Appointments don’t stack up
The idea behind the Berejiklian government’s Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels, or IHAPs, introduced last year was a sound one.
Major projects of between $5 million and $30 million would go not to local councils but to independent committees made up of experts and a member of the community. In doing so, it was hoped, a new measure of transparency and legitimacy would be introduced to a process that is often seen as opaque and open to the possibility of corruption.
Yes, the IHAPs are powerful. But that is OK, so long as they are seen to be above reproach.
Yet Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore would appear to be going against the spirit of the new process.
As The Daily Telegraph reports today, two of the City of Sydney council’s appointees to the city’s IHAP have close links to the mayor.
One of them was the chief activist in the campaign to save the harbourside Sirius social housing development, whose activist organisation Save Our Sirius received free legal and communications advice from the council and who was also an indirect beneficiary of grants given by council to assist tenants fighting eviction in Miller’s Point.
The other is a major political donor to Moore’s election campaign whose contributions and connections to her administration were not declared.
It is no wonder that many observers, including Liberal councillor Christine Forster (who voted against the two appointments), are crying foul about these appointments which come with a $1500 stipend for every fortnightly panel meeting attended.
While no one disputes that both men are qualified or that their appointment lacks merit — one is a respected architect and the other took out an Order of Australia for services to town planning — it beggars belief that these are the only two individuals who could be found to serve on this prestigious panel. Given the longstanding (and often not unfounded) suspicion in the community about the development process, for the City of Sydney to set up an IHAP with members so closely linked to the mayor would seem to go against the spirit, if not necessarily the letter, of the reform.