Warragamba Dam in 1960

Hawkesbury Council should support the raising of Warragamba Dam

Warragamba Dam in 1960
Warragamba Dam in 1960

Update: The result of the motion I put to Council is recounted here.

Only last year, we commemorated the 150th anniversary of the worst flood since European settlement in the Hawkesbury district. We were reminded that, back in June 1867, an inland sea of swirling detritus 30km wide stretched from Riverstone to the foot of the Blue Mountains --  the result of only four days of rain. The survivors in Windsor inhabited a shrinking island, huddled in St Matthews Church. Wearily, they grieved over the news of the drowning of 12 members from the one family, the Eathers, barely a mile away at Cornwallis. Past the mouth of the river, the beaches from Barrenjoey to Long Reef were black with uprooted trees and bloated livestock. Of course, many of the dead were never found.

Many people are unaware that the construction of Warragamba Dam in 1960 confers little in the way of flood protection to the communities downstream. The whole capacity of the dam is for drinking water storage. In the event of a rain event, there is no "buffer" to absorb flood waters in the dam and moderate its release, reducing the frequency and severity of flooding on the floodplain.

Recognising this, there have been thwarted plans to augment Warragamba since the 1980s by raising the dam wall, and we should welcome the State Government's June 2016 commitment to a $700 million program to finally raise the dam by another 14 meters, giving it that crucial buffer. It is clear that the Hawkesbury Council, representing the community most at risk from flooding, should support this new initiative. I have been advocating and writing about this for many years.

To date, Council has not availed itself of the opportunity to express this support, and it would be timely for it to do so in the face of well intended but misguided opposition from environmentalists.

Thus, I and my fellow Liberal Councillors are bringing a Notice of Motion before the chamber next Tuesday to invite my colleagues to show their support for this measure which will protect your life and property against the rare but potentially catastrophic effects of a bad flood. I will have more to say on this soon.

ORD_APR1_2018_BP_NOM(WarragambaDam)

Hawkesbury City Councillor Zamprogno interviewed on Hawkesbury Radio on corridor reservations

I was pleased to be invited by Gary Cotter from Hawkesbury Radio today and talk to him about the State Government's announcements of land reservations for both the Castlereagh corridor (Bells Line of Road) and the Outer Sydney Orbital (M9) corridor.

Both these announcements may have substantial impacts on the Hawkesbury. On the one hand, governments should be praised for forward, generational thinking. On the other hand, their claim that the chosen locations were based on extensive community consultation is completely false.

Listen along to the interview (<14min) and tell me what you think. There will be much more to say about this soon!

https://soundcloud.com/nathan-zamprogno/nathans-hawkesbury-radio-interview


Appearing on the ABC News about raising Warragamba Dam

I was pleased to be interviewed by the ABC today on the proposal to raise Warragamba Dam. This project will mitigate against the frequency and severity of floods in the Hawkesbury, and will save life and property.

I'll have much more to say about this soon. Stay tuned.


"Clean up Australia" Day in the Hawkesbury

Tomorrow is "Clean up Australia" day around the country, and there are many ways you can pitch in and help keep our area looking spic and span.

Sunday 4th March 2018 is the main event, and a complete list of sites around the Hawkesbury where you can make a difference are here.

This morning, as a curtain raiser, I was helping members of the Pitt Town Progress Association help clean up rubbish polluting Bardanarang Creek under the Friendship Bridge on Pitt Town Bottoms Road. I identified this site as in need of an urgent clean-up when Councillors toured Pitt Town with the Progress Association back in August, and I have worked with the Association to have Council resources assist in the cleanup. I also initiated getting the County Council out to deal with an infestation of Balloon Vine on the banks of the creek, which happened back in September.

Friendship Bridge is a significant historic site, as it represents the place where Governor Phillip first encountered Aboriginals from this area in 1791.  A plaque commemorating the meeting lays nearby, and a piece of trivia that I love is that the bronze casting of two arms clasped in friendship includes that of our much missed and late Mayor, Dr Rex Stubbs.

Among the items we dragged out of the creek were dozens of tyres, an engine block, a 4-burner BBQ, two mattresses, a bong, ladies lingerie, and two sex toys. Yuk.

Tyres, metal and other debris polluting the creek.
Some of the rubbish fished out of the creek
A four-burner BBQ was part of the haul. Who dumps stuff like this?
The plaque commemorating the first meeting between Europeans the local aboriginal people.

 

 


Get involved in the good work of bush regeneration in the Hawkesbury

Our local Landcare groups and their volunteers do a magnificent job around our district. The Hawkesbury Landcare Network will be running bush regeneration weekends on the weekends of March 10-11 and April 14-15 targeting Scheyville National Park, Cattai and Mitchell Park. New volunteers are always welcome.

As a reward for the work, guided bush walk tours will be carried out with local experts, followed by a fully catered dinner, and, in the evening, you can spotlight to see the threatened Yellow bellied Glider, found in the old growth trees of Mitchell Park (pictured).

Let me commend the good work of Landcare, the Hawkesbury Environment Network (HEN), and the Hawkesbury River County Council (HRCC) for what they do to keep our bushland healthy.

Details about the bush regeneration weekend are available at the link below:

Mitchell Park WWW_feb 2018

(Right click HERE to download the PDF directly)


Hawkesbury Council chamber

Hawkesbury Council gets 2018 underway with a bang

After the unqualified success of Hawkesbury's Australia Day celebrations down by the river, the first Hawkesbury Council meeting of 2018 occurred on Tuesday night and went from 6:30pm and until well after 1am. A number of issues of consequence to local residents were on the agenda.

Thankfully, now that Council is "podcasting" its meetings (a move I pushed for and endorsed), I can bring you the audio of my contributions as part of my summary in an effort to remain accountable to you.

The Special Rate Variation

Firstly, a Mayoral Minute on the question of the >30% rate-hike our Labor-Greens dominated Council is applying for, was debated. I took exception to a proposal to use ratepayer's money for Council to seek to mail out a political "fact sheet" on the SRV when some of those facts are in dispute. I pointed out that the depth of feeling in suburbs like Oakville arise because, when you do an analysis of rates paid suburb by suburb (something I distilled from the raw data provided by Council staff -- a spreadsheet with over 24,000 rows in it), it reveals that some suburbs are carrying as much as 271% of the rating burden compared to other suburbs. The analysis is based on the total rates collected divided into the number of residences in each suburb. The system implemented by the previous Liberal Council in 2013 was far fairer than the system now in place. If the Liberals are re-elected to govern in 2020, I and my Liberal colleagues commit ourselves to fixing this problem.

A chart of Hawkesbury rates. Click for a larger version

Those of you who wish to see the spreadsheet containing this analysis can click Suburb Analysis of Hawkesbury Rates 2016-2018.

My remarks to the Chamber are here, followed by those of my Liberal colleagues (@ 13m24s, if the link starts the audio at the beginning rather than at the right time-index):

https://soundcloud.com/user-423594224/5-item-003-mm3-special-rate#t=13:24

I will shortly have more to say about rates in a future post.

A new child-care centre in Oakville

Last August, Council received a development application for the construction of a new child-care centre in Smith Road at Oakville. Although generally welcoming of the provision of services like this to the Hawkesbury, I called for the application to be deferred due to a lack of parking, the proximity of the building to a neighbour's fence, and the issues related to outdoor play, noise,  and traffic control on the street outside.

In this case, the deferral allowed the applicant, Council planning staff and concerned near neighbours to come together and  address those concerns. The revised application represented a real improvement; the development is now  more centrally located on the applicant's land,  and I was happy to move the recommendation to approve the development.

Here are my remarks (@15m24s):

https://soundcloud.com/user-423594224/6-item-005-da0107-17-child-1#t=15:24

 

More haggling over Windsor Bridge

People frequently ask me about my opinions on the current project, now well advanced, to replace Windsor bridge with a new structure. And my answer is "It's complicated".

My mixed feelings arise from an awareness that the last bridge was built in 1874, If we only make this kind of decision every 144 years, then we have a solemn obligation to future generations to get it right. It disappoints me that we are spending close to $100 million on a project that condemns another century of heavy traffic to travel through a historic square. It is significant that both the Labor and Liberal tickets to the last Council election supported an additional crossing of the river (whether that is termed a "bypass" or not is immaterial) as a major infrastructure priority.
So: I hope that this bridge will be built soon... and elsewhere.

However, as a local government Councillor, I have to recognise that this is a State government matter. I wish that the State government would re-think its current plan in favour of new bridge at a different location that will be regarded as more visionary by our descendants, but I also recognise that local residents should not wait another decade or more for an alternative that isn't planned or budgeted for, and for which there is presently no political will.  If you're stuck in the endless Windsor traffic bottleneck morning or evening, my sympathies are with you. There has already been too much delay.

I neither completely buy into the histrionic rhetoric of CAWB when they say that the plan represents the "rape" of Thompson square, nor the agitprop of the RMS, whose estimations of the improvement to traffic flow are at best suspect. A new bridge in this location will make some improvement to traffic, but in terms of cost-benefit, it's a very poor substitute for a bypass, which could cost only a little more.

However, the only solution that has money on the table now, that has planning well advanced, and which stands any chance of being concluded within this decade, is the present one. No other funded plan exists, even on a napkin. I think this is a point the detractors of the project ignore. How much longer would the community have to wait if the whole process had to be started over? And that is why, with these misgivings, I have consistently supported the construction of the new Windsor bridge whenever the matter has come before us.

So where does that leave Hawkesbury Council? We are not the consent authority for the bridge. Our opinion is, in the scheme of things, not as important as some of my colleagues' egos think it should be. Our responsibility is for the built environment that will be ours to manage after the construction finishes. This includes having a constructive role in consulting over the fabric and layout of the public spaces; the lighting, footpaths, street furniture, heritage interpretation, plantings, signage, public access and amenity, and so on. It disappoints me that some of my colleagues, having sought election precisely to be immersed in this issue, have instead fouled the efforts that have been made to permit the best outcome to be achieved. They repeatedly stick their fingers in their ears and think that saying "No" to everything will make the problem go away. It won't.

The case in point last Tuesday was the RMS plan to retain the first span of the old bridge as a viewing platform after the new bridge is built, to act as a historical interpretive landmark. Regardless of your opinion of the overall project, if there has to be a new bridge, this is unarguably a way of enhancing the Thompson Square precinct. It's a great idea. And because this will ultimately become Council's responsibility, the RMS sought our concurrence for the plan. And what did the Councillors elected on the "Windsor Bridge protest platform " do?  Quibble, obstruct and dissemble. The annual maintenance cost for the static structure will be ~$5000p.a, and there is plenty of precedent for the RMS to pick up the tab for this -- small change on a $100M project. And yet every single vote on a necessary and practical aspect of the project that requires a clear indication of intent from Council to allow planning to proceed is instead diverted into a sterile debate on the whole bridge project. It's becoming tiresome.
Newsflash: The RMS knows what Council thinks. It doesn't need to repeat itself every five minutes.

My remarks to the chamber on this are here (@7 minutes in)

https://soundcloud.com/user-423594224/7-item-008-windsor-bridge#t=7:00

 

Unapproved Dwellings in the Hawkesbury

Here's a common story: Someone lives in a tiny fibro house on acreage in the Hawkesbury. At some point during the 1970s or 80s, they do as many did and build a bigger brick house on the same block, and move in. They go through the old fibro house and meticulously disconnect the water and electricity, and a council inspector certifies it as uninhabitable. There is no obligation to demolish the old structure. The inspector leaves; the owner carefully reconnects the utilities, and the kids (or a parent, or someone else) moves in. No one cares. Decades pass.

This story is common enough that I could drive you past half a dozen such "illegal" dwellings in Oakville alone. Because I have long been a supporter of detached-dual-occupancy, I've always been kind of pleased that this is one rule that Council turned a blind eye to. I've never spoken to the neighbour of such a property that was put out by such an arrangement; easy to understand when you're on enough land that your neighbours living arrangements don't disturb you. I'd be happy for this to continue.

But here's another story: Someone allows a friend in need to take up residence in a boat shed down by our river with a maximum flood risk. They aren't on anyone's census or the radar of emergency services, and then a natural disaster strikes. How many people need evacuating? From where? Manifestly, it will always be unwise to permit anyone to live in such a place, and if Council knew about it, it would have to discharge its duty of care to act.

How we deal with these two ends of the same demographic phenomenon is vexed, and I supported a call for a report to be brought to Council.

My remarks to the chamber are here (@2m50s):

https://soundcloud.com/user-423594224/13-item-019-nm4-unapproved#t=2:50

 


In Defence of Australia Day

Soon, we will be celebrating Australia Day. I want to spend a moment to reflect on why it truly is a day to celebrate what it is to be an Australian.

Celebrating Australia Day on the 26th of January is evolving beyond merely the day we remember the pioneers who came to a strange and challenging land, building prosperous and peaceable society which is now the envy of the world.

While it is true that these pioneers were mostly British, we now also inclusively recognise Australia’s migration success story, and our land’s original Aboriginal inhabitants. Take me, of mixed descent: British settlers and third fleet convicts on one side, Italian migrants on the other. They all came to a young nation seeking a better life, and they found it.

What they created is a nation with an uncanny ability to punch above its weight. How delightful that our national DNA valorises the idea of a fair go, or that we cheer for the underdog. How heartening that our patriotism rarely descends into jingoism, and that our national sensibility is grounded by a laconic wit, and an ability to laugh at ourselves and prick the egos of the self-important.

We deserve to be proud that Australians are a people who will always come to the aid of a friend. Australian soldiers, sea and airmen have laid it on the line to protect freedom and decency in the crucible of war, and we have paid with our dearest blood. We should be proud that our military prowess has not led us to glory in conquest, but instead in the four ANZAC virtues of courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice.

On Australia day we traditionally hold citizenship ceremonies to welcome our New Australians. Hawkesbury Council is pulling out all the stops this year to hold our biggest Australia day celebration ever, down at Governor Phillip park in Windsor. This is an important gesture of support for January 26th as our National Day. I hope you’ll join us.

Our message to these new Australians is this: If you work hard, respect our values, speak our language, and value your Aussieness over all other national, cultural or religious identities, we will welcome you in with open arms. The new Australian is as much an Australian as the first fleet descendent or the Aboriginal whose connection with the land covers millennia.

When my Italian grandfather, Lorenzo Zamprogno migrated from northern Italy at the cusp of the war, he understood that it was equally important to be proud both of where you came from, and where you are. That is why he founded the Marconi club in 1958 as an Australian-Italian friendship club. The club he helped found is now a $100 million sport and entertainment powerhouse. There can be no doubt that when we choose carefully, people from other parts of the world greatly enrich the Australian experience.

My grandfather’s experience exemplifies a great thing about Australia: The colour of your skin should not matter, or your accent or your creed or your preference.  Whether your mob came last year, or 40,000 years ago: There shouldn’t be a distinction between “first Australians” and then the rest of us. There’s just…. All of us. One big family. Equal, as Australians under the law. If you pitch in, and respect the remarkable legacy of our young nation, then this is objectively one of the best places, not only in the world, but in the history of the world, to live and prosper in peace.

I am unconcerned that the debate about Australia day is perennial. It will always means different things to different people. For me as a history teacher, I note that it is also the anniversary of Australia’s only armed overthrow of a government, the Rum Rebellion of 1808. As a politician, it’s a timely reminder that unpopular governments get kicked in the arse.

Celebrating Australia day does not imply that our nation, or any nation, is without faults. We recognise the deep and abiding connection of Australia’s first inhabitants to the land. But Australia day is about looking forward, not back, and it’s worth remembering that one of the things we celebrate is that one of our aspirations is to treat all people equally and with dignity. It is not a day to wallow in recrimination, cast accusations, or judge our forebears by the different standards of today.

Australia a youthful, peaceful, democratic, pluralist, secular, lawful, compassionate, innovative and good-humoured country. That is genuinely worth celebrating. And on Australia day, I give thanks that we live in such a place.


Podcasting of Council meetings

Hawkesbury Council chamber

Since I was elected, I have sought to improve the ways in which our Council engages with the wider community. Back in January, I seconded a motion brought by Clr. Rasmussen to look into what is called "podcasting" our Council meetings -- making the audio of what is said available on the Internet for those unable to attend on the night.

This seems to me to be an elementary way of improving our accountability to you, and as I explained to Councillors and staff, very easy to implement at low cost. Early estimates of the cost of such initiatives were ridiculous. We received a report from Council staff claiming that Webcasting (the next step up, including video streamed live) could cost over $43,000 a year! I have an app on my iPhone that can do it for free.

This reminds me of the time 16 years ago that I advocated that our Council record the votes of individual Councillors at meetings. I was told that this was either impractical, expensive or dangerous. I was told there was no provision in the Act, that it opened up Councillors to individual liability for what they said, or that it would impede the progress of meetings. A few years later and it was mandated as the law. Ahead of the curve, as usual. How times have changed!

As it is, Council have worked out that podcasting can cost only about $12 a month. And look, I have no illusions about whether a podcast of us pollies jabbering on represents gripping entertainment. It doesn't. Trust me; I'm there. But it does send a message about our responsibility to the community to be accountable, and for there to be a way for you to compare what we say when we seek election, and then the way we end up voting on your behalf. Sometimes, you just want to know what a Councillor said about a controversial issue, or a planning decision that affects you. And unless you're a political tragic that attends our run-until-midnight meetings, you can't. $12 a month seems money well spent in that case, and I encourage you to hold us to account.

So here's the link to Council's SoundCloud page where you can listen to and subscribe to the audio (which will be kept there for 12 months), and here's an example of an issue I spoke to at our first Podcasted meeting:

The State Government have proposed to implement IHAPS -- planning panels consisting of planning bureaucrats appointed by the Minister -- and usurp the role of democratically elected Councils in determining most DA's on planning matters worth more than a few million dollars. This has occurred because of genuine corruption in other Council's planning processes, but my view is that it is improper to apply this punitive remedy to so many other Councils not suffering from that disfunction.

I am pleased to find myself in good company in holding this concern, and the Liberal-dominated Hills Shire Council has extended an invitation to join with them and other Councils in opposing IHAPS.

In the below clip, I state why I am supporting a Mayoral Minute on the subject. Why not have a listen to what I and the other Councillors are saying?

(If the below audio does not start at the right place, my contribution begins at 16minutes56seconds).

https://soundcloud.com/user-423594224/mayoral-minute-mp3?in=user-423594224/sets/ordinary-meeting-14-november#t=16:56


Is Sydney Full?

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald has declared "Sydneysiders in revolt over development as two-thirds declare the city is 'full'".
So what's my view? The common stereotype is that Liberal governments are pro development and left-of-centre governments are full of NIMBY greenies. The truth is not so simple. I sat up and took notice at this quote in the story:
"Significantly for the Coalition government, 61.7 per cent of Liberal supporters believe Sydney is full, 28 per cent are in favour of more development and 10.4 per cent are undecided."
I've been meditating on the incredible challenges that Sydney's urban sprawl has caused, and the legacy it will leave for the liveability of both greater Sydney and the Hawkesbury for future generations.
 
We are grappling with massive changes. Decades of poor planning, underinvestment in key infrastructure, and the pressures of increasing population are causing the slow erosion of many values that Hawkesbury residents consistently put at the top of their list as making our area special. Open space, continued use of land for agriculture, recreation and habitat, and the ability to both live and work within a reasonable distance of one another.
 
What is an elected Liberal Councillor to make of this tension? On the one hand, I applaud the State government for getting on with the job of building the railways, roads and bridges we should have had in Sydney a decade ago. To those inclined to a short memory, I am happy to remind people I talk to that 16 years of Labor government came with complete stagnation in infrastructure. Projects announced, reannounced, then renounced and quietly abandoned. Minister after Minister disgraced, sacked and imprisoned for pederasty, greed and fraud. Do we really want to go back to that?
And on the other, the rapacious consumption of the last fragments of open space left in the Sydney basin is something I oppose completely. If the survey results reported above are true, a clear majority of Liberal voters agree with me. Studies like Sydney Food Futures tell us that, due to the pressures of urban sprawl, over 30,000 tonnes per year of food production in the Hawkesbury may be lost by 2031, and 400,000 tonnes p.a of lost food production across the Sydney basin. We would be foolish to permit that. But to quote the Lorax, who speaks for the trees?

To those who may remonstrate with me, my question is this: So when are we "done" with development? At what threshold, even in theory, would we say "this represents overdevelopment" in Sydney, when other cities in NSW are crying out for growth and investment? When, as the article bluntly poses the question, is Sydney "Full"? As a teacher, I've looked at this with my students, and I focused a unit of study on population around Dick Smith's excellent documentary The Population Puzzle. It's required viewing for anyone genuinely concerned about this issue.

As a local government representative, it concerns me that our ability to even contribute to that debate on your behalf  is slowly being eroded by an increasing centralisation of planning controls, gravitating towards the Planning minister and panels of unelected bureaucrats. Many decisions that Councils used to make are being taken out of our hands. The reduction in local democracy is alarming.

Yet, my Liberal colleagues counter,  this is because the decisions that many Councils make, including our own, are grossly inconsistent with the established planning guidelines. The substantial time and money invested by people seeking permission to do, legally, what they ought to be able to do with their land is subjected to the caprice and thought-bubbles of quixotic Councillors. Some of the decisions taken by our Council in the last year baffle me. Regretfully, the rank situation in Councils like Auburn, where developer Sam Mehajer brought the whole process of local government into disrepute, has caused all Councils, including our own, to be tarred with the same brush, and to be subjected to the same extreme corrective measures.

Again, both views represent facets of a larger truth.

I'm thinking and reading deeply on this matter and will have more to say in the future. In the meantime, I want to know what you think. Please let me know in the comments.

Hawkesbury landowners get extended deadline for review of their land value

"In this episode, a climactic meeting with the Valuer General, plans to secede from the Hawkesbury, and a ray of hope for people who have endured massive rate rises, but only if you act now.

In my last video I described how thousands of Hawkesbury ratepayers have been hit with a big rise in their Council rates. I described how the 23% of our landowners whose rates have gone up, are now paying 35% of Council rates, and how that just isn’t fair.

I explained how the biggest part of that rise came from changes to land value as calculated by the Valuer General. An important development has occurred recently that you need to know about.

Hosted by Council, a representative from the Valuer General’s office came to a very well attended meeting at the Windsor Function Centre on August 30th.

Present were hundreds of angry ratepayers, stung by the rise in their rates, and who generally had not availed themselves of the opportunity to apply for a review of their excessive land valuation before the 60 day cutoff – the period that began after everyone received their valuations earlier this year.

At that meeting, the Valuer General made two concessions. The first is that Hawkesbury Residents have now had the deadline extended, and they can apply for a review of their land valuations until the end of September 2017.

If you live in the Hawkesbury and your rates have gone up, I strongly suggest that you apply to ask for a review of your land valuation.

The details of how to do that are at the link on the Valuer General’s website.  My hope is that if enough people do this, some pressure can be brought to bear.

The second concession was that no landowner asking for a review in this round will have their land valuation put up. This is important because when you ask for a review, it could go down or up, and this makes the process of asking for a review a no-risk proposition.

However, unless you cite the right reasons, your application for a review may fail.
“I don’t like this” or “I’m on fixed income and can’t afford to pay” aren’t likely to get much traction, even if they’re true.

As I see it, there are three grounds for review, especially if you live in the Oakville, Maraylya, or Vineyard area.
The first is that real-estate values are being distorted by adjacent development caused by the North West Growth Sector.
Of course, one riposte may be that, even so, they are current the real-estate sales values, and that the Valuer General’s is merely applying their formula, and that’s that.

However, residents attending the meeting at Windsor were alarmed to find that only around ten sales in the area were used to define the values for the whole suburb, which is over 1200 properties in Oakville, Maraylya and Vineyard. This sample space is too small to be representative. Similar properties are grouped together into statistical units called Components. Nearby components separate to the Oakville component are cheaper, despite both containing acreage properties with similar aspects and uses. In my opinion, the Valuer General’s methodology is flawed.

My second concern is that land value should be reflective of what people can do with it. This instructive video from the Valuer General acknowledges that things like whether the land is sloped, or has an ocean view, has good soil, or is subdividable, all affect land value. Overwhelmingly, your land that has risen in value so sharply can only be put to the same use that it could be put a year ago, and no subdivision is in prospect. The Valuation of Land Act states that land must be valued according to its “highest and best permitted use”. But what happens when land is bought, at inflated prices, on the basis of speculation that it will be rezoned in the future for a different purpose?
The Valuer General should be prudent enough to mitigate against the effects of speculation in the market.

The third concern is that the Valuer General should acknowledge that changes as severe and rapid as this are socially and politically intolerable.
When you think about it, there is some precedent here. Look at what happened with the recent Fire and Emergency Services Levy.


You will recall this was introduced with great fanfare by the State Government in December 2015, only to be withdrawn in July this year, precisely because the government’s modelling was flawed. When it came out that the change in tax to many property-owners, based on land valuations from the Valuer General, were too steep, too unfair and too rapid, the whole program was put on hold.

Political intervention was justified there, and is here too, and for exactly the same reasons.
Your Liberal Councillors, including myself, have stood up for Hawkesbury residents on two fronts. To the degree that Council can affect change, we will continue to push for it, all the while continuing to bring these concerns before our State colleagues as well.

I’ll end by answering a remark I’ve heard at more than one community meeting. Ill-feeling is bad enough among some to suggest that parts of the Hawkesbury feeling this financial pain should secede from the Hawkesbury and apply to join the Hills Shire, or that the whole question of amalgamation between the Hawkesbury and the Hills be re-opened.

I’m not sure what you’d call that. Following the model of Brexit, should it be Hawkes-xit? Oaks-xit?

Frankly this is a nutty idea. Firstly, Hills Shire council never saw a development they didn’t like, and if you want the whole of the Hawkesbury to look like Rouse hill or Kellyville, then… please see your GP to change your medication.
Secondly, you would be no better off. The Hill’s rating structure is not so different to our own. To join the Hills Shire, where people may or may not eat their babies, would be at best a Faustian bargain that we would regret.

The Hawkesbury is a special place, and it deserves to stand on its own and determine its own destiny. I regard our corner of the world as a bulwark against the encroachment of what I call ant-hill Sydney. It is a valuable region of the greater Sydney area that is still most valuable for its amenity, open space, agriculture and heritage. If people can’t afford to live on acreage allotments because the rating structure is unfair, those on Council who have engineered this change might care to accept some of the blame when landowner’s thoughts turn to selling up to developers.