Coun­cils cre­at­ing con­fu­sion

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Prime Space - From Page 1

‘‘ The key ar­gu­ment is that Syd­ney has far too many small coun­cils not nec­es­sar­ily dif­fer­ent from the neigh­bour­ing area, yet the plans are wildly dif­fer­ent,’’ Wheeler says. ‘‘ Half of Bondi Junc­tion is with Waverley Coun­cil and half is with Wool­lahra.

‘‘ No won­der Bondi Junc­tion is a com­plete and ut­ter mess,’’ says Wheeler. ‘‘ One half of King Street, New­town, can have one set of ac­tiv­i­ties and on the other side you can have an­other set of ac­tiv­i­ties be­cause part of it is in Le­ich­hardt and part of it is in Mar­rickville — all in one street.’’

It’s a frus­trat­ing, long- recog­nised prob­lem and — to cut a long story short — de­spite a sweep­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ment re­form pro­gram ini­ti­ated in late 2003 by the NSW Gov­ern­ment, things have some­how con­spired to be­come ‘‘ more com­pli­cated’’, Heenan says.

In Queens­land, mean­while, the sit­u­a­tion is more stream­lined. ‘‘ There are four or five coun­cils be­tween the NSW border and Noosa and they’ve got very, very clear plans about what they want,’’ says Wheeler. ‘‘ If you can con­form to those plans, you can get very quick ap­proval and the process is much bet­ter.

‘‘ In Melbourne there is one plan, the Good De­sign Guide, which cov­ers ev­ery­thing 7km from the city. It doesn’t mean there aren’t de­lays or that there aren’t frus­tra­tions with coun­cils, but it’s much clearer about what’s go­ing on,’’ he says.

‘‘ In Ade­laide and Perth it’s much eas­ier, much more trans­par­ent. In Syd­ney the prob­lem is that you’ve got very small, parochial coun­cils that have a BA­NANA men­tal­ity.’’

Iron­i­cally, though, such an a ob­struc­tion­ist approach doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily lead to less be­ing built so much as to a sit­u­a­tion where some peo­ple ‘‘ have just given up’’ and choose to cir­cum­vent the sys­tem en­tirely, Wheeler says.

‘‘ Six or seven years ago I was in a meet­ing in Le­ich­hardt and I sug­gested that about 20 per cent of the work done in Le­ich­hardt was il­le­gal and ev­ery­body in the room protested,’’ Wheeler says.

‘‘ It was a meet­ing of ar­chi­tects and de­vel­op­ers, and so on. The coun­cil­lors said it was nowhere near as high as that and ev­ery­body else in the room — peo­ple in­volved in the build­ing in­dus­try — were say­ing 20 per cent is way un­der­es­ti­mated.’’ Lit­tle has changed, Wheeler says. ‘‘ They just get a drafts­man to draw it up and get a builder to build it and wait and see if coun­cil tells them to knock it down,’’ he says. ‘‘ If they do, they just keep fight­ing be­cause it’s built, and they fight to get a build­ing cer­tifi­cate.’’

Plan­ning ap­proval af­ter the fact. ‘‘ It’s out­ra­geous,’’ Wheeler says, ‘‘ but I know it hap­pens.’’

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