Good planning can add value and pleasure to people's lives and the well-being of communities. Bad planning can destroy lives and communities. The NSW Government is reviewing the 30-year-old planning system which, given the sad and unhappy context of recent experiences under the previous government - where it became a developers’ playground and where former Sydney Lord Mayor Frank Sartor (back in the day when we liked his pronouncements about planning and private certifiers) ridiculed the Land and Environment Court by referring to it as the Land and Developers’ Court – is not before time.

The previous Government became notorious for removing planning powers from councils for "state significant projects" and the gradual decline in the quality of our built environment accelerated. We applauded the incoming State Government for the immediate removal of the infamous Part 3A. And we happily accepted the opportunity to have some time with Tim Moore and Ron Dyer who started the "clean sheet of paper" review.

It's not just Maria and the von Trapp family who understand that it makes sense to begin at the beginning and, as the plucky Maria sang, "it begins with doe". We just hope it doesn't begin with “dough”. Developers have had it delivered to them on the plate for too long and it's time the needs of the community become the first priority.

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The Cooma-Monaro Post ran this headline on 18 July - as a lead into a story about a bloke called Andrew Thaler who had been thrown out of the July meeting of Cooma-Monaro Shire Council for not apologising for accusations levelled against Council staff at a previous meeting.

If we had a dollar for every ‘public nuisance’ not evicted from a Council meeting over the years for refusing to apologise to staff, or even a dollar for those comatose mayors, or deputy mayors, or even general managers who allowed allegations against staff to continue unchallenged, we could buy a coal mining lease from someone's mate in the Hunter.

We've railed against belligerent councillors and members of the public now for more than a decade and managed to extract apologies from most. Peter Hurst originally told us he would apologise to staff at Wagga Wagga but then reneged, we've had members with bans on councillors and others until apologies are extracted, and even members on strike.

Yes, the year is getting on and it won't be long now until December when we announce our awards for the worst HR in local government. Won by Bankstown and Taree in recent years, there are some new contenders already.

Lismore simply can't help themselves; Singleton has gone hard after we stopped them removing concession days just before Xmas last year; Lake Macquarie is afraid to manage relations between smart women, conducts partial and inadequate investigations and one bloke who should know better thinks it's clever to boast that he always measures low in emotional intelligence, so managing sheilas is a bit of a challenge for him; Richmond Valley is close to being a nominee.

The GM at Harden Shire has to be an early favourite for inviting himself to the meeting of the Consultative Committee (when ordinarily it is the Consultative Committee that does the inviting) and haranguing everyone into adopting the industry Alcohol and Other Drugs guidelines. Having the Consultative Committee involved in this process only really works if it is dealt with in the consultative way.

We survive because people join to be informed about what's going on, to have a say in advancing or in protecting conditions and as a form of insurance in a fairly hostile and unpredictable political and employment environment.

The insurance aspect is like insuring anything. You insure it in case you have an accident, or someone breaks into your house or it burns down and you know you can't ring up an insurer, tell them that you always meant to be insured and that you support insurance, pay for the next 12 months and then make a claim retrospectively. It would be unusual to think otherwise but sometimes we do see people wanting action on things that happened three years ago.

But people do join unions hoping that the union can do things for them that predate their membership. Whoops, I just got my third warning, or the grievance I filed myself has been rejected, I'll join the union for help.

We have been flexible about this. We are soft when it comes to helping people at work and we've been prepared in the past to have new members make a financial contribution equivalent to what might seem like a reasonable period of membership, sometimes two years for big issues, but no longer.

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