Dick Persson AM
Next Tuesday evening the Council Meeting will be held in the Council Chambers at Manly from 6.30pm. There is a fairly crowded agenda, with some items likely to see strong public interest and there will also be the usual opportunity to speak on any topics of concern during the Public Forum.
I will be providing a report on the responses to my December letter to the Prime Minister and NSW Premier regarding the need for a national approach to coastal erosion through offshore beach nourishment. I will table the responses received which were very disappointing indeed.
A proposal to explore an option of dredging at Middle Creek to alleviate flooding of Wakehurst Parkway will be considered, with a recommendation to fund a study.
Off -leash areas for dogs always brings lively discussion. Last year I declined to overturn the long held policies of the three previous councils that banned walking dogs on our beaches. In doing so I committed to have the new Council carry out a review of the adequacy of existing off-leash areas. This has been completed and the report will be presented at the Meeting. Council will also consider a Draft Affordable Housing policy.
If you are interested in these issues or others you can access the full Agenda and the papers on Council’s website as well as watch the Meeting live from there if you cannot attend.
Many residents have been asking when the reports provided to Council on the Manly Oval Carpark and Whistler St re-development will be released. While there are still some legal matters in play, I will be considering the release of these documents at the April Council Meeting.
Incorporated not-for-profit community groups can apply for funding under the second round of the Stronger Communities Fund Community Grants Program from Monday 3 April. Funding is for community projects that fit within our identified community priorities such as the natural environment, sustainable transport, art, culture and heritage, community safety and inclusive communities. Attending one of the information sessions will give your organisation the best chance of being successful. For further information contact Council’s Grant Office on 9970 1628 or 9970 1104 or visit the website.
Finally, our SHAPE 2028 workshops begin this week. This is your opportunity to shape the Community Strategic Plan which will provide the blueprint for Council decision making over the next 10 years. There are still spaces available so go to yoursay.northernbeaches and register. It would be fantastic to see some younger faces in the room to represent the views of the future of the Beaches.
Dick Persson AM
The NSW Government held a special Community Cabinet meeting at Freshwater Surf Club on Thursday.
The Council’s General Manager, Mark Ferguson and I attended, along with a hundred or so community and business leaders, and used the opportunity to raise a number of important local matters with the relevant Ministers.
We went to the meeting with three priority issues:
- We stressed the importance of providing a rapid bus transit service linking Brookvale and Dee Why through to Chatswood. This initiative was costed at around $70m some years ago and some of the work in that costing has been carried out as part of the current roadworks around the new hospital. We argued strongly that transport strategies needed to focus on improving public transport options were integral to improving peak hour commuting.
- We pointed out that traffic problems on Mona Vale Road to Terrey Hills were unacceptable and would be far worse when the Ingleside development commences. We lobbied for a clear commitment in the forthcoming State Budget for the Mona Vale Road widening works to be funded in total by 2020.
- I raised the future of Brookvale Oval with the Premier directly, pointing out that moves set in motion by Mike Baird seem to have stalled. The Council supports the transfer of Brookvale Oval to the State Government if it is to be redeveloped into a major sporting stadium and provide a long-term home for the Manly Sea Eagles. We also used the opportunity to press relevant Ministers on a number of other, but still important local issues:
- Community concern about the failure to provide underground wiring around the new hospital precinct.
- The need for more leadership from the NSW Government in dealing with the massive challenge of coastal erosion from increasingly strong storm events, as well as future threats from sea level rise.
- My strong preference to locate the new school over the current carpark adjacent to the Warrringah Aquatic Centre (WAC) and avoid its demolition. We pointed out this would also have a much lesser impact on the surrounding bushland than locating it on the actual site of the WAC.
We felt we received a good hearing on all these issues but only time will tell if we made progress.
Dick Persson AM
This week I had the pleasure of hosting a Northern Beaches Council breakfast to celebrate International Women’s Day, with over 200 guests attending.
We listened to an inspiring talk from Ms Josephine Cashman, a young indigenous woman who spoke passionately about the need to overcome the disadvantage of indigenous women in remote communities.
In welcoming everyone I took the opportunity to pick up on the key International Women’s Day message from our Governor General, His Excellency, The Hon David Hurley AC DSC (retired). “Nominate more women for awards in our honours system”.
After he made the call I checked the figures for the last awards on Australia Day and they revealed that men were awarded Orders of Australia at almost twice the rate as women (475 to 252). This was not really a surprise because it has been openly discussed in the media for many years.
The big surprise was discovering that women received less than a third of the nominations (252 to 651). Sometimes individuals feel a bit powerless when trying to do something about significant problems like climate change or the plight of indigenous women in remote communities, but improving the representation of women in our Australian Honours system is something individuals can do something about. Just take a few hours to nominate someone who you know makes a real difference in the community through their outstanding community service.
To find out more about making a nomination just go to the website at www.gg.gov.au/australian-honours-and-awards or phone (02)6283 3533.
While on the topic of outstanding women, I attended two farewells this week for two senior women who are retiring after decades of service to their community. Both featured in Wednesday’s Manly Daily.
Beth Lawsen retired as one of Northern Beaches Council’s Deputy General Managers. Beth had been at Manly Council since 1990 becoming one of their Deputy General Managers in 2012. Beth managed to win and maintain the respect of everyone she dealt with. Her focus was always on achieving the best possible outcomes for those doing it tough or for the community as a whole.
Also, Jacqui Smith retired as the Manager of the Manly Community Centre after 32 years of ‘coalface’ work with homeless people and others in great distress. On behalf of the whole community, thank you both for your great public service.
I get to meet a lot of residents in this role. When talking about their community most refer to the physical beauty and amenity of the area, with bush and beaches most often referred to. This is backed up by all the surveys and formal community engagement carried out by the council. The natural environment is by far the most valued feature of the whole Northern Beaches area.
On the other side of the equation, the most negative thing residents talk about is also widely held traffic congestion, and most people feel it has been getting progressively worse, not just during peak hours, but on weekends too.
Not surprisingly, how to respond to this does not have the same level of agreement. People who mostly use their private vehicles favour road and tunnel options.
Interestingly those with traffic and planning expertise favour further improvements to the public transport system.
Since I came to the Northern Beaches as Warringah Council Administrator in 2003 there has been unanimous agreement amongst the four SHOROC Councils about the top priority for improving transport flow and commute times.
To this day the number one priority for the Northern Beaches is still a bus rapid transit system from Dee Why to Chatswood. This is supported by most, if not all, transport and planning experts and supported by technical data about journey patterns and traffic solutions.
Like the soon to be opened B-Line, the Dee Why - Chatswood rapid bus system would provide the best value for whatever money is available from the Government. Done well it can provide the speed and capacity of light rail and would deliver passengers quickly to Chatswood where they would transfer to the existing train network to take them on to their respective work destinations.
It would provide us with a much more flexible public transport system and both open up alternative job opportunities for residents in Macquarie Park, Chatswood and beyond as well as enable key workers to catch fast public transport into the Northern Beaches.
The current Council, as with the three previous Councils, is not against a tunnel. It just strongly favours the east west bus link as the most urgent and effective priority.
At this point there has been no discussion or consultation with the Northern Beaches Council by any part of the NSW Government about alternatives evidently under active consideration.
Hopefully this will occur before any decision is made and announced.
Dick Persson AM
Long ago I learned it’s not possible to please everyone, particularly in a role like mine. Nevertheless I would like to share with you a story from last Monday evening.
I arrived at Glen Street Theatre to conduct a Citizenship Ceremony for 150 new Australians. As I’ve said before, by far the best part of the job.
Council staff had thoughtfully reserved a parking space near the entrance by placing a sign with my name and position attached to an orange bollard. I noticed someone else had gone to the trouble of attaching their own handwritten message - “We’ve lost our library – save our Aquatic Centre”.
Council has spent $6.374 million building a new, state of the art library that is due to open in June. However, the old library is and will remain fully operational until then. The project has followed extensive community engagement, which showed very strong community support for the creation of a new 'Cultural Hub' that integrates the Glen Street Theatre and Library across from the new shopping centre and restaurant precinct and I look forward to meeting locals at the opening soon.
Maybe the anonymous note writer might attend and look through the new Library. I would love to show you around.
Now about the Aquatic Centre. I know there are genuine concerns about this project, and I would like to make some things clear and give some assurances.
The Council has to provide for a new Town Centre to support the Hospital. The questions of where and how big are currently out for community consultation, but there can be no argument that the best location is adjacent to the new Hospital. The best site is the current school site, but for it to be made available there has to be an alternate school site.
The plan to locate the school on the Warringah Aquatic Centre site is totally dependent on the creation of a new pool facility, of equal amenity, being provided at no additional cost to Council. The up zoning of the school site should generate more than enough value to pay for the new school, the new Aquatic Centre and deliver a modern, vibrant Town Centre in the best location.
I know you can’t please everyone, but I encourage everyone to know the facts. As with the library, if the swim centre goes it will be replaced with a modern brand new one.
Dick Persson AM
Last Thursday's Manly Daily reported the outcome of the meeting I had sought with the Minister for Education, Rob Stokes to explain why Council did not support the recently approved proposal for re-building Manly Vale Public School. Mr Stokes had also met with the Manly Vale School P&C and Principal to hear their side of the argument.
It is very disappointing Mr Stokes decided that the disadvantages of further delay outweighed the advantages of hitting the pause button to allow a rethink on the project. There is no doubt the school needs re-building, and there is no doubt the local population changes dictate the need for greater capacity in the area, but I remain convinced we have the wrong design for the location.
Having worked with Mr Stokes in his previous role as Planning Minister, as well as a local MP, I know he would not have let this situation develop if he had been involved at an earlier stage.
Building a new school is one of the best things a State Government can do for a local area. It should be done in such a way that it is welcomed by all of the community and has minimal impact on our unique environment.
That this project is strongly opposed by such a large group of locals represents a significant failure on behalf of those in the Department of Education responsible for it.
Hopefully they learn from it.
A number of projects were announced last year that will enhance the Northern Beaches area. However it is integral to the success of these projects that we hear from the community.
Some of the projects still open for feedback include the Hospital Precinct Structure Plan, Ingleside Precinct Structure Plan, Palm Beach Parking Demand Management Strategy, Marine Parade Works, Brookvale Park Playground Upgrade and Balgowlah Plaza Revitalisation.
I encourage everyone to visit the Northern Beaches website to see the projects and provide feedback so that all viewpoints are taken into consideration before any decisions are made.
Dick Persson AM
Current media speculation about possible changes to the policy dealing with council amalgamations has received a mixed reception. Given the history of the policy this is to be expected. Of course it is not my role to comment or to take part in a public debate. I will however, provide regular up-dates to the community about progress being achieved and I will correct the record if false claims are made about the merger or the performance of the integrated council.
As Administrator of the Northern Beaches Council my job is to deliver an integrated, fully functional organisation by the next election, currently scheduled for September this year. Along with the Council’s General Manager, Mark Ferguson and a talented and committed management team, I believe we are well on-track to do just that.
With everyone back to work following the Christmas break, we are very focussed on delivering the many projects that we have on our books. A number of these are to do with building the new organisation, like integrating IT systems, developing an integrated budget for the new financial year and integrating fees and charges policies.
The majority of our work continues to be focussed on delivering services and improvements to the community that will enhance the area , like the Dee Why Town Centre, the major re-zoning of the Frenchs Forest area, delivering the Church Point Upgrade, the new Coastal Walkway linking Manly and Palm Beach, new all-abilities playgrounds and so on. Council will also continue to support local community groups with the next round of the Stronger Communities Funds Grants being offered in April.
If there are changes to Government policy, the politics that will inevitably be played out in sections of the community will not distract me or the General Manager from the very significant tasks at hand. Residents can be assured the Council will continue to deliver across the spectrum of our operations. Our staff are both talented and committed and will deliver, no matter what challenges are placed before them.
Dick Persson AM
I hope you all enjoyed Australia Day and took the opportunity to attend one of Council's five Australia Day events. Hosting more than 30,000 people, the day was a huge success and it was great to see the whole of the Northern Beaches coming together to celebrate.
One of the many things that makes the Northern Beaches such a wonderful place to live is the outstanding contributions made by so many people across such a diverse range of activities. It was wonderful to meet the Australia Day Award nominees and I would like to extend my personal congratulations to the nine winners, and on behalf of the community acknowledge the great work of all the Australia Day Award nominees.
With our glorious summer weather and spectacular beaches, I have no doubt that Council's one beach parking sticker has been greatly used across the 40 plus beaches from Palm Beach to Manly.
As a direct result of the merger the Northern Beaches Council has saved the community $4 million in annual savings, which go directly into the Merger Savings Fund to directly benefit the local community. We will continue to look for ways to deliver better programs and services in 2017, whilst looking for cost efficiencies.
Northern Beaches Council's website has an interactive map that displays 300-plus Council projects, valued at $137 million. I am pleased that this work is being delivered in addition to our $32.6 million injection into 'Connecting our Community' major infrastructure projects. Council's commitment to the Northern Beaches unique environment is also evident as we continue to proactively protect and manage our waterways and natural resources.
I encourage you to keep informed about what Council is delivering and 'What's on' across the Northern Beaches by signing up to Council's monthly eNews newsletter at northernbeaches.nsw.gov.au/contact
My position on Manly Vale Public School remains the same. I have serious concerns about the JRPP decision to approve the $22.7 million plan to extend the school across bushland to accommodate 1000 students on the site. I encourage you to make your own representations to the State Government.
I would like to wish you and all of the community a happy and safe New Year.
Dick Persson AM
When the NSW Government created the new Northern Beaches Council it provided us with $15 million through its Stronger Communities Fund to build projects and fund community organisations that would in fact 'build stronger communities'.
Yesterday I convened a special meeting of Council that formally approved a range of exciting new projects. As a result, the Premier and I were able to announce a list of capital projects and community grants which will be of tremendous benefit to Northern Beaches residents.
Sydney's iconic Northern Beaches will be connected by a spectacular coastal walkway and cycleway stretching from Palm Beach to Manly through this capital works funding. We will do this by filling in all the missing links, creating 36 kilometres of all-weather walk and cycle paths.
This coastal walk will be used by locals and visitors alike and will quickly become one of the world's great coastal walks.
The package of initiatives also provides funds for the construction of two new all-abilities playgrounds, upgrades to many of the playgrounds across the Northern Beaches to make them more inclusive, as well as $4 million for upgrades of sporting facilities and Surf Life Saving Clubs.
Grants to a diverse group of 25 local service providers, ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 were also announced. These groups include Lifeline, Manly Women's Shelter, Sunnyfield, as well as many sporting clubs, environment groups and groups supporting those less fortunate in our community.
In addition to the Stronger Communities Grant, Council is also pleased to partner with the NSW Government's B-Line project which is funding the cycleway project because it creates better access to the B-Line service to be introduced later next year. The Council will also be contributing funds from savings already achieved as a direct result of the merger.
All in all, these initiatives will receive $32.6 million to link our communities through walking, cycling and play.
This package of initiatives has involved great input from staff from the three former councils, our four local State MPs and former Mayors and Councillors. Everyone has been excited by the common theme of uniting our community. As you absorb the full details of this announcement, I hope you will agree that it makes a constructive contribution to making our community stronger.
As this is my last column for the year, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your family a safe and happy holiday season.
Dick Persson AM
Whenever I attend community functions I regularly receive unsolicited compliments about Council staff and how helpful they have been.
I know many residents tend to see councils as the level of government that just does roads, rates and rubbish. Some others think that is all we should do. But many others, particularly those involved in their community through not-for-profit community organisations, really appreciate the partnership they have with Council, and the tremendous support they receive from Council staff.
Some recent examples were from a programme that teaches mostly single senior men to cook. I attended their end of year function and they went out of their way to thank a number of Northern Beaches Council staff for the support given.
I also met with the organisers of the Forestville Art Show who were full of praise for the support they receive in setting up the displays every year.
Today I received a letter from the Friends of Narrabeen Lagoon to thank the seven Council staff who had worked with a number of community groups to make last Saturday's Wheely Big Bush Walk such a success. The Walk was a special function organised for International Day of People with Disability and arranged for a large number of residents who need a wheelchair to enjoy a bushwalk type experience, which so many of us take for granted.
The Council provided gazebos, food and drink at four locations and staff members to work with volunteers on those stations. Council staff also provided chairs and tables along with special mats to assist wheelchair people move across the grass at different locations. They were also involved in the design and construction of the Narrabeen Lagoon multi-purpose trail that gave so much enjoyment to so many on the day.
This fantastic effort was achieved through a partnership approach between the Council and a number of volunteer community groups. It is one of many hundreds of examples where these partnerships make a real difference to the quality of life in our wonderful area.
I'm sure all readers would agree this is just what they want from their Northern Beaches Council.
Dick Persson AM