The local residents that I’ve spoken to have told me that they want integrity and transparency in Georges River Council, especially when dealing with Development Applications (DAs) and planning matters.
That’s why I strongly support the retention of the Georges River Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel (IHAP). An IHAP is one of the best anti-corruption measures available to Councils to deal with contentious development matters, and their use has been recommended by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
These panels are made up of experts in the planning field who asses DAs based on the Council’s planning codes, and make recommendations on planning merit. The IHAP process encourages community input into decision making in an open and transparent forum instead of the dodgy backroom deals that has seen so many bad planning decisions made in the past.
Councillors and the community should be focused on setting the planning framework for decisions, instead of approving and rejecting every single DA. Decisions on DAs should be made on the basis of merit and not on the basis of any deals or favours that are done for ‘mates’.
The feedback from the communities whose Councils have implemented IHAPs is overwhelmingly positive. Residents may not always agree with the final decision of the panel, but are very satisfied that they have been listened to and that the process was open and transparent. When it comes to planning matters, I believe these are critical objectives to aim for.
IHAPs are also used to make decisions to avoid the perception or potential for conflicts of interest. For example, an IHAP would consider any planning matters where Council, councillors, or staff had an interest. This is important to make sure that everybody can be confident in the integrity of decision making.
Not all elected councillors support the IHAP. But from my experience, if we want to take the politics out of decisions and remove the potential for DAs to be inappropriately influenced, we should demand the retention of the Georges River IHAP.
If elected, protecting this important integrity measure and making it even more accountable to the community will be one of my priorities.