Looking at what was before the council it seemed this should have been a relatively short meeting. There were five pieces of business and two notices of motion.
But it quickly became clear that some of the pieces of business were more contentious than they appeared and the notices of motion led to all sorts of incivility. Most of this incivility has not been included in this report except at points where it became impossible to ignore or seemed to influence the debate.
I have tried my best to include all the issues and get as precise quotes as possible but due to the fact that recordings of the meetings are not allowed I have had to rely on my notes, which for this extensive meeting ran well into 15 pages.
- Public Addresses
- ORD01: Construction of a new childcare centre at 4 Raintree Way, Mt Annan
- ORD02: Amendment of planning policy for Willowdale Estate
- ORD03: Submission paper to the Western Sydney Rail Needs scoping study.
- ORD04: Tender for tree maintenance services.
- ORD05: Tender for Narellan Sports Hub — Stage 1 Construction.
- Notice of Motion 1: Pre-emptive motion for the council to oppose any attempts to privatise Camden and District Hospital.
- Notice of motion 2: Request for a report on how former administration buildings would be used and the costs involved.
Mt Annan childcare centre (support), Mr Jeff Mead: The first public address came from Mr Jeff Mead, the town planner of the applicant for a 120-child capacity childcare centre proposed at 4 Raintree Way, Mount Annan. He essentially reviewed the application, highlighted the changes that had been made in response to council staff requests and described how they had effectively dealt with neighbour concerns around noise. He finished by noting that the childcare centre was consistent with the zoning objectives and complied with council requirements.
Mt Annan childcare centre (oppose) Mr David Brady: The second address was by David Brady, a resident who lived beside the proposed childcare centre. While recognising that the centre complied with the zoning and thanking the applicant for the changes they have made, he still had some concerns.
The first concern was the opening time of 6am. He noted that the large Coles and car wash did not open before 7am. As his property ran the full length of the car park he was concerned that the 6am start time was too early and that parking could be become a problem leading to traffic issues. He also noted that such a large childcare centre may also be a detriment to those family day care businesses that had set up close by.
Privatisation of Camden and Districts Hospital, Prof Brad Frankum: Prof Frankum opened his statement, after listing his many positions, by saying that they were no plans to privatise Camden and Districts Hospital. He went on to say that the local area health service considered Campbeltown and Camden as one hospital on two sites. This, he said, allowed for the best quality of safety and care.
He then went on to describe the good works of the hospital and how it has expanded over time with 60 new beds planned, a new cardiac facility and substantial numbers of new staff in both facilities.
He said the planning for health services in this area is detailed and comprehensive and that Camden Hospital had an important role to play.
That concluded the three public addresses.
There were no mayoral minutes, so the council went straight down to business.
ORD01: Construction of a new childcare centre at 4 Raintree Way, Mt Annan.
Council officers recommended approval. Cr Rob Mills was excused from the council chambers due to a conflict of interest and did not take part in this debate.
Cr Sidgreaves opened the discussion by saying he supported the recommendation as the building was permissible under the zoning and complied.
Cr Cindy Cagney spoke against the recommendation. She had a number of concerns. They included:
- the amenity of the neighbourhood would be impacted substantially as it bordered on a residential area,
- the effect on local traffic in the morning
- the overdevelopment of the car parking area and the likely traffic problems.
Cr Eva Campbell had a few questions regarding the fence height, hedging plants and the size of the acoustic barrier between the car park and the fence. She was concerned about the opening time of 6am and asked if it was possible to include a condition that this opening time be trialled for a 12-month period and then be brought back to Council.
A council officer confirmed that such an amendment would be possible.
Cr Campbell was also concerned about how close the centre was to a residential area. She wanted to know if the childcare centre would be tested for its acoustic amenity when the occupancy rate was at 80% to confirm it meets standards. Council officers confirmed this would be the case and that it was part of the conditions.
Cr Campbell asked for this to be drawn to the attention of the local resident who had concerns about the centre so that he had recourse to come back to counsel if the condition was not met.
At this point, Cr Campbell said she would be prepared to accept the recommendation if the trial period for the 6am opening time could be added as an amendment.
Cr Theresa Fedeli asked if Cr Campbell would be happy if an amendment was made where the gates could not be opened until 6am. Cllr Campbell suggested this was an excellent idea, saying they would be some wiggle room in this and if the mover or seconder would be amenable to the 6am 12-month trial she would support the application.
Cr Sidgreave said he would happily support Cr Fedeli’s amendment but not Cr Campbell’s.
Cr Morrison as the seconder followed Cr Sidgreave’s lead.
The amendment by Cr Fedeli was added to the motion. Cr Campbell's was not.
The mayor, Cr Lara Symkowiak supported approval of the centre with the amendment. She said that she believed the childcare centre was important to the area and that it was unlikely that there would be an issue with the 6am opening as it would be unlikely that all the children would be dropped off at once.
She said that with the number of people commuting away from the area, the 6am starting time was particularly useful as there were few other centres, if any, that opened so early.
Cr Symkowiak said the centre was in keeping with the amenity of the neighbourhood. She also said the extended acoustic buffer and later assessment was an appropriate and considered response. She said she was confident the council could deal with any acoustic issues if they were brought back. The mayor concluded by saying this was a significant $2.4 million development that would employ 21 staff and provide an important service.
Cr Sidgreaves had the final right of reply and said the centre met the council requirements and had amended a number of things to make it more palatable. He said he was completely satisfied the requirements had met those standards.
He also suggested that not all children would be there at 6am and the traffic was likely to come from within Mount Annan and so would not have a significant impact on congestion.
The Centre was passed on the mayor’s casting vote. (Councillors Sidgreaves, Symkowiak, Fedeli and Morrison voted in favour of the Motion. Councillors Campbell, C Cagney, A Cagney and Farrow voted against the Motion. The motion was carried on the casting vote of the Mayor/Chairperson.)
Cr Rob Mills who was not in the chamber due to conflict of interest reasons returned to his seat.
ORD02: Amendment of planning policy for Willowdale Estate.
This related to the rezoning of two parcels of land, drainage and density zoning that actually reduced medium density housing in the estate by 22%.
This was a straightforward amendment and passed unanimously.
ORD03: Submission paper to the Western Sydney Rail Needs scoping study.
This submission looked at the best options for the rail network once the Western Sydney Airport has been opened. The two options suggested in the submission by council officers included an extension to the current Leppington line or an additional link between the south-western network from around Campbeltown and up through to Penrith.
The mayor noted the limited time the council had to make the submission and the importance of a corridor between Camden and Penrith to connect the major regional centres.
ORD04: Tender for tree maintenance services.
This was a fairly straightforward item of business. The tenders had come in and a local business, CPE Tree Services from Mount Hunter, had come in with the best price and deal.
Cr Fedeli said the company had scored well and had done similar works to this before and she was quite happy to support the tender.
Cr Ashleigh Cagney also supported the motion and said she was pleased to see a local company had ticked all the boxes.
The tender was passed unanimously.
ORD05: Tender for Narellan Sports Hub — Stage 1 Construction.
At first blush this appeared to be a piece of business that would pass through relatively unremarked but it quickly became something of an issue. There was also a number of confusing points that needed to be clarified as this proceeded.
Effectively, all of the tenders for the Stage 1 construction had been declined as they came in above the budgeted amount. The motion was for the general manager or one of his nominated staff to enter into negotiations with one of the companies that had submitted a tender, as repeating the tender process would probably not achieve a better result.
If the negotiated amount came in above the budget specified for the works, the additional funding required would be reported as part of the December quarterly budget review.
This presented concerns to some of the councillors who thought it might be the equivalent of handing out a blank cheque and that any approval of the updated budget for a larger amount should come back to the council. It led to quite a debate.
Cr Theresa Fedeli opened by supporting this recommendation, saying a lot of work goes into the process of finding a tender and this close to Christmas it was unlikely that council officers would get quotes in time to stay within the timetable for the development of the centre.
Cr Paul Farrow asked for an amended resolution. He was concerned about the delegation of authority and ask that instead of reporting the amount to the December quarterly budget review, that any higher costing should be brought back to the council for approval. He explicitly said that this was not because he doubted the competence or honesty of council staff but that any increase in the budget should be brought back to the council for the sake of good governance.
The mayor then asked the General Manager a range of questions in an effort to determine if such an approach would delay entering into a contract. The General Manager agreed this would create delays.
Cr Sidgreaves then asked what would happen if the renegotiation amount exceeded the delegation of the General Manager. He noted that the council had already approved a sum of money and asked would the General Manager be able to extend this amount even though he was bringing back a report.
The General Manager said that the way the recommendation is currently worded he would be able to enter into these agreements and fund them as appropriate before reporting back to the council.
Cr Fedeli said she opposed the recommendation by Cr Farrow because if we don't give the General Manager this delegation here then it would set a precedent that may stop other council processes where he operated under a delegation.
Cr Morrison agreed.
Cr Farrow said that his intention wasn't to stifle the process but that perhaps being new to this he didn't fully understand. He said that he was concerned that when we already have some of money set aside that this may be the equivalent to opening up a blank cheque where the council does not have visibility. He was concerned that the council might enter into a contract not knowing what the cost is.
Cr Campbell said she thought the point being raised was significant and timely. She noted the large amount of money set aside for this facility and recognised that it was much anticipated. However, she said the councillors are elected to supervise and look after the money that is spent.
She said for the protection of the General Manager and his nominee that it was worthwhile to be totally and completely transparent. For this reason she supported the suggested amendment from Cr Farrow..
Cr Cindy Cagney also supported the amendment. She believed that Cr Farrow was correct and it was prudent that report comes back to the council before approval if the costs exceed the current budget amount. Cr Cagney said she had no problem negotiating within the budget and asked if there was a 10% contingency within it. "We are spending money put into safekeeping for ratepayers," she said.
The mayor asked for some clarity around the procedures from the General Manager and council officers.
The upshot was that the General Manager or his nominee could not negotiate an amount that exceeded the total budget for the Narellan Sports Hub. However, they could exceed the budget for a component of the development and then negotiate down other areas, so that the total still remained within the budgeted expense. This meant that while one element could go above the budget set aside for it, the total expense for the development would not increase.
It also became clear that the timetable for the development of the Hub was an important consideration. For this reason, council officers could be prepared to pay an amount above what was currently budgeted for this part of the development.
Cr Cagney then asked if the costs exceeded the total, would that then come back to the council for endorsement.
Cr Fedeli noted the importance of the time factor for the development in terms of costs. She also said that even if it did cost more money the process would still be transparent.
Cr Cagney said that her concern revolved around the budget. At this point she felt that the council was almost saying spend whatever is necessary and that if the Council officers agreed to spending greater then the total budget then it should be brought back to the council to be endorsed before the contract is signed.
Cr Fedeli then asked the General Manager whether the expense would be brought back to the council for the last meeting of the year if they followed this process. The General Manager conceded that it was very unlikely. Saying, "even if they used the best endeavours we couldn't guarantee to be back".
Cr Fedeli said that being in construction, herself, she understands that time is money. She said that she felt the council was being transparent with this because they would get a report back.
Cr Morrison was also satisfied with the recommendation.
The council continued debating the original recommendation with no amendments.
Cr Sidgreaves spoke in support of the recommendation. He did say that he had similar concerns to those being raised by Cr Farrow but with Christmas coming up the council risked a three-month delay in the development. He said that he accepted that time was an imperative to the project. Therefore in light of the transparency of the process and the report back to the Council he would support the motion as it stands.
Cr Farrow asked for clarification around the tenders and the reason for negotiating with the second least expensive tender. He wanted to know if there was a view to work the price down to the cost of the least expensive tender.
Cr Symkowiak replied saying the council offices would have to talk to the tenderers to clarify a number of aspects, including some elements of the tender that were nonconforming, cost saving measures not provided during the tender process and what that effect would have on the whole process.
For the sake of clarity, Cr Symkowiak explained the process expected under tendering regulations indicating that it was not face-to-face haggling but coming together with written changes and options followed by a request to resubmit. "In this way the probity of the process is maintained," she said.
This seemed to satisfy Cr Farrow because of the visibility of the process. He said it alleviated his concerns around the idea that it was just a blank cheque. He also said he understood the time constraints and with his own children playing netball he was looking forward to the Hub being developed as soon as possible.
Cr Campbell commented that the time pressure of 1 to 2 weeks to establish the tender was quite tight. She wondered if other councillors may be concerned that Council officers are expected to deliver this within two weeks. "Are we not putting too much pressure on council offices?" She said.
Cr Symkowiak then spoke in favour of the motion and said she was pleased that Cr Fedeli and Cr Morrison did not amend it. She then went on to say she did not like the use of words being thrown at the General, such as handing him a blank cheque.
"I have total faith in what he does," she said. Cr Symkowiak noted that if something irresponsible did occur it would fall on the shoulders of the council.
She said the council needed to be cognisant of the environment we are in. This is a contracters market because of the amount of development taking place in the area. She suggested that perhaps the council was in error and had underestimated the likely cost of the sports hub.
"Potentially the council has got it wrong," she said.
She said time was of the essence as the netballers were looking forward to this.
Cr Symkowiak then said that to put the development on ice while the budget awaited council approval was overly bureaucratic. She said the expectations for the timeline of the construction were very clear and the market had spoken.
She said the council needed to be less bureaucratic and more flexible.
It was clear the mayor was quite angry about the time taken for this motion to go through, catching herself as her emotions rose and concluding by simply saying, "I won't say any more".
Cr Fedeli then started to comment, saying she knew what Cr Campbell was trying to do and that it was only a matter of negotiating the price… before being stopping abruptly after a look from the mayor.
The motion was then passed. (Councillors Sidgreaves, Symkowiak, Campbell, Fedeli, Farrow, Mills and Morrison voted in favour of the Motion. Councillors C Cagney and A Cagney voted against the Motion.)
Notice of Motion 1: Pre-emptive motion for the council to oppose any attempts to privatise Camden and District Hospital.
To give this Notice of Motion some context, it should be noted that Bowral Hospital was recently privatised with only one month’s notice. The local Bowral community had been expressing concern that the same fate may await Camden and Districts Hospital.
Cr Campbell opened the notice of motion by reminding those in the chamber of when Camden and Districts Hospital was a fully functional community hospital. Before it was downgraded there were strong community rumours that led to significant distress in the region. Those rumours proved to be correct and despite the long fight the hospital was downgraded.
She then went on to say that she is not suggesting that the hospital is currently on the list for privatisation but there are numerous rumours circulating that this could occur. As such, the aim of this motion was to move ahead, remove community unease by taking a position on opposing future privatisation through the council and asking the local member to advocate for a report from the state government into the hospital's future and the potential cost of an upgrade. A third point was to congratulate hospital staff for all the work they have done over the years.
Cr Symkowiak said she was against the recommendation and asked if Cr Campbell would consider deferring this Notice of Motion until the next meeting. She noted State MP Chris Patterson's wish to speak to it but he was unable to attend this council meeting.
Cr Campbell replied that she had received texts and phone calls from Mr Patterson but did not see how this Notice was a political statement. She intended to say something more but was interrupted by the mayor who said, "That is a no, then".
There was a bit of backwards and forwards but the essential points made were that Cr Symkowiak wanted to extend a professional courtesy to Mr Patterson, whereas Cr Campbell believed this was not a political issue and that it did not really require a comment from Mr Patterson.
Cr Symkowiak then said as the specific request had been denied, if the motion was defeated she would propose that it was deferred to the following meeting.
She then proceeded to read out an email from Mr Patterson that had been sent to the General Manager. Mr Patterson said in the email that because his name has been used in the motion and it was a state government issue he would like to speak to it as part of a public address. He said that because Parliament was currently sitting he was unable to make this meeting.
The mayor then started her response to the motion by thanking Prof Brad Frankum for his earlier public address and noted he had been accompanied by the CEO of Campbelltown and Camden Hospital. "you can't get any higher up the tree than the two people who were here," she said.
She then went on to say that she believed politics was at play with the motion. Cr Symkowiak said decisions are for hospital boards not for politicians and this is a state issue. As such she asked the councillors to vote against the motion so Chris Patterson could speak to it.
Cr Paul Farrow spoke in support of the motion. He said it was a live issue and that he had attended a meeting the previous night at Bowral where the hospital is being privatised. He noted it took Bowral Hospital just one month to go from the announcement to the beginning of the tender process. "I commend Eva Campbell for this motion because this is a preventative measure and ensures a much-needed facility is maintained and invested in," Cr Farrow said.
He noted that the meeting had earlier talked about the need for investment in the local area. "We don't just need investment from developers, we need investment in public facilities as well," he said.
Cr Peter Sidgreaves opposed the motion. His view was the Member for Camden was not able to attend the meeting and had asked for an opportunity to speak before it. "He is named therefore we should grant the privilege," said Cr Sidgreaves.
Cr Cindy Cagney suggested an amendment, adding a fifth point to the motion inviting the State member to come and speak to the council.
Cr Campbell said she was prepared to accept that amendment. "I'm not denying anyone the right to speak," Cr Campbell said.
Cr Cagney then said she had no problem with asking the state member to come and she fully supported the motion, noting that she didn't think it was negative. She also said that she has received concerns about the hospital's future as well.
She supported the position of the Notice of Motion and the request that Mr Patterson advocates for a report from the government. Cr Cagney felt that it would be good for morale to have some certainty. She then went on to acknowledge the impressive work of the hospital.
She noted the people of Bowral got the shock of their lives with the privatisation of their hospital and said such a motion would at least give the local community in idea of the possibility lying ahead for the hospital.
Cr Symkowiak opposed the amendment because Mr Patterson had already offered to come and he should be given the opportunity to speak before the notice of motion was considered. The mayor said that the amendment was completely redundant as a deferral had already been requested.
In her right of reply, Cr Campbell reiterated community concerns and stated that anyone from the Camden all Campbelltown hospitals could have addressed the issue. She said the notice of motion did not deny anyone the right to speak because it was now in the public arena and it was important to urgently address the disquiet among hospital staff.
She said the motion was to simply ask the member for Camden to his support in declaring that the public hospital remains here.
Cr Sidgreaves then suggested a point of order, saying that Cr Campbell was asking for a full report in the motion and yet she had just claimed in her comments to council this was not the case.
The motion actually asks for the State member to "advocate" for a full report - it does not actually request a full report. This may seem minor but there is a clear difference and it resulted in a very rude exchange between the mayor and Cr Campbell even though it was apparent on closer reading that Cr Campbell was correct. The mayor repeatedly talked over Cr Campbell and in my notes I have written, "I cannot believe how rude the mayor is".
The notice of motion was then defeated on the vote of the Liberals and Independent councillor Rob Mills. (Councillors Campbell, Farrow, A Cagney and C Cagney voted in favour of the Motion. Councillors Sidgreaves, Mills, Fedeli, Symkowiak and Morrison voted against the Motion.)
Cr Symkowiak then put forward that the notice of motion be kept in its entirety but deferred until the next meeting. She said she was not voting against the notice of motion and it should not be suggested that she does not support the staff or advocate for keeping the hospital in public hands, it was simply to extend a professional courtesy. "All I am asking, is that Mr Patterson is given the opportunity to speak," Cr Symkowiak said.
Cr Campbell then read from contemporaneous notes that were taken during a phone call with Mr Paterson at 9:34am on Tuesday. These notes suggested that Mr Paterson "respected" Cr Campbell’s right to say no but that he would ask for the motion to be deferred or knocked back on the night.
Cr Sidgreaves said, "we have heard the expertise of Eva Campbell and Prof Frankum, it is only fair and right that the MP for Camden be given the same right".
Cr Farrow spoke for the new motion to defer the item until the next meeting. He said that no matter what Mr Patterson talks to the council about, he hoped the council wood still resolve to support the points of this notice of motion. "I appreciate the professional courtesy but it doesn't take away from what this position hopes to achieve," Cr Farrow said.
The motion for deferral was passed. Cr Cindy Cagney was opposed and Cr Campbell abstained. (Councillors Sidgreaves, Symkowiak, Fedeli, A Cagney, Farrow, Mills and Morrison voted in favour of the Motion. Councillor C Cagney voted against the Motion. Councillor Campbell abstained from voting on the Motion and was taken to have voted against the Motion.)
Notice of motion 2: Request for a report on how former administration buildings would be used and the costs involved.
This notice of motion put forward by Cr Cindy Cagney aimed to produce a report that would summarise the information about how former administration buildings in Camden and Narellan would be used and any costs associated with refurbishments etc. Cr Cagney said the report was mainly for the five newly elected councillors so that they have the information easily to hand.
The mayor spoke robustly against the motion saying that all of the information was available on request and that the motion was a waste of time. She had asked counsel administrators to create a folder of that information which was handed out to the councillors during the meeting. It should be noted, the folder was huge.
Cr Symkowiak then aggressively questioned Cr Cagney. The notes on this section of the Council meeting are quite bizarre. The mayor opens with a question, shows incredible level of sarcasm when she is thanked by Cr Cagney for providing the folders and then returns to dressing down Cr Cagney. She explains briefly what has occurred at each of the administration buildings and then finishes with the line, "I'm scratching my head what a waste of time this notice of motion was".
The motion was defeated and the meeting closed. (Councillors Campbell, C Cagney, A Cagney and Farrow voted in favour of the Motion. Councillors Sidgreaves, Symkowiak, Fedeli, Mills and Morrison voted against the Motion.)