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Inquiry into Hills Council

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/6″ offset=”vc_col-lg-1/5 vc_col-md-1/5 vc_col-xs-1/5″][us_image image=”67173″ size=”thumbnail” align=”left” style=”circle” has_ratio=”1″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/12″ offset=”vc_col-lg-4/5 vc_col-md-4/5 vc_col-xs-4/5″][vc_column_text]By Bev Jordan[/vc_column_text][us_post_date][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
Submissions to a Parliamentary inquiry into allegations of impropriety against agents of the Hills Council and property developers in the region close on January 22nd 2023.

The Upper House inquiry is examining matters raised by Castle Hill Liberal MP Ray Williams in State Parliament on June 23rd last year made under parliamentary privilege.

Portfolio Committee No. 7 – Planning and Environment will also look at any matters relating to the integrity, processes of Council, employees and elected officials of council; the role and influence of developers and their interactions with councillors and members of parliament in the region.

The committee will be chaired by Greens MLC member Sue Higginson. Deputy Chair is Mark Pearson MLC Animal Justice Party. The committee also comprises of Liberals Aileen MacDonald and Lou Amat; ALP members Rose Jackson and Penny Sharpe plus National’s Scott Barrett.

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A statement from Hills Shire Council’s General Manager Michael Edgar said: “Council supports the principles of transparency, open decision making, integrity and good governance. In fact, this Council was one of the first councils to establish an Audit Committee … Council has an annual internal audit program along with an Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee (ARIC), and has proactively participated in a number of external performance audits by the NSW Audit Office.

“Most recently, Council was selected to participate in the audit – Development applications: assessment and determinations stages. The audit reviewed how effectively each council assessed and determined Development Applications (DAs) and how they supported independent planning panels (local and regional) in their determination of DAs. The assessment also ensured councils carried out DA processes and assessments according to current legislation, regulations and government guidelines. Findings from the audit showed that Council has an outstanding reputation for development assessment and management processes, as well as professional oversight of its services and programs.

“In addition to this, The Hills is one of a few councils in Sydney meeting housing and job targets, which is extremely important for accommodating Sydney’s growth. Council is also fit for the future and enjoys a high level of community satisfaction with its services. “Residents can be confident of the processes and systems Council has in place to appropriately manage DAs. All DAs are either determined by qualified staff, Local or Regional Planning Panels and in some cases, the courts.

“All planning proposals are assessed by qualified staff and reported for a determination at an Ordinary Meeting of Council where the public can witness the decision-making process. All decisions are then referred to the NSW Department of Planning for progression or finalisation. Only a few planning proposals are delegated to Council for finalisation by the Department of Planning.

“Council holds a register that records all decisions of Council on planning matters and this is publicly available on Council’s website.”

Two days have been set aside for the public hearings (February 15th and 16th) with the committee due to table its report by 2nd March.

The committee welcomes submissions from interested stakeholders and members of the community by 22nd January 2023. They can be lodged via the inquiry webpage[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Bev Jordan

Bev Jordan studied journalism at Harlow College in the UK.  She achieves a Diploma in Journalism from the National Council for the Training of Journalists. After migrating to Australia at the end of 1984, she took up a Senior Journalist position with Cumberland Newspapers, based on the Parramatta Advertiser. She has since worked on the Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald and was a lecturer in Journalism at Macleay College in Sydney. Bev returned to Cumberland Newspapers (NewsLocal) and worked for 30 years covering all different mastheads, including Mosman Daily, Mount Druitt Standard and finally Hills Shire Times for the last 17 of those years. Bev’s passion has always been local community journalism.  She says “As a journalist, I have always seen it as my job to inform, inspire and involve.  I am a passionate advocate for organisations and people making a difference to the world around them. Connectedness is so important to the health of an individual but also to a community, no matter how small or large.

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