On Thursday 8th December 2022, the NSW Parliament Legislative Council launched an investigation into “allegations of impropriety against agents of The Hills Shire Council and property developers in the region”.
Council was surprised by this news and is unaware of any concerns or inquiries made by either the Minister for Local Government or from the Office of local Government (OLG).
It is most unusual for matters like this to be dealt with by a Parliamentary Inquiry, as there are many other methods for overseeing local government activities.
Council supports the principles of transparency, open decision making, integrity and good governance. In fact, this Council was one of the first councils to establish an Audit Committee long before they were mandated by the OLG.
Council has an annual internal audit program along with an Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee (ARIC), and has proactively participated in a number of external performance audits by the NSW Audit Office.
Most recently, Council was selected to participate in the audit – Development applications: assessment and determinations stages. The audit, reviewed how effectively each council assessed and determined Development Applications (DAs) and how they supported independent planning panels (local and regional) in their determination of DAs. The assessment also ensured councils carried out DA processes and assessments according to current legislation, regulations and government guidelines. Findings from the audit showed that Council has an outstanding reputation for development assessment and management processes, as well as professional oversight of its services and programs.
In addition to this, The Hills is one of a few councils in Sydney meeting housing and job targets, which is extremely important for accommodating Sydney’s growth.
Council is also fit for the future and enjoys a high level of community satisfaction with its services.
Residents can be confident of the processes and systems Council has in place to appropriately manage DAs. All DAs are either determined by qualified staff, Local or Regional Planning Panels and in some cases, the courts.
All planning proposals are assessed by qualified staff and reported for a determination at an Ordinary Meeting of Council where the public can witness the decision-making process. All decisions are then referred to the NSW Department of Planning for progression or finalisation. Only a few planning proposals are delegated to Council for finalisation by the Department of Planning.
Council holds a register that records all decisions of Council on planning matters and this is publicly available on Council’s website.
Council will of course cooperate with the Parliamentary Inquiry and will assist in each stage of the process.