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Autumn 2021 Newsletter

Friend how connected do you feel to your Local Government?

The decisions your Council makes have real impacts on the quality of your neighbourhood, the taxes you pay, and the standard of services delivered to you.

My mission for nearly five years has been to engage and inform you about Council’s decision making. As a Hawkesbury City Councillor and as a member of the Hawkesbury Liberal Team, I’ve worked to address big questions and explain complex issues through my website, and the best way to get regular updates is to follow me on my Facebook page.

I hope these occasional email newsletters are helpful.
I invite you get in touch with me on any subject.
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The Hawkesbury Floods

Tebbuts Observatory in flood, March 2021
Some times it must feel like our community can't cop a trick. Devastating fires, pandemic and two floods, all within a 16 month period.

Out of the distress and destruction of property has arisen the real spirit of our local community, which has rallied magnificently. It's the Hawkesbury way.

It has also brought the debate about how we should reduce the risks of flooding sharply back into focus.

The plan to raise Warragamba dam is about the safety of our community – the 134,000 people who live and trade on the Hawkesbury-Nepean floodplain.

Over the last fortnight I have stood with many people who have lost their homes and possessions because of inaction in the 1990s, when there was a plan to raise the dam by 23m. If the dam had been raised then, this flood could have been lower by many meters, saving homes and businesses.

It's time we had a sober conversation about balancing the value of ecology upstream from the dam, with the threat to life and property downstream, and a potential damage bill of $7-$10 billion.
ABC 7.30 report thumbnail

A big win for local residents

After nearly five years of banging on about the shocking state of our local roads, I was very pleased at a recent Council to be able to negotiate additional funding to FINALLY SEAL Old Stock Route Road and Brennans Dam Road at Vineyard.

Most of this is new money, and was absolutely not on the table before.

Further, the funding Council approved preserves $694,000 for a variety of footpath improvements across the city.

Is your energy retailer denying you a smart meter?

In October 2014, the NSW Government announced a rollout of Smart Meters for all NSW homes and businesses. With a Smart Meter, you can monitor your energy consumption using a smart phone app on a much more granular level.

Seven years on, the rollout is far from complete, and this market-based approach has resulted some of our larger electricity retailers dropping the ball badly – and I'm singling out the largest, Origin Energy for criticism.

Overseas, the UK, EU and China are well along in their rollouts, and even Victoria completed their rollout to all houses a decade ago. NSW is behind the curve, and this isn't good enough.

I badgered Origin to give me the free Smart Meter the scheme promised 7 years ago, and they grudgingly did so as a one off.

The precedent neatly set, watch this video to see how you can demand the same. Yes, they probably will be annoyed, but it's time they did the right thing.

Sending a strong message about inappropriate development at Kurrajong and Kurmond

At Council's meeting in late February, I supported a motion to end the ‘Kurrajong-Kurmond investigation area’ process.

I believe the proposed rezoning and 'Structure Plan' would have encouraged the lodgement of further subdivision proposals.

The motion Council passed abandons either rezoning or the Structure Plan, adding that Council 'Not encourage the lodgement of additional individual Planning Proposals within the Kurmond- Kurrajong Investigation Area for rural residential development.'

The motion ensures already-lodged planning proposals will be granted due-process, and continue to be assessed against relevant criteria.

A 2017 survey of Kurrajong and Kurmond residents showed that only 32% of residents supported developing the whole investigation area.

Extraordinarily, the Greens and Independent Councillors voted not only to adopt the structure plan, but to have Council prepare a planning proposal to rezone the land identified in the plan.

Hawkesbury-Nepean River suffers as HRCC endures cut to funding

As the Chairman of the Hawkesbury River County Council, I believe Hawkesbury residents get great value out of our association with it, which goes back to the HRCC's founding in 1948. HRCC looks after the health of our waterways. Ratepayers from the four member Councils (Hawkesbury, Hills, Penrith and Blacktown) contribute around 50% of its operational costs, and the rest comes from a variety of State and Federal grants.

People are entitled to expect these tiers of government will work together. For example, we benefited from $130,000 of Federal money after our 'Weedasaurus', pictured above, pulled its mooring and sank near Penrith weir in the flood of 2020. The grant allowed us to salvage, repair and recommission the asset.

Then, suddenly in November, the State Government pulled our operational funding to the tune of $238,000, so that Federal money has effectively been wasted. This is disappointing and frustrating.

The health of the Hawkesbury-Nepean river should be front and centre, especially in the light of the more recent floods, and HRCC has a crucial part to play.

I am calling on the State Agriculture Minister, Adam Marshall, to intervene.

Hawkesbury's Local Housing Strategy and the pressure for development

Hawkesbury Residential Strategy speech
Recently, Hawkesbury City Council adopted our long-awaited Local Housing Strategy.

This document sets out how we will meet our housing targets over a timeframe of several decades.

Although this has implications for our whole city, the Liberal Councillors felt it was important to address a gap in the document.

The south eastern part of our City – the suburbs of Vineyard, Oakville and Maraylya, sit adjacent to some very aggressive urban growth. The ‘North Western Growth Sector’ is breathing down our neck across the county line in the Hills District, and has spilled into our own patch as the release areas named ‘Vineyard Stage 1 and Stage 2’

This pressure is tearing our community apart. Some are in favour of development, many against.

The one thing we can’t do is… nothing. I was disappointed that the Housing Strategy document said little about either the necessity, desirability, inevitability or show-stopping constraints of future development, other than remarking that the not-yet-finally-gazetted Outer Sydney Orbital corridor will continue to hang over us until that matter is definitely resolved.

I have strong opinions about this, but they matter less than seeking to understand what the majority view in those suburbs truly is. Some individuals or groups might claim to represent a clear majority, but I don’t think they do. I have a responsibility to represent all those views, and I take that seriously.

So, we moved a form of words that sought to survey and consult with the residents of Oakville and Maraylya to ask them what they wanted. Nothing more. Certainly not a decision to develop or not.

Your Liberal Councillors voted for that consultation. All the others, including Labor and the Greens, voted against it.

Interview with Garry Cotter, Hawkesbury Radio

Interview thumbnail with badge
Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down with Garry Cotter at Hawkesbury Radio 899 to talk about a wide range of issues.

The fate of a concrete recycling plant continues to be of concern to residents of Ebenezer, and I had an update concerning an upcoming planning panel meeting, along with remarks about the deficiencies of Planning Panels generally.

As a member of Council's Civics committee, I congratulated our Australia Day award winners. I put on my hat as the Chairman of the Hawkesbury River County Council and raised a concern that key aquatic weed control activities are at threat because of a bad funding decision by the NSW Government.

I spoke about some very recent changes to a proposed 580 lot subdivision at the Jacaranda site (off Kurmond Road at Glossodia).

Finally, I spoke about the ongoing pressure for development in the Oakville, Vineyard and Maraylya areas, and efforts I've made to consult with that community.

Facebook and the survival of rational democracy

Recently, a lot of pages you may rely on to get your news went dark on Facebook – part of wrangling with the Federal Government over who pays for content.
For many people, it's the main way they keep informed. But with social platforms only making belated and cosmetic efforts to remove inflammatory and misleading content, if there's suddenly no professional journalism or fact checking in people's feeds, then what's left?

That's right. Facebook becomes even more of a sewer. Less fact, and more garbage.

Maybe the Government's proposed Media Bargaining Code isn't the right solution, but even so, they have picked the right fight.

Because in our system of open democracy, the role of a free and viable Press serves a critical role to hold the powerful to account. It provides us with a shared sense-making apparatus... it helps us parse truth from flim-flam, scare-mongering and misinformation.

I address many other matters on my website and Facebook page.

Be informed. Follow me for updates.

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