Leaving aside the dismantling of community participation and certainty under the guise of planning reform, the NSW Government has already announced five separate investigations into local government and last week we received an invitation to participate in a “Council by Council audit of the existing infrastructure backlog in NSW”. That makes six. That’s a lot of activity and introspection.

It’s always nice to be invited to participate. No one wants to be the only person in the office left off an invitation list to a party or a wedding or whatever, but we are increasingly getting to the stage that it’s a relief to already have an appointment at the designated time and have an excuse not to attend. Having to wash our hair sometimes isn’t good enough.

Everyone has noticed that the Dubbo talkfest known as Destination 2036, with its Working Parties flailing around trying to create efficient structures while at the same time avoiding amalgamations, is now being stared down by the Independent Review Panel which is starting with a blank sheet of paper and looking at amalgamations - amongst other options.

And the Acts Review, including reviewing the employment provisions of the 1993 Act, overlaps with the Review of the Standard Contracts for GMs and Senior Staff.

Here is a quick summary of where we are with the five reviews:

The September local government elections changed the political complexion of many councils and in the Hunter has delivered up a bunch of deniers of climate science and developers. Partially the responsibility of the unattractiveness of NSW Labor, voters have clearly wanted change.

But voters do need to be careful about what they wish for. Winston Churchill famously observed that “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter” and looking at Newcastle and Wyong, it’s hard to argue.

 The new Lord Mayor of Newcastle is a property developer, Jeff McCloy. Councillor McCloy is a significant and accomplished developer in Newcastle and will now preside over a Council making judgements about his own applications. Employees of the Council would need to seek the general manager’s approval under section 353 of the Local Government Act for anything that conflicted with their Council responsibilities and we assume the Councillor McCloy will make his conflicts public and manage them well.

But unfortunately he comes with some embarrassing baggage. A denier of the science of climate change, on 6 March the Sydney Morning Herald quoted him as contemplating leading a class action suit against Lake Macquarie City Council for “falling for this unjustified, worldwide idiocy about sea level rises”. That would be the projections done by the CSIRO based on econometric analysis of decades of climate data.

And, as a man prepared to put his money where his mouth is, he convened a public meeting of discredited critics of the science like mining company director and University of Adelaide geologist Professor Ian Plimer to preach to those who also don’t want to accept the science. A Professor of geology talking about a different area of science in which he has no expertise or credibility is like going to a dentist or a knee surgeon if you have a problem with your brain.

Anyway, no such class action has begun and Lake Macquarie is not the only Council dealing with new councillors who want to allow people to build on flood prone land and in areas where the science says there will be tidal inundation.

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