The state government has torn up its own rulebook and ignored public opinion in its campaign to push councils together.
The three northern Beaches councils - Manly, Warringah and Pittwater - and Mosman council have been forced into two. Greater Pittwater will gain the northern parts of Warringah - Duffys Forest Terrey Hills, Ingleside, Belrose, Cromer, Narrabeen, Frenchs Forest and Killarney Heights. Here in Greater Manly we gain south Warringah - Dee Why, Brookvale, Curl Curl, Freshwater, Queenscliff - and…Mosman!
The rationale is that bigger councils are more “efficient”, although there’s no real evidence to prove that’s true.
And while the government’s original plan to create a Greater Northern Beaches Council - Manly, Warringah and Pittwater - was not popular, at least it was geographically sensible, recognised our shared ocean beach lifestyle and complied with the “big is better” mantra.
But that’s not what’s happened. A cynic would saw Premier Mike Baird has put politics first, and common sense and the northern beaches community a distant second.
Overwhelming public opinion is that Greater Pittwater has been created to save the job of Pittwater MP Rob Stokes, who would have faced a huge backlash at the next state election.
Warringah, which went from basket case to winner of this year’s most prestigious council award - the Bluett Award - has been split in two. To add insult to injury Mayor Michael Regan was the only Northern Beaches mayor to support the council merger plans. The cynic would say Warringah was split to block Cr Regan, an independent, from becoming the powerful new mayor of the Greater Northern Beaches.
Maybe he’ll try and turn the tables and run as a local independent in the state elections or even the federal ones next year?
And Mosman? The same cynic would say that’s been thrown in with Manly to bolster the Liberal vote.
“I am really angry,” Good For Manly councillor Candy Bingham said. "Splitting the most successful council to create two new councils the same size just doesn't make sense.
"Locals are really losing faith in our ‘local member, Mike Baird, who is supposed to be representing us, not what's best for his political party. It's a disgrace", Clr Bingham stated.
Reaction on social media has been fierce.
Here’s some from GFM Facebook.
"Is this the most stupid decision ever?" - Darren Lewis
"Worst possible result. The most capable council in the state gets carved up to save two Liberal Party strongholds. I thought The Premier was above this sort of thing." - Simon Anthony Fry
"So that's how the Liberals consult with the voters?" - Linda G Silvester
Manly Daily had two pages of letters - every one negative.
Many were furious that politics had trumped common sense. Clive Finemore summed it up like this: “Mike Baird has caved in to the Liberal Party heavies in Manly and Pittwater… In the process he has displayed breathtaking cynicism and complete contempt for the people of the northern beaches.”
Other letter writers were angry that they would now have to pay to use facilities, including their nearest beach, that their rates had maintained. And several people complained that they would now inherit Manly Councli’s swimming pool and oval car park debt.
And what will happen to proposed major works, like the oval car park and Whistler St redevelopment?
No one knows if there will be a freeze on major new projects, despite so many changes coming down the line.
If there’s no freeze, it’s presumably business as usual until the new council elections, which are now not due until March 2017.
Manly Council's last meeting of the year was business as usual for the Liberal block. They voted 5/4 to proceed to tender on both the oval car park and Whistler Street site redevelopment - after a 3 hour debate.
I've never seen such a huge gallery - there were so many people they were on the landing, sitting on the floor and down the staircase.
Roger Freney of North Habour precinct spoke against the motion to go to tender and did a sterling job handling a number of difficult questions with great poise. He was able to get across the community's key points and concerns.
Mike Bradley from Ivanhoe Park precinct also had them sitting up in their seats (those who had seats anyway) when, as an economist, he talked about the true value of the Whistler Street site and questioned why Council was offering such a long lease (99 years).
The president of the Chamber of Commerce, Drew Johnson, spoke in support of the motion.
Five companies will be invited to tender to 'design & construct' the oval car park and two for the Whistler Street site. The tender period will be 12 weeks.
An amendment to delay the process was lost 5/4 as was a rescission motion lodged at the end of the meeting.
It was very pleasing to see the four non liberal Councillors working so hard to endeavor to delay the process, and ensure that due process was being followed.
Clr Cathy Griffin referred to a new term being used by Planning Minister Rob Stokes - "wicked projects". Here's a great reference on google.
Yes, it's a wicked project alright!
Thank you for your support this year. We will continue to fight for what we believe is "good for Manly" in 2016, and the fight against the oval car park is not over!
It's been controversial from day one: the building of a car park under Manly Oval and the removal of more than 100 car parking spaces from the streets of Manly's CBD as part of Manly Council's Manly2015 Plan to pedestrianise the area. Now Manly Council is again under fire following advice from the Enviromental Defenders Office.
In addition questionable revenue and construction forecasts; changing of the original plan from a 760 space car park to a mere 500, which effectively only replaces what's existing; lack of transparency and the blatant misleading of the public and councillors in relation to approval processes has left many wondering just why this project is being pushed through on the eve of an amalgamation announcement.
Nonetheless, it is expected that Council will vote to proceed to go to tender on the design and construction of a car park under Manly Oval, and the 99 year lease of the Whistler Street car park for shops and apartments, at its next Council meeting on 14th December, just weeks before the State Government is expected to announce Council amalgamations.
Advice sought from the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) by Good For Manly clearly sets out the steps which need to be taken by Council before proceeding with such a tender. Many of these important steps have not been taken.
For example, the current plan relies on major exit and entry tunnels in Sydney Road for access to the Oval car park, and yet the Roads & Maritime Services (RMS), the authority which controls this main road, has not been formally notified of this proposal. In a recent letter from the Acting CEO, Steven Head, he states that RMS "understood that the Council had abandoned the proposal to built a car park under Manly Oval”.
In addition the Oval is part of a Crown Lands Reserve for Public Recreation which can only be used for recreational purposes. Council cannot proceed with a commercial car park unless the Minister for Lands & Water authorises the Oval to be used for the car park as an additional purpose. DA approval from the Joint Regional Planning Panel is also required.
None of this has been done and yet Manly Council is poised to go to tender.
"It doesn't matter which way you look at it, the Oval Car Park project stinks!" claimed Clr Candy Bingham who has been fighting the plan for the past four years, with hundreds attending public meetings and protest rallies organised by her group, Good For Manly.
"The oval car park project has already been rejected by two previous Councils and this Council has been in a locked vote of 5 to 4 for most of its term. With so many questions unanswered, questionable due diligence, lack of due process and pending amalgamations it would be totally irresponsible for this Council to go to tender", she said.
"It should be killed off and buried once and for all”, Clr Bingham added.
It doesn’t look like a fir tree, and you can’t wrap it with tinsel, but an underwater Christmas tree would be a great choice this holiday season.
The idea comes from University of NSW scientists who are working to restore the seaweed forests that disappeared from Sydney’s coastline 30 years ago.
Their plan is to crowdfund the work by inspiring people to sponsor individual “trees” that will be planted onto deforested underwater reefs.
The disappearance of the once-thriving seaweed trees – crayweed (Phyllospora comosa) – is thought to be linked to the discharge of poorly treated sewage close to Sydney beaches in the 1970s and ‘80s.
The Manly community led that fight with its famous POOO - People Opposed to Ocean Outfall - marches, and our water is much cleaner as a result. However, the crayweed colonies have not regrown.
That’s where “Operation Crayweed” comes in.
UNW scientists use fertile adult crayweed plants, which they “plant” in a biodegradable mesh attached to reefs about 2 to 3 metres down.
The method has already created new, self-sustaining crayweed colonies at test sites at Cape Banks, Little Bay and Long Bay, and researchers are now ready to scale the project up and bring crayweed back to a 70km-long stretch of coastline between Palm Beach and Cronulla.
It’s important because seaweeds are the “trees of our oceans, providing habitat, food and shelter for other marine organisms,” said UNSW marine ecologist Dr Adriana Verges.
“When these forests disappear, it’s a sign that something has gone fundamentally wrong and diverse marine communities and economically important species such as rock lobsters and abalone disappear too.”
It’s $20 to sponsor one tree, $50 for a little crayweed family that can reproduce on its own or $500 to plant a whole forest.
Your Christmas tree won’t be on its lonesome.
"We have been extremely humbled by the amazing response!" Dr Verges said.
"We reached our original $20,000 target in only five days! We had planned to restore four sites, but we are now raising the bar and hoping we can raise enough to restore six or perhaps even eight sites. That would mean reaching $40,000 by January 31."
To help visit the Operation Crayweed display at Manly Sea Life Sanctuary or go to pozible.com/project/202503
Artificial intelligence has reached the Manly beachfront.
Manly Council has installed smart machines capable of recognising over-staying tourist buses and people who wrongly park in disabled-driver spots.
The idea came from the popular facial-analysis app How Old Do I Look, which uses machine learning to guess your age from a photo.
Manly’s Chief Information Officer Nathan Rogers said he realised the technology could be applied to something more useful.
He said the council IT team began by writing a program that downloaded 10,000 images from CCTV of locations like an empty bus bay at different times of day and under different weather conditions. The images were fed into the council’s Microsoft Azure Machine Learning technology, which is in use in several sites, including bus parking zones at Manly Beach and mobility parking bays at the swim centre.
The software can identify anomalies – such as a bus parked in a bay for longer than the permitted time – and alert parking rangers by email.
Mr Rogers said the program, which was already very accurate, has become even more reliable over time, and is now a huge asset to rangers who have gained a “sixth sense” ability to be in the right place at the right time.
He said the system was not about issuing more fines but keeping parking spaces turning over.
Other potential applications include crowd control, and predicting surf conditions.
Manly Council has a large number of smart and connected devices, including four smart parking stations, about 25 smart parking meters, 20 wireless access points and 100 CCTV cameras, all connected by eight kilometres of fibre optic cable.
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor, Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations & community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.