• Private certifier gets nailed – depaNews November 2010
  • Wake up and don't worry - depaNews February 2011
  • HR professionals – depaNews January 2009
  • Upper Hunter gets coy – depaNews March 2011
  • BPB kills off B1 & B2 - depaNews July 2009
  • Councillors behaving badly Part One - depaNews December 2009
  • Councillors behaving badly Part Two - depaNews December 2009
  • Who is Peter Hurst? - depaNews August 2010
  • It's time to go, Peter Part One - depaNews September 2006
  • It's time to go Peter Part Two - depaNews December 2006
  • BPB survey on accreditation – depaNews November 2008
  • Improbable things start to come true – depaNews June 2010
  • Sex, lies and development – depaNews February 2008
  • Pizza man feeds non-members – depaNews April 2011
  • Bankstown wins HR Award – depaNews December 2010
  • Love him or loathe him - depaNews October 2007
  • Good Bad & Ugly issue – depaNews November 2010
  • Upper Hunter lets the dogs out - depaNews February 2011
  • IRC puts brakes on belligerent seven – depaNews June 2009
  • It's Tweedledum and not Tweedledumber - depaNews March 2007
  • 28 April International Day of Mourning - depaNews April 2009
  • IRC orders Hurst 'apology' published - depaNews December 2010
  • Debate on IR policy – depaNews August 2007
  • Developer agrees to apologise – depaNews November 2010
  • OH&S Day of Mourning – depaNews April 2009

The Development and Environmental Professionals' Association (depa)

Welcome to the depa website. We are an industrial organisation representing professional employees working in local government in New South Wales in a variety of jobs in the fields of environmental health, public health, building and development control and planning.

We take a broad approach to our responsibilities to members and give advice and assistance on professional issues as well as industrial and workplace issues. We understand what members do at work and that allows us to take a holistic approach.  Read more about us...

This site will keep you up-to-date with union news and the diverse range of workplace advocacy issues we deal with daily. We have made it easy for members to contact us with online forms and quickly Join depa onlne nowaccess information from our extensive FAQs.

Sex, lies and development – depaNews February 2008

Lunch with minister only $5100 – February 2008

Sex, lies and development

There have been better times to work in planning and development control in local government. No one doing so can be immune from the community's perception of relationships between local government at Wollongong and developers revealed, on a daily and increasingly astonishing basis, in the ICAC.

The taint spreads well beyond Wollongong and while it's inappropriate to say too much before the Commission hands down its findings, one confessed bad apple can have devastating effects on the barrel. The message is beware. We can understand why those innocently caught up in the exercise come to the realisation that the safest thing to do is assume everyone is a crook.

In the past 10 years the ICAC has claimed some local government scalps. In the 90s they said that the potential for corruption in development control was so open and available that it was surprising how few Council employees actually took advantage of it. It was a testament to the integrity of council staff. Many, many more councillors had been exposed than employees.

It may have been a surprise to the ICAC but this doesn't surprise us. Many years ago (probably 1985 or 1986) Nick Greiner, at that time Leader of the New South Wales Opposition spoke at the annual conference dinner of the Australian Institute of Building Surveyors. He said there were three great lies in life: my cheque is in the mail, I’ll love you in the morning and I'm from the Council and I'm here to help.

Nick was short on sensitivity and didn't get the idea that people who choose to work in local government really do think they're here to help. We understand that because we see countless daily examples of competent, caring and ethical professionals working across New South Wales protecting the health, environmental and development interests of their local communities. And so do you.

But it's timely to provide a reminder of the view we regularly publish than when it comes to the discretionary area of pecuniary interest declarations, we think it makes sense to declare everything. Coffees, lunches, whatever. It doesn't really matter what the Council wants you to declare (because Codes of Conduct are dynamic documents that sometimes lag behind community and public perceptions) and it doesn't really matter if people think you are being a bit extreme declaring a sandwich, it's all about risk management.

But the immediate observation has to be the double-standards. While the reformers and critics of local government want it to be more like the private sector, the ICAC wants standards of propriety that would bring the private sector (and private certifiers’ businesses) to a grinding halt.

It's not just local government exposed at Wollongong. Political relationships between one ex-staff member at Wollongong and the ALP and the NSW Government ensured that questions are being asked about many others as well. Coinciding with the murkiness at Wollongong are the revelations about contributions by developers to political parties and who pays what to have dinner with whom.

The ALP is the principal recipient and our memory extends back far enough to recall that at the time developers got the right to buy their own private certifiers from Craig Knowles, developers were the largest contributions to the NSW Branch of the ALP. Funny about that.

$5,100 seems a lot to pay to have lunch with Planning Minister Frank Sartor. We know it was a fundraiser and all that, and a fairly common way of political parties doing business, and we also know that Frank is great company, a raconteur and storyteller but, depa has found that the Minister also responds favourably to a carefully worded letter.

While there were a few members who thought our January letter was a bit sub-professional there were even more members who thought that our language was far too temperate and polite. Suffice to say, it's hard to get Ministers of the Crown to pay attention to anything you want to say these days and our letter clearly worked.

A full and frank (if you'll pardon the expression) disclosure of views took place and the time with the Minister at least allowed him to understand our irritation at his unfounded allegations about Council staff, our concerns about the expansion of private certification and our worry that the concept of consultation with the community was really a hoax. Frank really didn't care about the letter, won't apologise - although understood why we were distressed, and invited us to participate in this Working Party. Total cost to depa, one $10 taxi. Okay, it's now out in the open.

The letter is temporarily removed from the website as a sign of good faith. Before it was removed, however, it created a record for the site. Many, many more hits than we have members and, as far as the Local Government and Shires Association is concerned, probably the best thing we have ever done.

But there is no shaking the Minister's conviction and we should prepare ourselves for the worst.


Robbo's Pearls...

LGS restores uranium nuclear screening

26 April marks 31 years since the largest nuclear energy disaster in history at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine. The disaster contaminated a huge area of the Ukraine, now known as the Chernobyl exclusion zone covering around 2600 km². The public are excluded from the area, both flora and fauna are contaminated forever and there has been significant animal, fish and human birth abnormalities and deformities. And the area is contaminated forever.

The disaster highlighted the significant risk associated with nuclear energy - as if it needed to be highlighted.

LGS has always taken the concept of responsible and sustainable investment more seriously than the rest of Australia’s superannuation funds - since 2000 when the fund decided not to own tobacco and to develop screening arrangements to reduce investment in nuclear/uranium, businesses with poor forestry practices (like Gunns), gambling etc. etc.

These screening practices have won LGS many accolades from responsible investment organisations, including being ranked number one in the world in the prestigious and authoritative Asset Owners Disclosure Project, twice.

But, despite my reluctance to personalise these issues, pretty much as soon as I had resigned as a director on the LGS Board after 16 years of primary responsibility for the introduction of these responsible investment commitments, a couple of pro-nuclear zealots on the Board thought it made sense to dismantle the Board’s historic screening against uranium and nuclear industries because of the stupid and misconceived understanding that nuclear energy did not produce carbon emissions. Stupid bastards.

We never let go of this, placing a clock on our homepage so that the world could see how many days it had been since that stupid decision was made back in September 2014. It would be a timely reminder of the decision and a constant nagging of the stupid bastards to recognise that the advice they had at the time was right - that there would be no investment advantage and that there would only be reputational damage.

LGS has now announced that the uranium/nuclear screening will be restored. Here is their media release. You will note that it doesn’t say that they should have taken advice from their own investment people at the time, they shouldn’t have behaved like a group of single-issue Montgomery Burns, that seeing nuclear technology as a solution for a low carbon future was one-dimensional thinking at its worst - like thinking that a mass murderer might be okay if they were good-looking and had nice manners. A little bit simplistic and wrong-headed. Stupid bastards.

But, good for them for acknowledging their folly and repairing the damage.

A wasted 965 days, more than two and a half years where people scratched their heads and wondered what kind of loonies had taken over the Board.

Our representative on the Board after the decision had been made, Sam Byrne, pursued this but the decision to restore the screening was a unanimous vote, so clearly everyone had come around to recognise that it was a mistake to remove it. Nice work. There may be a few stupid bastards still involved, but at least they’ve done this.

And we’ve decided to announce this on the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. Just to remind us that nuclear technology is not a viable energy source for a low carbon future when there are so many other renewable energy sources without the disadvantages or risks.

As the Chernobyl disaster happened at 1:24am in the Ukraine (seven hours behind Sydney time) on 26 April, the clock was removed from our homepage at that time.

And in a bit of a scoop and brilliant news for the historic and now reinstated commitment to responsible and sustainable investment, LGS was today announced as the top rated International fund (from a field of 600 institutional investors) in the prestigious and authoritative Asset Owners Disclosure Project.

This means that LGS is, without any doubt, the leading responsible and sustainable investment fund in Australia and it's a fabulous result for the commitment of the recently resigned CEO Peter Lambert who has ensured over more than a decade that the resolve of the Board to do precisely that, has been delivered.

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