Hundreds turned up to share stories when Good For Manly & Save Manly Oval Alliance hosted a celebration to mark the end of a four year fight to stop a car park being built under Manly Oval.
It took the new Administrator of the Northern Beaches Council to finally pull the plug on the Manly2015 Plan.
Watch the short slide show below and share some of the highlights of the campaign which demonstrated community power at its best.
It's been a long time coming, but under the Administrator of the Northern Beaches Council, the actual costs of the new Andrew Boy Charlton Swim Centre have finally been revealed.
The new indoor Swim Centre opened on 13th August, 2016
For years the non-Liberal Councillors on Manly Council put up motions (that were refused to be put on the agenda by the General Manager); made requests at the Audit & Risk Committee (that were ignored) and contacted the Office of Local Government (to no avail) in an attempt to find out the actual costings and progress reports of the new indoor centre. Requests for a business plan for the operation of the Centre were also ignored by the then General Manager, Henry Wong.
Clr Barbara Aird also worked tirelessly for local residents over the issues of major traffic and parking concerns in relation to Kenneth Road which was re-configured three times, and yet still remains unsatisfactory, dangerous and inadequate.
What Is the Cost?
The original budget was $15m and this was the result of a government subsidised loan at 1.56%.
The final cost was $27,356,250 and was funded as follows:
The new complex is big. The upstairs gym is big. And the building is imposing, not relating in any way to the RM Graham Reserve next door. But there is no doubt it will be popular with kids and families offering a large range of pools and activities.
The task now is to ensure that the new Centre is popular and profitable.
At midday on Thursday 12th May the Proclamation was published abolishing Manly, Warringah & Pittwater Councils and creating one Northern Beaches Council, to be run by an Administrator until the next Council elections in September 2017.
By the end of the day Councillors were notified by staff that their emails had been switched off and access keys decommissioned. All Resident Community Precinct Groups were told they were disbanded. The community was in shock – it all happened so fast.
Enter the Administrator …
Dick Persson has been appointed by the Premier to form the new Council. (Mr Persson is well-known and highly regarded as the former Administrator of Warringah Council from 2003-2008).
He quickly appointed former Pittwater General Manager, Mark Ferguson, as the overall GM, with Henry Wong (Manly) and Ric Hart (Warringah) as Deputy GMs, along with the existing six Deputy GMs. All general staff have been guaranteed their jobs for three years. However some changes will obviously need to be made at the top level.
Former Councillors were contacted by the Administrator and invited to continue contributing on interim committees.
One Week Later ….
The first Extraordinary Council Meeting was called on 19th May by the Administrator, at the former Manly Council Chambers.
A packed gallery was personally greeted by Mr Perssons, “call me Dick”, setting the tone for a relaxed and engaging meeting.
One hour was set aside for the public forum with 15 speakers addressing issues such as the Oval Car Park (of course), Manly2015 Plan, Plastic Free July, Sydney Road upgrade, the future role of precincts and cost issues in relation with the new Swim Centre.
Mr Persson was attentive, polite and asked questions.
One Northern Beaches Parking Sticker
The Administrator replaces the Councillors, therefore any matter on the agenda, he decides.
First item of business – he initiates one Northern Beach parking sticker, effective immediately, although Manly residents will need to wait three weeks for new stickers to be issued.
He stated that while technology can generally be a good thing, in the case of ticketless parking meters this clearly had not worked.
Manly ratepayers will get their parking stickers back! This will entitle us to park anywhere on the Peninsula - at the beaches, parks and reserves for free all day; and four hours will remain at Manly beachfront, Shelly Beach, Clontarf, Sandy Bay and Spit Bridge.
Each household will receive two stickers, which will be posted in the next couple of weeks.
Manly Precinct Forum Groups
The Premier, Mike Baird, has given an undertaking that the precincts are to continue under the interim Council. It is expected that the Administrator will address this issue shortly.
Council Interim Committees
Former Mayors Jean Hay and Michael Regan, and former Deputy Mayor, Kylie Ferguson, will be part of a newly established Implementation Advisory Group, and will chair new Local Representation Committees made up of many former councillors from all three councils. These committees, under the headings of Social, Environment and Economic, will provide advice and guidance to the Administrator.
The next Council elections will be September 2017.
One Point Of Interest …
Mr Persson stated that overall the Government received 28,000 submissions in relation to the state-wide amalgamation proposals, 18,000 were from the Northern Beaches with the majority supporting one council.
The meeting concluded with the public invited to stay for refreshments. The next meeting will be held at Pittwater in two weeks, and future meetings will rotate amongst the old council areas for the time being.
In the meantime it is business as usual with Customer Service Counters operating at Manly, Pittwater and Dee Why.
The new Andrew Boy Charlton Indoor Swim Centre opens at the end of the month and yet Councillors still have not been provided with a business plan, despite repeated requests from the Independent Councillors.
At a recent Planning & Strategy meeting, consistent questions by Councillor Candy Bingham querying the costs of the new centre, and projected revenue, were met with a tirade by the Mayor Jean Hay that "such consistent negative comments are a disgrace". But the answers still have not been provided nor a business plan provided.
"One has to wonder how the staff have come to the conclusion that a small gym operating in the centre, will attract hundreds of memberships at $2,776.40 pa with the cost of classes then to be at an extra fee. Clearly comparisons with other local gyms (of which there are about 15 at last count) has not been undertaken otherwise the fee proposed would be halved", Clr Bingham said.
Apparently the Council will run all programs at the Swim Centre with the cost of lane hire expected to be prohibitive to existing community groups and established squads. Participants are also required to pay an entry fee. Warren Riley, who has been swimming at the Boy Charlton Pool since it opened is dismayed. He and fellow
"While I have been vocal about whether the community really needed a new indoor swim centre of this size, nonetheless, now that we have it, it is important that it is accessible to the whole community. After all, we now have six pools, a steam room, sauna, spa and gym as well as a creche. Surely it makes sense to provide these facilities at a reasonable price to ensure that the swim centre remains profitable and popular", Clr Bingham concluded.
Will you use the new swim centre?
It is very clear that the decision had already been made before the Councillors formally voted on Tuesday night on the successful tenderers for the Oval Car Park and Whistler Street site. Otherwise how can you explain the detailed information board being erected in Whistler Street on Friday morning?
Whether you agree with the proposals or not, you have a right to expect that due process will be followed.
From day one, this has not been the case with the Liberal-led Manly2015 Plan.
Then we had the tender process …
Tenders closed on 15th March.
On the 30th March a last minute (unscheduled) 20 minute presentation was given by the General Manager on the recommended tenders to Councillors saying the staff report had been finalised.
An extraordinary meeting was called for Tuesday 12th April. Councillors were given notice on Thursday 7th April that they could view the tenders (massive documents) before the Extraordinary meeting the following Tuesday. Councillors were required to sign not one, but two confidentiality agreements.
But this week was the absolute pits ….
On the night of the meeting, the general public were refused access to the Council Chambers to hear the start of the meeting. Although a closed session was proposed none the less the law states that it’s the Councillors who decide, not the General Manager, and that a vote needs to be taken to go into closed session at the start of the meeting. This was not done.
Rangers refused access to some 80 local residents who turned up to hear the debate. The police were called. The meeting went ahead with the blinds closed and the doors locked. Attempts by the non-Liberals for the correct procedure to be followed were refused.
That wasn’t the end of it.
Although the meeting was in ‘closed session’ and therefore I am not permitted to report on what was discussed in the meeting, I don’t think you have to be Einstein to work out how the vote went – based on statements made by the four non-Liberal Councillors (Candy Bingham, Barbara Aird, Cathy Griffin and Hugh Burns) prior to the meeting and the ongoing recorded stand by the five Liberal Councillors led by the Mayor Jean Hay.
Councillors were told there was no opportunity for them, or the public, to make comments or suggestions about the winning tenders but that any feedback could be made at the time of the Development Application. (This is exactly what was done with the Indoor Pool complex and we all know how well that has gone).
A rescission motion, signed by all four non-Liberal Councillors, was lodged after the meeting at 10.06pm by email. But it was refused on the basis that the tenderers had already been notified. (Not sure that a phone call to tenderers after 9pm is usual business practice?)
Then to add insult to injury ….
The very next day the winning tenders were announced on Manly Council’s website with substantial photographs, copy and a fly-though video which had not even being seen by the Councillors!
Two days later Council staff were erecting an elaborate information board in Whistler Street with all the details about the Oval Car Park and Whistler Street winning tenders. That’s two days later … you think they would at least have had the decency to pretend the final decision was made by the full council and allow some time to look as though everything hadn’t been pre-prepared and ready to go.
As I said, democracy is dead in Manly. The announcement of council amalgamations is expected to be in the next 10 weeks – what a mess the new Council will be left with.
But it is not over. The Save Manly Oval Alliance has committed to fight the decisions firstly at the Development Application stage, and then in the Land & Environment Court if necessary. They have my full support.
Change anything to do with parking in Manly and you are likely to have a problem on your hands. The introduction of ticketless parking meters didn't disappoint this long held theory.
While still struggling with the new digital meters, which replaced parking permit stickers for locals, the requirement to punch in your rego number and display a ticket caused many frustrations. Now you were faced with long queues, glare making the screen impossible to read, and some letters not registering on some meters.
Just when you thought you had mastered the requirements to park on the oceanfront - the next latest technology hit. Ticketless parking meters! Now not only do you have to face longer queues, deal with the glare making the screen impossible to read but also wonder if the bl***dy thing actually worked as you don't get a ticket of proof that you have paid, or for how long.
And that's just the problem - no ticket of proof as a number of locals have discovered recently when they disputed fines.
At the March Council meeting the General Manager admitted there had been a few teething problems with the new system resulting in some people being incorrectly fined. If you are one of them, be sure to lodge your complaint with Manly Council and insist on a refund.
Good For Manly Cr Candy Bingham’s motion to discuss the need for a business plan was illegally ruled “out of order” and left off the agenda at Monday’s Manly Council Meeting. And Cr Bingham’s attempt to have it discussed as a matter of urgency, was also knocked back.
A packed gallery, comprising many representatives of Manly's Resident Precinct groups, expressed their outrage as the Mayor Jean Hay refused to allow the matter to be discussed.
The motion, which was to examine the financial viability of the 99 year lease of the Whistler Street site and construction of a 470 space car park under Manly Oval, was prepared by residents of North Harbour Precinct. It had the support of the majority of the resident precincts and is a requirement of the Office of Local Government.
"The council’s existing documentation is so out of date it was made when the car park was to hold 760 cars, not 470, as is the case now. The KPMG report also contained significant omissions, such as not taking into account the loss of the $1M a year operating profit currently made by the Whistler St Car Park," Cr Bingham explained.
The need is urgent. The contracts to build the oval car park and redevelop Whistler St are expected to be awarded next month. At that point, Manly Council and its ratepayers will be locked in, with a penalty fee incurred if the newly merged Council decides to call the projects off.
“It’s easy to see why people are upset,” Cr Bingham said.
“While the planned 99-year lease and development of the Whistler St site will partly fund the new oval car park, the down side of that deal is that we lose convenient parking in Manly CBD and the potential for a new CBD plaza. We also lose a key site in Manly at a time when the Council is to be expanded."
“The remaining cost, including any price overruns, or operating losses, will come out of the pocket of Manly businesses and rate payers.”
At the end of the day, Manly CBD will lose up to 100 on-street parking spaces and gain a pitiful 40 extra spots further away.
“It’s the ‘why bother’ Car Park,” Cr Bingham said. "Why are the Liberal Councillors hell-bent on pushing this through before the Council is amalgamated? It's irresponsible".
The wooden footbridge at the harbour end of Clarence St is a 90-year-old reminder of a gentler time. It’s a historic structure that links North Harbour St and Wellings Reserve and it’s part of the Manly to Spit Bridge Scenic Walkway, which attracts almost 200,000 people a year.
But it's future is hanging by a thread.
Manly Council closed the footbridge in December after it was found to be structurally unsound. Scaffolding has been put up, but no repair work has been done.
Locals are furious, saying the bridge has had no maintenance work done on it for years, despite them repeatedly asking the council to act.
Now the bridge is closed "indefinitely" while the Council looks at funding options to repair, or entirely replace it.
While Council GM Henry Wong has proposed replacing the bridge with a steel structure, residents say that's not the right fit for the pretty bushland spot.
Manly Councillors overwhelmingly agree. When the bridge was discussed at this week's Council meeting, councillors asked Mr Wong to investigate using timber for the replacement work. We'll keep you posted.
Since the 2010 Masterplan for LM Graham Reserve was adopted by Manly Council, many changes have been made. And yet, the old Plan has never been updated for public review.
,At the February Council Meeting, Clr Candy Bingham of Good For Manly, was successful in gaining agreement that the Plan be updated, but not without the usual argy-bargy.
What has become typical of Manly Council meetings, a simple suggestion that an item be updated so that the public can be keep informed, become an opportunity for the Mayor to lecture all present on the merits of the updated Plan. It was good to know that at least one Councillor knew what was happening!
The current 2010 Plan on Council's website shows tennis courts (which now aren't happening due to lack of support) and do not include newly created cricket practice areas for example.
Want to know what's happening? Here's a summary from Council staff:
Watch this space. The updated Plan will be posted as soon as it becomes available.
UPDATE: April, 2016. Following a huge backlash from the community, the Minister announced an additional proposal to go to public hearing of one Northern Beaches Council from The Spit to Palm Beach (ie Manly, Warringah & Pittwater).
In the meantime existing Mayors, Councillors & General Managers have been invited to submit an 'Expression of Interest' to serve on the interim Council, and to fully support that process, even though it hasn't been announced what form that will take.
The final decision is expected to be announced by proclamation by end June/mid July 2016. At this stage Council elections for the newly formed Council are expected to be held March 2017.
The Boundaries Commission has announced the public hearing for the proposed Manly, Mosman and part Warringah merger for Tuesday 2nd February at Manly Golf Club. Session times are 1-5pm and 7 - 10pm. You can register to speak and/or send a submission here. (A copy of Good For Manly's submission is below).
Does splitting Warringah in half make any sense? Should Mosman be merged into a "Greater Manly"?
There is a huge groundswell developing against this preposterous idea with public opinion now favouring only one the Northern Beaches, if we have to amalgamate.
Councils all around the State have been told they have to amalgamate - some with the most unlikely neighbors.
Follow Save Our Councils Facebook page for more details.
Have we been conned on the Northern Beaches? How can splitting the largest council, Warringah, in two to create two Councils of the same size make any sense for the community they are to serve? This is purely a political decision and is not in the best interests for Manly, or the Northern Beaches.
Our three northern beaches councils are financially strong and serve their communities well. Why not just leave us alone and let us get on with it! If amalgamation is inevitable then one Northern Beaches Council would seem to be the preferred option by most local residents.
Watch this space for details of huge public rally against forced council amalgamations to be held on Saturday 30th January, 11.30am in Strathfield.
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.
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.
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.
It's big but impressive. That's the general impression from a recent site inspection of the new Indoor Swimming Centre in Kenneth Road which is currently under construction.
The tour included vantage points inside the site, where tonnes of earth have been extracted to build three pools, and where a crèche, gym, spa, sauna and onsite parking will be located.
Principal contractors FDC Construction and Fitout Pty Ltd are building the Manly Swim Centre which was designed by architect Tompkins MDA.
The new Swim Centre, located next to LM Graham Reserve, will incorporate the existing outdoor swimming facilities. The new centre will feature:
· A 25 metre, 8 lane heated lap pool with ramp entry
· Spectator seating for 150 people
· A program pool for exercise and rehabilitation with ramp entry
· A fun children's play and leisure pool with a beach entry
· A spa pool, sauna and steam room facilities
· Administration offices
· Gymnasium, group fitness and wellbeing rooms
· A cafe and crèche
· A separate community building in LM Graham Reserve, backing onto Kenneth Road, will contain change
rooms, public toilets, a state of the art co-generation energy plant, bike storage and a bus shelter.
· On-site parking for 54 cars including 4 accessible and 2 parent with pram spaces. Parking also available on
Kenneth Road, and nearby streets.
The Centre is expected to be completed and fully operational by June 2016.
A trial of three solar pole lights are to be installed in Manly Lagoon Park shortly in an effort to improve public access after dark.
Manly council will install three “smart” lights in the narrow park that runs between North Steyne and Pittwater Rd.
The move was prompted by Cr Hugh Burns after locals complained that the park, which has no lighting, does not feel safe after dark.
The smart solar-powered lights will have motion sensors, meaning they are usually dim, but become temporarily brighter when a pedestrian or cyclist gets close. They cost $3000 each and will be placed at three key points on the park pathway for a six months trial.
Cr Burns said the trial would assess whether the lights were bright enough for park users, but subtle enough to avoid disturbing people living next door.
If the trial is a success, the next stage would be installing 11 more lights, bringing the total cost up to $35,000.
The lights, which have a simple, compact design, will be similar to ones used in Gasworks Reserve at Little Manly Point.
Lagoon Park links two well-lit areas and is popular with cyclists, joggers and dog walkers as well as people taking a short cut home after dark.
A Manly Councillor has been savaged on social media with his comment that people who can’t walk dogs themselves don’t deserve to own one.
And it’s got legs, running on interstate and other online sites, and prompting mocking retorts such as; “You shouldn’t have children if you rely on childcare?”
Liberal Cr Alan Le Surf made the comment during a council debate on new licensing policies for commercial dog walking in Manly.
The discussion was prompted by Good For Manly Cr Candy Bingham’s call for a review of the policy, which banned commercial walkers from LM Graham Reserve, reduced their numbers and limited the number of dogs they could walk each day.
It infuriated dog owners, who said the new policy was unfair and had been introduced without community consultation.
Local vet Dr Beth McDonald said about 50% of households already have a dog, and that number is likely to increase as changes to strata laws make apartment buildings more pet friendly. She said studies have shown that pets are good for their owners’ wellbeing, especially in an ageing population where many people live on their own.
And while most people walk their own animals as much as they can, many need professional walkers to fill in the gaps. And some, such as unwell, or poorly-sighted older people, could never cope on their own. Not enough dog walkers would mean more restless, barking dogs driving the neighbours crazy.
In the end the councillors played ball, with a new park - Manly West in Balgowlah - to be considered as a new fully-fenced site. As well the council will make sure that local dog walkers are favoured over out-of-area businesses when license permits are given out.
“It’s a good outcome,” Cr Bingham said.
“I know the dog walkers loved LM Graham Reserve, because it was fully-fenced and very safe for dogs, but it was becoming over-used and there were problems with sports people and lots of dogs sharing the same space.
“The reserve is still available for people to walk their own dogs and now we will have an additional fully-fenced area nearby.”
The new policies will be reviewed in September next year.
Image: Dr McDonald with her labrador Ned. She says exercise and socialisation are essential for dogs.
Manly Council is not fit for the future according to a report released yesterday by IPART.
Neither are our Northern Beaches neighbours Warringah and Pittwater.
So the three councils have no choice but to merge to form a giant Northern Beaches council stretching from the Spit Bridge to Barrenjoey Lighthouse.
That’s the verdict in the IPART report, which sets out to assess to the viability, or otherwise, of every council in the state. (see copy of relevant Manly pages below, plus full report).
While Manly was judged satisfactory on the financial criteria of sustainability, infrastructure and service management and efficiency, we failed the “scale” test. With a population of only 42,800, we fall way short of the required 251,650 residents.
We’re certainly not alone. Out of 36 councils in the Sydney region, 29 councils, including City of Sydney, failed the fitness test. Most met financial criteria, but were deemed too small.
Advocates of council amalgamation, such as Premier and local MP Mike Baird, say bigger councils would mean ratepayers get better value for money, as well as better services and infrastructure.
But opponents say there’s no evidence that big is necessarily better, and that councils are already grouped into regional organisations, which provide economy of scale purchasing power for many goods and services.
The NSW government has given councils 30 days to respond to the report, although it has already made it clear that amalgamations will take place.
It’s unclear if councils will continue to operate as usual after that date, or if administrators will be brought in, with a possible moratorium on new infrastructure projects until the merger process is complete.
Council elections were scheduled for September next year, but may now be shifted to March 2017.
It's bad news for Manly dog owners and their pets. Professional dog walkers have been savaged by a recent council decision to ban them from LM Graham Reserve, reduce their numbers and limit the number of dogs they can walk each day.
Last month, without consulting dog owners or dog walking businesses, the council closed Graham Reserve to commercial dog walkers. This is despite it being considered the safest local dog venue as it has a designated, fenced dog exercise area. That means that only Seaforth Oval, Tania Park and Manly Lagoon Reserve remain available for the businesses to use.
In addition, dog walkers numbers have been cut by means of a new permit system. The council issued nine permits only - not nearly enough to meet demand. To make matters worse, each dog walker is only allowed two walks per day at one designated venue.
Dog owners are furious, with more than 600 signing a petition for change. They want more permits, more walks per permit, and for Graham Reserve to remain part of the mix. They also accuse Manly Council of breaching the 1993 Local Government Act by failing to comply with a requirement for community consultation.
“Manly is an area of dog lovers”, Good For Manly Cr Candy Bingham said.
“It is estimated that about 50% of people here own dogs. Most of them walk their own dogs, but many use the services of professional dog walkers. Now we have a situation where there are just not enough to go around.
“Of course we need to balance the use of our public parkland so everyone can enjoy it, but the existing system was working well. I don’t know why the council didn’t talk to the people involved before rushing into this decision.”
Cr Bingham is also concerned that local dog walkers missed out on the permits, with several going to out-of-area businesses. "It concerns me that once again Council seems to have made a rushed decision with no consultation. Even the Councillors had not been informed", she said.
Whistler St car park will cost $10M to bring up to fire safety standards according to Manly Council and the Chamber of Commerce. They are wrong.
They’re stating our 45-year-old car park needs to comply with fire standards for a building built today.
But the requirements, though adequate for public safety, are less stringent for older buildings like ours.
They have to be - otherwise councils all over Australia would be sent broke trying to keep their public buildings up to date. The disappointing part is that the Council and the Chamber must know this, but they keep repeating the wildly inaccurate figure anyway.
The real compliance cost is about $500,000.
And one has to question the fact that if the Whistler Street car park is so bad, why is it listed in Council's current financial accounts as being in good condition and required no maintenance in the 12 months?
Below is the breakdown of costs required to bring Whistler St up to the relevant Building Code of Australia fire standards, as prepared for Good For Manly by an independent assessor.
This isn’t the first time the Council has bad-mouthed the car park.
In 2013 they said the building had concrete cancer and was “falling down”, before later admitting that wasn’t true.
Later that year, the building became “a fire hazard”, which required a $5M safety upgrade - ten times too much.
This year it’s a $7 - 10M safety upgrade - twenty times too much.
The truth is the building is structurally sound and will last for at least another 20 years, and probably for another forty. It needs $0.5M in compliance work and some more in beautification projects like a green wall or murals on the outside to make it look more attractive.
Pulling the car park down and selling/99-year-leasing the land for apartments and shops is a key part of the council’s Revitalise Manly (formally Manly2015) Masterplan. The revenue produced from this long term lease will go towards covering the cost of the new 500 space car park under Manly Oval.
Without the disposition of the Whistler Street car park, the whole scheme falls in a heap. Hmm .. I wonder if that has anything to do with the grossly exaggerated numbers being pushed by Manly Council?
Should a Councillor be actively promoting Council’s redevelopment plans during the public exhibition period?
No according to Manly Council who has demanded that Councillor Candy Bingham remove publicity-promoted images of Manly2015 proposals from her blog.
“It’s just the latest effort by Manly Council to gag me on this highly controversial multi-million dollar project for Manly”, Clr Bingham said.
“This whole process has not been open and transparent from the start, and its time Manly Council came clean on what the real costs are rather than using vague phrases such as ‘it’s bankable and affordable’”, she added.
Manly Council says the images are copyright. However when Clr Bingham requested permission to use them as part of her role as a Councillor to keep the public informed, permission was refused.
She has compiled with the Council's demand, but replace the images with the following messages, in protest.
This image has been removed by Order of Manly Council.
Sorry, so has this one. It would appear that even a Councillor can not promote these publicly available images.
You can see the pretty pictures on the Council's website here
Greens MP, David Shoebridge, has asked a series of questions in Parliament in relation to the necessary permissions and approvals required from the Government in relation to Manly Council's proposed car park under Manly Oval.
The General Manager, Henry Wong, has informed the Council that "all necessary permissions have been sought". Our own initial research would seem to question that. It will be interesting to see the answers to Mr Shoebridge's questions which will be on-line here from 16th September.
Manly Council is crashing through with their controversial oval car park/Whistler St redevelopment plan.
Strong opposition at the August general meeting (10/8/15), from a packed and angry public gallery and all four non-Liberal councillors, was ignored by the Liberal council block.
A vaguely-worded resolution for GM Henry Wong to “provide information to the public” about progress so far from the Expressions of Interest process was passed at the last meeting, despite outrage from the public gallery.
The full page ad in Saturday’s Manly Daily, and the new www.manly2015 webpage and E-Newsletter, is presumably the result.
But it doesn’t tell us anything much.
There are lots of pretty pictures (see above) and reassuring PR blurb. There’s also a new slogan - Manly2015 has become Revitalise Manly Beyond The Corso. But there are no hard facts. Nor is there a mention anywhere that the proposed car park has been reduced in size, therefore making it more 'affordable'.
What specifically is being proposed? Where will the traffic go? How much will it cost?
Good For Manly Councillor, Candy Bingham, who has been working tirelessly for more transparency around the process, is particularly concerned that the size of the Oval Car park has reduced dramatically, with no public input. "This proposal was initially sold on the fact that it would increase parking in Manly. We now find that in fact if will only replace what we already have, in a less convenient location with a large operations price tag", she said.
Major changes in the “vision” are not pointed out. Now, for example, the oval car park is a 500 car space affair. The plan used to be for 740 spots.
Cr Barbara Aird summed it up: “You can’t spin it anymore - this plan will not pedestrianise our CBD as was the original vision.”
The one voice of support came from Manly Chamber of Commerce president Mark Stanley. But he hedged his bets when asked if the Chamber supported the new smaller car park plan.
"Provided the car park can be scaled up and funds are available to do that, we're in support,” he said.
Specifically asked if Chamber members had been told the car park size had shrunk, he later admitted they had not.
Now the redevelopment of the Whistler Street site is being sold as a 'community benefit' on the basis of a 99 year lease to developers to demolish the car park and build more shops and apartments on the site. The Library will be rebuilt or refurbished as part of the deal.
This is serious. It will change our village centre for ever. Same goes for our heritage oval and “village green”. Many are questioning if the community benefits will deliver what the community actually wants.
The liberals say the project will be “cost neutral” and there will be “no need for a long term loan”.
But Good For Manly’s financial analysis experts say the figures - such as we have seen - don’t stack up.
A project as important as this can not be run by a council that takes any alternative view as a personal insult. Or that deliberately hides the facts, claiming convenient “commercial in confidence” constraints.
Or as Mayor Jean Hay kindly summed it up to the public gallery at last week's Council meeting: the more opposition there is the more determined we are.
These are the same people who were hell bent on selling off public-owned waterfront land at Little Manly Beach, until the Land & Environment Court made them stop. They are now building an ugly, over-size and over budget indoor leisure facility at the local swim centre. It’s way bigger than anyone wants and it’s trashing and encroaching on Graham Reserve along the way. And of course, no updated financials or progress reports have been provided, not even to the Councillors.
The “flagship” redevelopment of Short St/Manly Plaza is a flop, with beautification promises not being followed through. The Raglan St upgrade seems to be going the same way, with local retailers now being charged the same rates as The Corso for outdoor seating - even though the pedestrian traffic is minimal.
There’s a council election next year. Stop everything until then. After-all the Liberals do not have a mandate to go ahead. None of these massive Manly2015 projects were even mentioned in their election materials!
Manly's ability to preserve its own identity is under threat as the State Government pushes councils to amalgamate as part of its Fit for the Future program.
The threat to our community is that we will be absorbed into a greater Northern Beaches mega-council, where our population of 44,000 and seaside village identity will be lost in a sprawling 260,000-people mass.
The peak council body Local Government NSW has made a submission to the State Government which strongly argues for local government to remain local. It challenges the simplistic assumption that big is necessarily better and demonstrates that councils already benefit from economies of scale due to their participation in regional organisations.
The submission identifies lack of funding for councils as by far the most important reason for any financial difficulties. It says merging councils together will not resolve their financial problems unless the funding framework is fixed first.
It argues that the only sure beneficiary of council mergers would be the State Government, as it would have fewer councils to deal with. This would be a bad outcome for local residents who would inevitably find it harder to have their voice heard both at a council, and a state government level.
The submission's main points are:
1. Many NSW councils are financially insecure. There is a net sectoral operating deficit, meaning that as a group councils are living beyond their means. And a massive state wide infrastructure renewal backlog of $7.2 billion.
2. Rate pegging undermines the ability of councils to raise sufficient funds. NSW Councils have had their rate increases linked to a cost of living index for the past four decades. As a result NSW is the state with by far the lowest council rates. Rates per capita in NSW in 2012-13 were $499 compared to the national average of $633. Making up this difference would generate an extra $970 million a year, which alone would resolve the operating deficit and infrastructure renewal backlog. The problem is compounded by the capping of many council fees and cost shifting to councils as state and federal governments withdraw services or financial support.
3. Merging two or more councils together is a difficult job. To succeed the merger needs community support, strong leadership, robust planning, adequate financial support, full co-operation from the councils involved and compatibility across the areas being merged. Forced amalgamations may therefore not succeed and may need to be reversed. In 2013, less than five years after the government had forced them to merge, several Queensland councils voted to de-merge. The new councils had to bear the full cost of the de-merger process.
4. The costs of amalgamation will be significant. Issues include integration of IT systems, relocation of staff and premises, redundancy payments for senior staff and many more. While the State Government has offered some financial incentives to councils that volunteer to amalgamate, it will not be enough to fund the whole merger process.
5. The "best" size for a council depends on what services it's providing. Bigger can be better for purchasing materials or hiring contractors. But councils already benefit from these economies of scale through their regional organisations. Manly is already joined with six other councils to form NSROC - the Northern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, which services a population of 600,000. In contrast, services that require consultation with residents and flexibility, are better delivered on a much smaller scale.
6. The property development sector has pushed the view that Sydney's housing targets will be more easily met if there are fewer councils to deal with. The submission rejects this simplistic view. As well, the "problem" has already been addressed by the recent establishment of the Greater Sydney Commission, which will oversee planning targets across the metropolitan region.
7. The Fit for the Future process has been rushed. Council submissions had to be submitted by June 30 and a decision on the fate of each of the state's 152 councils will be made by the end of October. Then the entire amalgamation process is scheduled to be finished by September 2016, an unrealistic timeframe for such a difficult and complex project.
8. Surveys show that a majority of NSW residents say their interests will be less well represented if forced council mergers go ahead. Nearly all (93%) residents say they want to be involved in decision-making in their local area.
9. Local Government NSW's other recommendations include encouraging councils to make more use of debt, and strengthening regional council organisations so they can take on more responsibility for shared services and regional planning.
Lots of plans of underground car parks, and a number of artist's impressions of what could be redeveloped in Whistler Street, is the bulk of what has gone on public display as a result of the Expressions of Interest (EOI) process for the sites undertaken by Manly Council.
But if you are looking for costings, the names of submitters linked to the proposals or any rationale - you won't find it.
Manly Council has now released on public exhibition the EOIs received for their controversial Manly2015 Plan to build a car park under Manly Oval, and a 99 year lease for the redevelopment of the Whistler Street car park site.
Due to reasons of 'commercial in confidence', the documents are of little value other than to give locals and Councillors a glimpse of some of the proposals submitted. You can view here.
The list of submitters is impressive, 15 in total ie 12 for the design and construction of the oval car park and three for the redevelopment of the Whistler Street site. Submissions for the car park were received from:
AW Edwards, Abergelidie, Built/Athas, Cockram Pty Ltd, FDC Pty Ltd, Haslin, Hindmarsh Pty Ltd, Hutchinson Builders, Kane, Michael Campareale (Campereale Holdings Pty Ltd), Richard Crookes Pty Ltd and Woolworths.
The three submissions for the redevelopment site were Built/Athas, Grengate and Grocon.
So what's next?
"At this stage even the Councillors have not been given access to the full submissions although I will be pushing to ensure that we get to view at least the short list of submissions before the report is presented to Council", Clr Candy Bingham said.
"These are the most significant projects undertaken in Manly for decades and is clearly high risk. The process to date has not filled me with confidence. Given the highly controversial nature of the Plan, it is imperative that the elected councillors are fully briefed before voting on the matter", she said.
"Given IPART is expected to announce the outcome of Council amalgamations in October one really has to question the rush to go to tenders", Clr Bingham added.
Expressions of Interest closed last Friday (12/6/15) with Council receiving 12 for the design and construct of a smaller car park under Manly Oval (470 spaces against the original proposal of 760 spaces); and three submissions for the redevelopment of the Whistler Street site.
Following a motion moved by Clr Candy Bingham, Council resolved that all submissions would be made public, and put on exhibition for 28 days.
A report is expected to come back to Council's September Ordinary meeting for further debate.
While, of course, you would expect a large number of EOIs for the construction of the oval car park, given the Council (ie ratepayes) will be taking the full risk for this project, many are querying why the General Manager issued the EOI for a smaller, 470 space car park. The original Manly2015 Plan, and all the due diligence reports, were based on a larger car park which was to provide additional parking for Manly's CBD.
"The smaller car park will only just replace what we already have, expect in a less convenient location", said Clr Bingham. The changes needed to accommodate the oval car park and the redevelopment of the Whistler Street site, will see a around 100 parking spaces removed from the streets", she added.
Although the Manly Chamber of Commerce has always publicly supported a car park under the oval, President Mark Stanley said a smaller car park was never on the table during those discussions.
So why has Council requested a smaller car park in its EOIs? One would wonder if it might have something to do with the fact that Council has claimed all along that the car park would not cost more than $34 million?
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.