The next time councillors meet behind closed doors and away from public scrutiny, one of the key issues that they will no doubt be discussing is the current status of the Eurobodalla LEP. In what was a grand announcement on October 11th the community learnt of the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment sign off of the Rural Lands Strategy Local Environmental Plan (LEP). Next thing we hear (the following day) is that the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment and Eurobodalla Shire Council "have today agreed to work together to resolve any discrepancies in the Rural Lands Strategy Local Environmental Plan (LEP), signed off on Friday 11 October 2019." Two weeks ago Mayor Innes advised the community that "Eurobodalla Council has identified anomalies in the Rural Lands Strategy LEP, signed off by the NSW Government on Friday 11 October 2019.
The Mayor advised on October 22nd, 2019 that Council staff had discovered "a number of differences" to its adopted position and were awaiting further work by the Department to clarify the full extent of changes and their potential impact. The Mayor said on October 22nd, 2019 “Council is not in a position to comment further until the Department has been able to verify the exact implications and what can be done to rectify these changes.” That was a fortnight ago. The next councillor briefing session (if not sooner) would be a perfect time for councillors to learn what the number of differences were. Some questions they might like to ask are: 1. Council staff have discovered a number of differences. Therefore THEY know what these differences are. As councillors WE now want to know exactly what the differences are. Will the staff please list EACH and ALL of those differences? NOTE that the document presented by Council for signing was 261 pages. It is clear that Council staff have access to the signed document in order to identify a 'number of differences'. It is understood that neither of these documents are available to councillors and they are not available to the public. Unless Council staff reveal exactly what the 'number of differences' are then neither the councillors or the public can be considered informed or included. 2. If the 'number of differences' were not advised to Council by NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, as per the adopted position and to what senior Department of Planning Infrastructure and Environment staff and the Minister’s office advised, as is required of any changes to the planning proposal prior to the Minister for Planning’s sign-off, then does that make the signed document invalid requiring the Minister to sign a new document? 3. Of the 'number of differences' (once known to councillors); do any of those differences benefit any party in the Eurobodalla region that would otherwise not have been benefited by the original document submitted to NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment by Council? 4. If any of the 'number of differences' might be construed as beneficial to any party will this now see the document, as signed, go before ICAC to determine who made the changes and the reasoning behind making the change and who might benefit by those changes? 5. At what point can the community be advised of the status of the Rural Lands Strategy Local Environmental Plan (LEP) as it is widely understood in the community that it has been signed off yet in fact the questions around the unknown 'number of differences' leaves little doubt that the Minister may have to sign a revised Rural Lands Strategy Local Environmental Plan (LEP). 6. Should the Rural Lands Strategy Local Environmental Plan (LEP), as signed by the Minister, remain unchanged what bearing do the 'number of differences' referred to make on the recently adopted DCP by Eurobodalla Councillors, guided by the assurity of Eurobodalla Council's Director of Planning that the Rural Lands Strategy Local Environmental Plan (LEP) would be signed by the Minister with NO changes? There is little doubt that Councillors must inform themselves of the current status of the Rural Lands Strategy Local Environmental Plan (LEP) and of the 'number of differences' identified. As community representatives they need to seek clarification and to ensure the community is kept informed. Presently both the councillors and the community are being kept in the dark while the Mayor assures the community she has "personally spoken to the Departmental head Jim Betts who has given his assurance they are working to rectify the matter as soon as possible". That was two weeks ago and that is all we know.