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Coopers Island Road: Councillors take back control of delegation

Councillor Phil Constable has given notice that at the Ordinary Meeting of Council on Tuesday 22 June 2021, he will move the following motion. MOTION THAT Council: 1. Refuse to issue a public gate permit under s128 of the Roads Act 1993 (NSW) to the owner of the land adjoining Coopers Island Road (‘the adjoining landowner’) for the erection of a public gate across Coopers Island Road where it meets the Princess Highway. 2. Direct the adjoining landowner to remove the gate that is currently erected across Coopers Island Road at that location within 21 days of this resolution. 3. Upon the adjoining landowner complying with the Council direction to remove the gate, issue to the adjoining landowner a 7 day notice of intention to issue Order No. 7 under s124 of the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW) requiring the adjoining landowner to fence its land along the length of Coopers Island Road to the Princes Highway road reserve, on the basis that it is satisfied that public safety renders it necessary that the land adjoining Coopers Island Road is fenced.’ 4. Contribute 50% of the cost of the fence as a one-off contribution. Councillor Constable said "This motion is attempting to provide the best outcome for the whole of the community, including the landowners and the public that access Coopers Island Road. I consider that a closed gate, even with a sign stating that this is a public road gate can be a deterrence for people accessing the road. Approval of the gate permit could result in people leaving the gate open. If it could be determined categorically that a third party opened and did not close the gate which caused cattle to cause an accident on the Highway, the third party may have some form of liability." The motion comes about after it has been revealed that Council management had mismanaged the issue of the illegal gate from the outset when the planning department and a ranger gave verbal approval for the erection of a gate without any authority to do so. Instead of correcting the error Council management continued to ignore both the Roads Act 1993 and the Local Government Act and took it upon themselves to ignore the public outcry over the illegal gate. Such action is a breach of both of these Acts. The Acts are delegated to the councillors by the State Government when they are elected. In turn the councillors then hand down the delegation to the General Manager who nominates a staff member to be responsible in ensuring the Act is complied with. In the case of Coopers Island Road the nominated staff, their supervisors, and vicariously the General Manager failed in their delegated duty resulting in two years of needless stress for both the owners, who were ill-advised, and the public who were also being kept in the dark as Council staff and councillors met in backrooms in a hope of finding a solution. The two year wait for an outcome only built further resentment and caused embarrassment to Council's reputation. The community were fast becoming hostile and declaring the situation either ineptitude or a deliberate move by Council to divest themselves of the responsibility of the road. Last week's Council meeting brought it to a head. Through the Notice of Motion above Councillor Phil Constable has caused the relinquishment of delegated authority from the General Manager and her staff and, by this Notice of Motion, reinstated Councilors to be the ones who determine the outcome. The General Manager and Councillors have been clearly advised of the requirements to approve a Gate Permit application. If the above Notice of Motion is lost (we will keep a close eye on who votes against it) those Councillors who vote against it will need to explain to the community why they choose to ignore the law, the Roads Act, the Local Government Act and the delegated authority they were given when elected to ensure those laws and Acts were carried out to the letter. Council management has already failed in their delegated duty for two years without explanation. Next week will be watching closely to see how our councillors perform in their reclaimed delegated duties.

Above: Councilor Phil Constable

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