Matter of Interest
The Hon. J.A. DARLEY (15:40): I rise today to speak about Marion council and more particularly their involvement in a development at 73 The Cove Road, Marino. I was recently contacted by a constituent who is concerned about the behaviour and reckless spending of this council. Since 2011, Marion council has spent approximately $450,000 defending a residential planning decision made to approve an application for a two-storey three-bedroom house.
The council's actions throughout this matter have caused great financial stress not only to the homeowners, the Fleetwoods, but also the surrounding neighbours who opposed the Fleetwoods' applications. It has also left ratepayers frustrated with how their money is being spent. Marion council first approved the Fleetwoods' development application for their two-storey house in 2012. However, the council failed to consult residents during this process, so neighbours appealed to the Environment, Resources and Development (ERD) Court. At this stage, the Fleetwoods had already begun construction on their home.
In March 2013, the ERD Court determined that they had jurisdiction to quash development approval. However, during this time, the Fleetwoods continued building, claiming they were locked into a strict building contract, as reported in the CoastCity Weekly Messenger. Following the court's decision, Marion council decided to spend further ratepayer money on this case by appealing to the Supreme Court. This attempted appeal was subsequently dismissed by that court.
Later that year, the Fleetwoods sought further approval for essentially the same dwelling house and associated works, as had been approved earlier by council. The application received development plan consent and neighbours again initiated proceedings seeking a declaration that this was invalid. In September 2014, the ERD Court made orders to remove all council approval on this matter as the council incorrectly assigned the status of category 1 to the development applications instead of category 3. As members would be aware, the incorrect assignment of category 1 to a proposed development, when it should have been processed as category 3, has the effect of depriving neighbours the right to make submissions and their right of appeal.
Following the court's decision, the Fleetwoods submitted another application which was awarded category 3 status. However, following the award of this status, the council then changed its development plan to permit the application to be categorised as category 2, resulting in the removal of a right of appeal. Local residents have submitted an FOI to obtain information to support this change in their development plan but were unsuccessful in obtaining relevant information.
In January 2017, the ERD Court held that the proposed design was too large for the site and should never have warranted approval by the council as it was a significant departure from a number of provisions of the development plan. Despite the issues raised by the court, the council commissioned independent planner Helen Dyer to assess an amended application by the Fleetwoods. I understand four submissions were made to this application: three in strong opposition to the application and one from Mr Fleetwood in support. Notwithstanding this, Ms Dyer stated that there was general support for the application. This has led some local residents to question the validity of this report.
Despite past errors made by the council, in April this year they administered a closed session to review another application by Mr Fleetwood and approved it. Residents were not permitted to view the application and were not given an opportunity to have their say. Local residents had to take this matter to court yet again to force the council to release information about the application.
It is concerning that the City of Marion council has spent almost half a million dollars on this matter. Much of this may have been avoided had the original application in 2011 been assessed correctly or had the council accepted the ERD Court's decision along the way. The fact that the council's latest consideration of this matter was held in camera when there has been so much public interest in the matter is also concerning. Time will tell what the final outcome will be.