Tweed planners: We have too much work
TWEED Council's planning department is asking councillors to stop dumping work on them just because they don't like the way the shire is losing its village atmosphere.
The department's eight staff are juggling 18 planning approvals, mounting strategies, programs and workshops - enough work for 12 people for the next 10 months.
Tonight, councillors will be asked to put a moratorium on planning proposals that ask for rezoning within the planning scheme.
But while staff buckle under the pressure, Mayor Katie Milne says the community cannot wait any longer because it is losing its "iconic villages" as a result of outdated planning schemes.
"There are a number of community plans that have been waiting for years to get a look in such as the Fingal and Chinderah plans that were identified as priorities back in 2004," she sad.
"We are losing the character of these iconic villages as a consequence.
"We have to draw the line on this now and put our community plans first."
According to the department's report, staff are too busy with their current plans and haven't had time to even start many projects including the Fingal and Chinderah plans.
"Given there are currently 18 planning proposals at varying levels of processing, one option for council's consideration is to defer accepting any new planning proposal requests until July 2019," the report suggests.
The department is also working on seven locality plans, 15 strategic policies, six programs and the general tasks of workshops, technical advice, applying for grants and development application assessments.
Tweed councillor Warren Polglase said the left-centre councillors which he called the Rainbow Four were overloading the staff.
He said Mayor Katie Milne, Cr Ron Cooper, Cr Reece Byrnes and Cr Chris Cherry continued to demand workshops, reports and made decisions which sent council to the Land and Environment Court.
"There are that many notice of motions about new planning strategies, reports and then we have spent $1.3 million on court fees in the past year," he said.
"This is an enormous amount of time used by council staff and in preparations which in the end we have the same outcome."
Cr Polglase said the largest waste of time had been the Local Environmental Plan which is rejected by the State Government because there wasn't enough public consultation about the three-storey height limit.
The council started its public consultation to resurrect its three-height limits on Tuesday.
Cr Milne said the key problem for the council was that State legislation allowed developers to jump the queue for rezoning proposals over community-based projects.
"If council refuses a rezoning the developer can simply apply to the Joint Regional Planning Panel to review the decision and force council's hand," she said.
"Council then has to foot the bill for the rezoning instead of being able to charge the developer for this huge amount of work.
"The community are really getting ripped off with this system and the State Government needs to address this urgently."
Cr Cooper said councillors couldn't let things slip through council which affected the broader community without getting them right.
"Delays may be essential where council decisions can have permanent effects on people's lifestyles and the area's environmental qualities," he said.
"We could add planning staff or contract additional staff if it is considered necessary by the general manager and if delays go out to far."