Port Stephens Council grinds gears and axes in planning-heavy session

PORT Stephens Council met on Tuesday 11 June, largely discussing the outcomes of several documents for the purpose of planning future projects in the region.

Most of the matters discussed openly involved review and affirmation of changes to various planning documents – such as the proposed rezoning of several large plots of land in Medowie to allow for further development – and did not elicit much discussion amongst those Councillors present.

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One item however drew a scathing indictment of a prior iteration of Port Stephens Council from Cr Giacomo Arnott.

The matter in question is a Voluntary Planning Agreement (VPA) involving Hanson Construction Material Pty. Ltd.
and regarding work done to the Brandy Hill Pathway in anticipation of expansion of the Brandy Hill Quarry.

The VPA states that Hanson will make contributions to Port Stephens Council totalling $4 million over the next ten years to address the costs associated with the pathway.

While acknowledging this as a great outcome for Port Stephens, Cr Arnott wanted to emphasise that this agreement was in fact redressing poor judgement exhibited by those who were members of Council at the time of the original contract negotiations several years ago.

“The previous Council nearly cost us $1 million in extra money that we’ve gotten out of this VPA, and former Councillors who rolled over and let Hanson pat them on the belly and tell them that this was the best deal they were going to get, they should be ashamed of their complete disregard for Council’s financial position then, now and into the future and for failing to seek the best outcome for the community.

“Fortunately, thankfully, this Council cares a little bit more for our local community and about Council’s finances and is willing to stand up to big business and to use our upper hand to our advantage.”

Cr Arnott then pivoted to put a greater emphasis on thanking the council staff, councillor’s and representatives of Hanson for working together on creating a better outcome for the community.

His remarks were endorsed and echoed by Cr Peter Kafer.

While most other matters did not involve the actual vote for approval on any developments to which they were related, the Council did elect to close the meeting to the public for three matters of business that it was determined merited confidential status.

The first matter involved Port Stephens Council’s employment contract for the role of General Manager, currently held by Timothy Crosdale.

The second matter involves an Acquisition of Easement for Public Access in Fern Bay, and the third the proposed sale of a property in Raymond Terrace.

It was determined that disclosing information on these matters could conceivably confer a ‘commercial advantage’ on other parties involved.

By Lindsay HALL

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