• 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

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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.

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Who is Peter Hurst? - depaNews August 2010


IRC acts to protect members at Wagga Wagga - and sets best practice model for all councils

At last, some proper recognition of a Council's duty of care when employees reputations are attacked

depa has had a long history of successfully acting to support members treated poorly by councillors behaving badly and/or local developers - Parramatta twice, Mudgee/Mid Western, Eurobodalla, Snowy River and Nambucca. Local government is a very easy target and no more so for professionals working in strategic planning and development control. After all, every application that draws objections will invariably end up with someone unhappy with someone else, often someone doing nothing more that discharging their obligations under a planning instrument or the BCA.

Everyone is familiar with local dissidents, loonies and others launching unwarranted attacks on staff in public or at council meetings or even the local press without employees having the opportunity to defend themselves - and the Council which employs them often reluctant to acknowledge that they have a duty of care to protect employees in the firing line.

But no longer.

Who is Peter Hurst and why is he so unkind?

Peter Hurst is a local builder of domestic dwellings in Wagga Wagga. He is also a local heavyweight in the Housing Industry Association and has taken a particular dislike to Wagga Wagga Council which, after a long period of being under-resourced and pretty relaxed about development standards, started to take the job seriously and discharge their obligations to the community under planning instruments.

So distressed that he thought it appropriate to lodge significant complaints against Council employees involved in the management of planning and development control and then to distribute that complaint as broadly as possible within the local community, anyone in Government who would listen and, aided and abetted by the local rag the Daily Advertiser, ran a vendetta against the Council.

We thought the investigation of the complaint took a little bit longer than we would have liked and we filed a dispute with the Industrial Relations Commission to both speed up the investigation and seek the Commission's assistance to remind the Council of its responsibilities to protect staff and their reputations against defamatory and slanderous claims made by people who thought they could do so with impunity.

In a significant precedent, Deputy President Grayson issued a Statement on 11 August after the Council had dismissed all of the allegations made by Mr Hurst. Amongst other things the Commission called for the Council to:

  • "obtain legal advice as to whether any employee has been defamed by any person and in particular by the complainant, Peter Hurst and the Wagga Wagga Daily Advertiser. And in relation to the Daily Advertiser in editorial and journalistic content and the publication of blogs and thereafter that the council take any legal action consistent with that advice."
  • "prepare a letter to the complainant, Mr Hurst, expressly rejecting the allegations made by the complainant in relation to personal gain, breaches of the Code of Conduct and alleged attempt to deceive by incorrectly reporting development applications." The Commission also recommended that agreement be reached between the Council and depa on the content and terms of that letter
  • hand-deliver the dismissal of the allegations to Mr Hurst and call for his apology in an agreed form "to be published as broadly as the allegations have been published by the complainant and that the complainant indicate genuine remorse and a commitment to develop better interpersonal relationships in the future"
  • to explore the publication of the letter dismissing the allegations "as broadly as possible in the local media and, in the absence of proper publication, be the subject of a paid advertisement, in particular in the aforementioned Daily Advertiser"
  • to convene a meeting "and extend invitations to the complainant, Mr Hurst, and other critical and/or hostile builders and developers in the City of Wagga Wagga, with a view to acknowledging the factual inaccuracies of the complaint and with a view to developing a positive civil and professional relationships for the future, with a further aim of securing an undertaking from the critics that the media campaign being waged against the Council is at an end."
  • "without delay, develop and implement a policy around its duty of care to employees and around its need within the employment relationship to protect them against personal and reputational damage in the future."
The Council has already had its lawyers write to the Dirty Advertiser to secure the removal of offensive material from their site and the lawyers are reviewing all relevant material to see if employees have been defamed and then to act on that advice.

Mr Hurst had the dismissal of his complaint hand-delivered but we are waiting for the apology requested in the Council’s letter.

This will be a measure of the man. We hope he will be big enough to acknowledge his mistakes, apologise appropriately and get on with the job. We will see.

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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