Clr Candy Bingham moved a Motion at Council Meeting on 13/11/12 to reinstate permanent access to development information on Manly Council's website as is done by other Councils. This was unanimously passed. The motion was:
1. That the General Manager provide to each councillor a copy of the legal advice/s he has received in relation to this matter from Council’s legal advisors.
2. That given the community’s expectation and right for Council to provide open and transparent access to information, this information be provided to councillors a minimum of 14 days before the next ordinary meeting in December 2012 so that the issue can be addressed at that meeting.
3. That Council call on the Division of Local Government, Department of Premier and Cabinet, to acknowledge the problem facing local councils across New South Wales of reconciling the apparently competing provisions of the Commonwealth Copyright Act 1968 and the NSW Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 regarding the publication and provision of copies of DA plans to the public, and to take a lead role in arriving at a satisfactory solution.
4. That the General Manager also report to the December ‘12 meeting of Council the procedures adopted by other Councils such as Warringah, Mosman. Pittwater & Woollahra in relation to providing full public disclosure of Development Applications on their websites, and present a report on how Manly Council can also resolve this issue.
Here's some background: On 12 March 2012 I lodged a formal complaint to the Office of Information Commissioner about Manly Council not providing access to development applications on their website.
Manly Council received a copy of a letter from the Office of Information Commissioner (Reference IPC12-000132) on 11 April, 2012 stating Council had “misconstrued our guidance” by withholding public information in relation to providing access to development applications on its website.
At the June 2012 Ordinary Meeting Council passed a motion moved by Councillor Cathy Griffin that Council review its process in relation to development applications and consider the permanent publication of reports and decisions on DAs on the Council website.
To date, no report or recommendation has been received in relation to this resolution.
It is acknowledged that the question of whether or not it is a copyright breach to provide copies of development application plans to the community has been an ongoing issue in many councils. Nonetheless it is time for Manly Council to follow the lead of other councils that seem to have overcome the concerns raised.
Despite continual formal complaints since February 2012 the situation still exists where a D.A. cannot be fully viewed on Council's website, nor previous plans viewed should the applicant lodge a Section 96 Application.
Being told that you can "view the application at the Council’s offices, in office hours during the exhibition period" simply is not adequate, transparent, accountable nor acceptable.
This matter appears to have been resolved by other councils including Warringah, Mosman, Pittwater & Woollahra, who have changed their Applicant’s Declaration Terms and provide full access to development applications on their websites so why does Manly continue to restrict access?
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.