Minutes of the General Meeting held on Sunday 2nd February 2014

PRESENT: Paul Tuckerman, Barbara Mebberson, John Mebberson, Lyn Dark, Linda Cortie, Lynne Parker, Christine Hill, Gary Chapman, Chris Quine, Bronwyn Hutchison, Annette Jones, Stephen Spencer, Felix Bronneburg, Ross Dearden, Ron Hutchings, Peter Geekie, Peter Spencer, Catherine Philps, Murray Jones.

APOLOGIES: Ray Smith, Steve Spencer, Anne Price, Ian Backhouse, Susannah Cavill, Sylvia Wishart, Adrian Johnston, Miranda Johnston.

The General Meeting commenced at 4.20 pm.

The minutes of the previous meeting of the 27th of October were previously distributed via email and were read and accepted.

Mr Stephen Spencer spoke on behalf of the “Save our Services” Committee (SOS). The committee was formed at a meeting of the representatives of the combined neighbourhood forums to address Councils apparent preference for grandiose schemes like the Grand Pacific Walk, Gateway, Blue Mile and the Crown Street Mall at the cost of maintaining basic services.

Mr Spencer gave a detailed review of the recent history of Councils handling of this issue. This started with a statement to the press in May 2013 by the Councils General Manager, Mr Farmer about the parlous state of Council finances. This led to a call by Council for an independent review. A third party group was contracted to deliver this service. 34 people were chosen at random from the community to form a “Citizens Panel”. This group met four times in secret meetings to review the Councils balance sheet, especially in relation to services and to make suggestions back to Council. The product of this Citizens Panel was a three page report listing where savings could be made. This process appeared to be closely controlled with a pre-set agenda to only look at cuts to service.

On the Council meeting of the 9th of December 2013, the document was tabled and a two week period of review was set. This was seen by SOS as too short a period for an adequate review. The whole exercise was seen by SOS as a way Council could “tick the box” of public consultation as required for the IPART submission. IPART are the tribunal to which NSW Councils must apply for any rate rises above the normal cost of living increases. Public consultation is a pre-requisite for approval.

Mr. Spencer reported that the cost for the Crown Street Mall renovation has blown out from $10m to $20m, with similar issues with the Blue Mile improvements. SOS are concerned that similar cost increases from the Grand Pacific Walk will damage the Councils ability to deliver the basic services that are seen as essential for the citizens of Wollongong. SOS wants to see WCC placing greater emphasis on the delivery of services. SOS believes that an audit on Council Staff efficiency is required. Mr Spencer and Mr Bronneburg were thanked for their presentation by the meeting.

Murray gave an update on the progress of the Railway Station Waiting Shed. A local builder, John Van, has been asked to make a submission on the cost of repair to State Rail.

Progress on the old façade next to Bi-Lo was reported. Thanks to an engineering report prepared by Dick Hargrave, WCC have requested that the owners of the property demolish the façade as soon as practicable. Dick was on holidays from Melbourne and saw that the risk to public safety was similar to a recent tragic wall collapse in Melbourne. Dick completed this report voluntarily without prompting. Barbara Mebberson liaised with Council on this matter. The meeting approved a motion to send Dick a formal letter of thanks.

Shawn Prince delivered a detailed update on the progress of the Headlands Hotel development. Basically, the Stephens Group appear to be laying the ground work for a submission to the Land and Environment Court. It appears that they intend to use the DA from 2005 as a basis to seek approval to sell the serviced holiday apartments already approved for the site as residential apartments. At this stage, all we can do is support WCC in their efforts to stop this happening by writing to WCC before February 10.

Progress on the Website was discussed. Murray admitted that the delay was solely due to hold ups on his behalf and committed to ensuring that the site was operational before the next meeting.

The Graffiti group reported on their activities and were informally commended on their success in making a real difference to the appearance of Thirroul.

The Gardening group reported on progress. Barbara and Kay told of a surprise meeting with the General Manager of WCC, Mr Farmer whilst doing some much needed gardening in the proximity of the children’s playground at Thirroul Beach.

During General Business, the difficulty of negotiating the stop sign at the intersection of Lawrence Hargrave and Bulli Pass was discussed.

Next meeting was set down for Sunday ?(Paul, can you please advise) at 4.00pm Meeting closed at 6.00 pm.

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