• 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...

Farewell Ernie, thanks for everything

Ernie Page 18 February 1935 - 20 May 2018

Ernie Page was a comrade to me and depa and a friend of local government.  He was a community activist before the expression was invented, a councillor on Waverley Council for 15 years from 1962 to 1987 and Mayor for nine of those years, a member of the New South Wales Parliament representing the seat of Waverley from 1981 until 1991 when it was abolished, and then three more terms as member for Coogee.

Ernie was a lifelong member of the ALP, was active in his union the USU and was awarded life membership in recognition, was the Shadow Minister for Local Government for what seemed like forever and the Minister for Local Government from 1995 to 1999.  It was during this time he entrenched his position as a friend of depa, organised drinks in Parliament House for a freshly elected Committee of Management, regularly attended depa events, was always available for advice, assistance and to be lobbied, and was responsible as Minister for Local Government for establishing a consultative mechanism between Government and the local government unions and in the Five Year Review of the Local Government Act in 1998 recommended the removal of term contracts for senior staff - sadly, like some of Ernie’s best ideas, killed off by the conservatives in the Parliamentary Party and the Cabinet Office.

Ernie believed in and loved local government.  He knew how it worked, where it was deficient, where it should improve and what should be done to improve it.  And while appointed by Bob Carr as Minister in 1995, he was also removed by Carr in 1999 in one of his worst decisions. Ernie was furious and disappointed, privileging me to a call containing more C words than I thought humanly possible, and unchallenged by anything I’ve seen or heard before or after.
Thanks, Ernie.  At a time when we have little respect for our politicians, either State or in local government, that we don’t have more people devoting their working lives as assiduously, selflessly and honourably, as you did.

Mark Gollins
Well said Robbo. As a former both long term local resident and employee of Waverley Council I am saddened to learn of Ernie's passing. They don't make politicans like Ernie anymore. Always available to give advice or offer assistance, he was a man who worked tirelessly, openly and fairly not just for the local residents, but for the people of NSW.
My condolences to Ernie's family and friends

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