreed with what residents have been saying about the priorities and potential delivery path of the Lindfield Village Hub project as a whole, I’d also say that none of the submissions talked about the Planning Proposal itself (which is about land rezoning) and the submissions may therefore end up not addressing any of the land zoning issues that are opened up by the planning proposal. To explain, think of the Lindfield Village Hub project as two workstreams.

Workstream one covers the financial and project delivery elements including questions such as:

  • Who will council partner with to design and construct the hub?
  • Council does not own land for a pedestrian bridge. Does any potential partner help deliver one at an acceptable cost?
  • Is Council able to afford building the hub?
  • Should the hub include commuter parking and if so, is the State Government committed to fund it at a reasonable cost?
  • Which elements of the hub should council retain vs. which elements should be privately owned?
  • Should funds from the old Lindfield Library go towards funding the new library?
  • How should we fund the future operations and maintenance of the hub?

The issues with workstream one are being addressed behind the scenes as part of a separate process.

Workstream two is unrelated to, but separate from, the first work stream. It covers the land use and zoning of council-owned land with questions such as:

  • Should the heights be increased from seven storeys to nine storeys?
  • Should we add an additional residential tower to the site, thus reducing the 3,000 sqm green space previously promised to residents?
  • Do we wish to build the library and community facilities at the current anticipated size of ~1,200 sqm each?

The Planning Proposal is in relation to workstream two and I’ve covered it in more detail in the previous post.

The 80+ emails cover workstream one and not the Planning Proposal so how could they make things worse? Council staff could say “we received over 80 responses to the planning proposal and not one objected to the reduction in park size”.

If you want to make a submission please make sure that it’s about the Planning Proposal, not unrelated matters.

Lindfield Village Hub Planning Proposal

Several residents have asked about the Lindfield Village Hub Planning Proposal which is currently on public exhibition until 27 August 2021. At 1,288 pages, residents have said that the material was difficult to understand and did not know whether the Planning Proposal should be a cause for concern.

The short answer to this is that the land for the future Lindfield Village Hub is currently zoned for seven storeys but in order to improve the economic viability (and success) of the project, council is proposing to rezone the land to support nine storeys. The increase of two storeys requires a Planning Proposal.

I am personally comfortable with single-digit storey heights as it means the proposed buildings will be no taller than the buildings on the other side of the Pacific Highway. However what I am uncomfortable with as a councillor is that the Planning Proposal creates the possibility of a northern tower that encroaches land which was previously intended as green space under the 2015 Master Plan. The 2015 Master Plan provided for 3,000 sqm of ‘green open space’ however in more recent years the language has shifted to ‘plaza, park and open space’ to draw attention away from the anticipated reduction of green space.

In the future, Council will choose a delivery partner to design and construct the Lindfield Village Hub. It is my hope that we can choose a delivery partner who has the means to make the project happen with 3,000 sqm of green space to meet the recreational needs of our local residents.

In other news, the State Government announced last month that it had finalised negotiations with Council to deliver 135 commuter parking spaces for the Lindfield Village Hub. This announcement provides more certainty for Council as it seeks to progress with delivering the community facilities.

I have more to say about the Hub but will leave it for another post. In the meanwhile, if you want to check out the Planning Proposal you can do so via the following link.

https://www.krg.nsw.gov.au/Council/Your-say/Planning-Proposal-and-site-specific-DCP-for-Lindfield-Village-Hub-site

Nine Playgrounds Reopening on Friday (as a trial)

Last month Ku-ring-gai Council was one of only two councils in the Sydney metro area to close its playgrounds despite the absence of a public health order to do so. The decision by staff to do this was a conservative one made genuinely in the interest of our residents’ physical health, and in the context of ambiguous stay at home orders.

After some feedback from local residents, councillors and MPs, council staff have reassessed the situation and have decided that from this Friday (6 August), nine of Council’s playgrounds will be reopened to the public as part of a two week trial. These playgrounds will be cleaned and entry will require a QR code scan. Towards the end of the trial and depending on the situation with Delta at the time, council staff will then consider what to do next (e.g. open more playgrounds, leave as is, close the playgrounds again).

The nine playgrounds are:

  • Queen Elizabeth Reserve – West Lindfield
  • Dukes Green – East Lindfield
  • Gordon Recreation Reserve – Gordon
  • St Ives Showground – St Ives
  • Putarri Avenue Reserve – St Ives
  • Bicentennial Park – West Pymble
  • Kissing Point Village – South Turramurra
  • Cameron Park – Turramurra
  • Wahroonga Park – Wahroonga

This news will be of great relief to some parents, especially those whose kids are stuck in apartments and going nuts. Having said all that, I’d like to remind everyone that we still have orders to remain 1.5m apart while exercising (if not in the same household). The Delta strain has also proven to be quite infectious and has a greater impact on young people than its predecessors so even as a parent, I’d be cautious about sending my children to these playgrounds. Keep an eye on the latest COVID sites, remember that there’s usually a week-or-so delay before the sites pop up on the case locations list, and make a risk-based decision as to whether or not you want your children to be out at these playgrounds (as opposed to running around an oval or walking around the neighbourhood).

Everyone, take care.

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.

⚠️ Reporting (and Fixing) Problems with Council Facilities – Another Happy Resident 😊

You can report issues through to council directly (kmc@kmc.nsw.gov.au / 9424 000) or reach out to one of your councillors.

When residents contact me, my usual approach is to go out to meet the resident, see the issue for myself, and discuss the likely options and outcomes. However during a lockdown it’s been more difficult and we limit the interactions to online.

In the picture provided, one of our residents reported last week that there was a slippery wooden bridge at Queen Elizabeth Reserve, West Lindfield, and that she had seen a few kids nearly slipping off their bikes and scooters.

I passed the details onto council staff and during the same week they went to the site, pressure washed the bridge, and sanded it to provide more grip.

Our resident then reported that it was much better and I passed the positive feedback back to our council staff.

💉 First AstraZeneca Jab 🦠🦠🦠

Enjoying a lollipop after my first jab. Like many other under 40’s, I’ve had to consider whether to follow ATAGI advice and wait for Pfizer or to just get AstraZeneca now. I’ve had conversations about the risks vs benefits and decided that in my particular case, it’s best to get vaccinated given that we are about to enter an election campaign. I’d imagine that other front line workers such as teachers and taxi drivers may be considering the same.

The Roseville Vaccination Centre has plenty of next day timeslots for those who want to get vaccinated with AZ, and the process was relatively quick (14 minutes). I’d encourage everyone to consider when they should get vaccinated (and get AZ if you are over 60) because the sooner that we are all vaccinated, the sooner Australia can return to normal.

If I experience any side effects such as aches, pains, or increased internet speeds I will let you know in the coming days.

🌏 Journey to Net Zero 🌲

I support Ku-ring-gai’s aim for Net Zero by 2040 and 100% renewable by 2030 (aiming for 2025) but why not aim for sooner? For electricity, it helps to look at real data to understand the challenges we need to overcome to get there.

This chart depicts yesterday’s power generation and demand for the National Electricity Market (NEM) which comprises all of Australia’s States and Territories except for WA and NT.

Australia is now at a point where ☀️ renewable energy is often cheaper to produce than fossil fuels, and and there’s going to be much more market-driven investment in renewables in the coming years. Yesterday we were at 40% renewable energy at noon when the sun was brightest.

However the sun doesn’t shine at night and the wind is not always available so we can’t rely on renewable tech along to get us to Net Zero. At midnight, renewables only contributed to 17% of our needs.

So how do we access electricity at the times when we can’t reliably generate enough from renewables? In the short and medium term this comes from fossil fuels, which provided nearly three quarters of our energy needs yesterday. And in the long term we hope to plug that gap through 🔋 energy storage; we hope to generate excess energy during the day then store up enough to last through the night. That’s a lot of energy storage!

Energy storage will come through a range of technology options which we have yet to fully master including lithium, green hydrogen and pumped hydro. There are various Australian firms innovating in this space and I’m sure Australia will get to Net Zero, though not within this decade.

Having said that, Ku-ring-gai Council will get to Net Zero earlier than the rest of Australia because we are already working on specific initiatives such as improving the efficiency of our assets, street lighting and fleet while also collectively sourcing renewable energy at reduced rates with other Sydney metro councils.

There’s a lot more that can be discussed on this matter so if you’re keen I’m happy to catch up sometime.

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.

COVID-19 Closure of Council Services & Queries Regarding Closed Playgrounds

Council has closed the library, pool, and a range of other indoor community facilities in line with public health orders. Our sports ovals and customer call center remain open.

However at this stage Ku-ring-gai is the only council in the Sydney Metro region to have actively closed off our playgrounds. Some of our residents have found this strange, especially given the general support for outdoor exercise in small groups and also the school holidays, so yesterday I asked council staff to provide clarification on this matter.

At this stage I can say that there are some differences in interpretation of the public health order and our staff have reached out to the State Government for further clarification. In the meanwhile, staff have taken a precautionary approach by closing the playgrounds given the higher transmission rates of the Delta variant.

Personally I’m not informed enough to make a call on whether this is ‘right’, however I haven’t personally been encouraging my children to touch anything whilst out on the daily walk.

For the latest status on service & playground closures, refer to the link below.

https://www.krg.nsw.gov.au/Council/News-and-media/Latest-news/Important-information-about-COVID-19

Public Facility Upgrades

🚽 Have you ever tried to use a public toilet and thought ‘eww this place is gross’? Each year Council upgrades some of its public facilities. Pictured below is an upgrade that happened earlier during the pandemic, where the prison-style toilets at Queen Elizabeth II Reserve were upgraded to something cleaner, brighter, with a functional mirror and energy/water efficient fixtures. It makes for a pleasant and safer experience for our residents at West Lindfield.

COVID Testing and Lockdown

To all those who are about to enter lockdown, I wish you well. Many school holiday plans cast aside and much restlessness at home.

If you have any symptoms, please get tested as we need the data to protect the public. I had to get a test earlier this afternoon at Killara, the queue went all the way back to Nelson Road but at least it was all done in the comfort of my car. All up it took about twenty minutes which was a real surprise.

Road Safety on Lady Game Drive

I met up with residents a few months ago to discuss safety issues on Lady Game Drive.

To improve visibility of vehicles at the roundabout, the feral hedge was trimmed back.

To make the entry to the roundabout a bit safer for pedestrians, speed cushions were added to slow the traffic (a request for a zebra crossing was declined).

Council also has State Government in principal support to install a wombat crossing (raised zebra crossing) at the school crossing on Lady Game Drive. Next steps with this is to find a source of funding the project, but I hope to see it in the near future.

MBA Exchange at Oxford

I believe it’s important for councillors to invest in professional development so that they can better serve the community. These last two years I’ve been completing an MBA at my own expense and was recently selected to go on MBA Exchange at Oxford. It’s a shame that international borders are closed because I miss out on the travel and networking experience, but I know that what I’ve learnt regarding land use, valuations, emerging trends, as well as the role of debt and risks with large scale developments will be of use when it comes to building our community hubs in Lindfield, Turramurra and Gordon.

Thanks to AGSM at UNSW Business School for giving me this opportunity.

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.

I want to hear your views on Asset Sales and Wildlife

Here’s a video of a wallaby and her joey at Bates Park, 97 Babbage Road Roseville Chase. It’s quite sweet and there are more videos like this on the Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/kuringgaiparks/posts/780552675940365

Four years ago and just three months before the council elections (i.e. before my time as councillor), council voted unanimously to divest (i.e. sell) Bates Park. You can look it up in the council minutes, 13 June 2017, GB4.

Why does council sell assets? Well the theory is that underutilized assets are sold so that we have the funds to create new assets in areas where there are much greater needs. Some examples from recent years include:

  1. Lindfield Village Green (under construction)
  2. St Ives Basketball Courts (future project)
  3. Marian Street Theatre (future project)
  4. Cameron Park Expansion (required the purchase of 2, 4, 6 and 8 Gilroy Road)
  5. Boyds Orchard Park (which required council purchasing 23, 25, 27, Duff St and 1 Holmes St)

Of course it would be even better if we didn’t have to sell any assets at all because once an asset is sold, it is very difficult for that land to be bought back. But the reality of how councils are funded in NSW is that rates are pegged and set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, and the rates that councils collect often fall short of what is actually required to deliver services and assets to the standard that ratepayers expect. This puts councils in awkward positions where they then have to consider selling some assets to create other assets.

But while I understand the rationale behind asset sales and am sympathetic to the financial constraints that most councils face, the question remains. Should we be selling community assets and if so, which ones?

What about Bates Park (which the previous council has already authorized for sale but has not yet been sold)? Should Bates Park be sold? If it’s sold for half a million, is it a worthwhile transaction given the habitat loss for wildlife? What if it’s sold for 5 million? 50 million? Where do we draw the line between sell and no sell? And if it is ever sold, shouldn’t at least some of the money be reinvested in local infrastructure such as the footpath on Babbage Road that local residents have been asking for? [I’ll talk more about this in another post.]

I’m quite conscious that each of us live in homes which used to be bushland, so in some ways you could argue that it’s hypocritical for us to argue that we continue to receive benefit when others cannot. But you can flip it the other way and say that given the significant habitat loss already, should we not seek to protect what remains? Are there some parts of bushland that are more worthy of protecting than others? How many $$$ does an asset need to be worth before it is considered better to sell for development than to retain for wildlife? What if there are endangered species on the site?

Here at Ku-ring-gai, we often talk about heritage value and we go to great lengths to protect heritage. But I find that our views on heritage are quite limited to buildings. The moment there’s an old building of some arbitrary value, we’re quick to wave the heritage flag. But what about flora and fauna? Don’t they have some sort of ecological heritage value?

At this stage I’m not (officially) saying that there’s a specific right or wrong. I’m not picking sides but I want to draw out the issue and hear what you as residents have to say on the matter. Ultimately my job as a councillor is to represent you, and I cannot do my job without hearing what you have to say on matters such as these.

Let me know what you think. My job is to represent you.

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.

Dine and Discover

We had a rare night out without the kids at Mangiasti? in Roseville Chase. We sat at the bard and watched out food get cooked. The food and atmosphere was great. We used a Dine and Discover voucher as well. Definitely worth checking out.

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.

Lest We Forget

Today many of us gathered to remember over 100,000 Australians who died in armed conflict and the many others who returned, often with physical or mental scars that impacted their families. It is because of these sacrifices that we can live here today.