Thursday, April 4, 2013

Hosting the burden of a ‘shadow population’. DAP

For those who don’t know what DAPs are, about 18 months ago the Barnett government introduced highly controversial and undemocratic new planning laws called Development Assessment Panels (DAPs).   Under this new law if developments proposals are over $3M developers can request a state DAP decision by a panel of five consisting of 2 from the local council and 3  state appointed "experts", rather than go through the comparatively transparent local government planning process.  Any development over $7M now automatically goes to a DAP. 

Once the process has gone through the initial "transparent" stages and the community has had its chance to have its say, the process goes behind closed doors.  Then only the developer has the right to appeal on decisions which the panel has reached.  In some cases the plans have been completely changed, for example, they have approved respective approvals for illegal works; they have gone from a residential to a commercial development or horticultural to FIFO worker’s accommodation. 

Yesterday,  (April 3rd)  Angela Hamersley's Supreme Court Case was  heard concerning the proposed Catherine Street Development in Subiaco.  The Catherine Street Development has been approved by a DAP but it is being challenged in court, because many believe the RAR (Responsible Authority Report), which is supposed to consider all aspects of the site and surrounding residents etc., has many flaws.  This is a very significant case because it contests the highly controversial new DAP planning process, which is seen as a threat to the environment and heritage sites as it favours developers wishes over community.

WA is in for a rocky road. Having witnessed DAP and their considerable powers over local communities, residents need to be aware and alarmed if they value their local input into their communities. Soon local government will be a servant of state governments as opposed to servants to their local residents/ and rate payers. 

Today, Thursday 4 April 2013 commencing at 2.30pm in the Shire of Broome Council Chambers, the Kimberley Joint Development Assessment Panel (JDAP ) will meet to determine an application by Planning Solutions (Aust) Pty Ltd behalf of Decmil Group Ltd in partnership with Nyimarr Ltd. They are seeking planning approval to develop an 857 person temporary Transient Workers’ Accommodation on Lot 283 Broome Road Roebuck. 

Whether built around agriculture or tourism, regional towns in Australia have a strong sense of identity and community. A large influx of non-resident workers is a permanent disruption to the social fabric and feeling of a town and this ‘shadow population’ has a serious and negative impact on the safety, image and amenity of communities. Prioritising quick profits over long-term sustainability.

The equating of FIFO with social instability is generating significant discord in communities as well as making them less desirable as a residential option. Communities with significant FIFO populations are finding themselves wanting to maintain the culture of their towns. 

In the light of the House Standing Committee on Regional Australia tabled  report on the inquiry into the use of ‘fly-in, fly-out’ (FIFO) workforce practices in regional Australia entitled Cancer of the bush or salvation for our cities? Fly-in, fly-out and drive-in, drive-out workforce practices in Regional Australia. You would have thought that this would be taken into account in the Responsible Authority Report.  

The disturbing stories shared with this Committee of local residents being pushed into FIFO/DIDO work, children’s sporting teams being disbanded due to the lack of available volunteers, doctor’s surgeries and hospitals being unable to service local residents and young women being afraid to walk the street of their home towns because of the number of young intoxicated men on the streets.

The primary concern about the use of FIFO operations is their impact on established communities and the perceived rejection of towns and their way of life in favour of high wages and temporary camp living environments.

"The influx of male workers skews the population make-up. When you add long shifts, extended periods away from home, little or no structured recreation and varying work camp conditions, it adds up to a workplace culture that incubates alcohol abuse."

Professor Carrington said residents in the towns near mines saw their services dry up as providers could not afford to live there and the cost of living went up.

"Residents have a commitment to their community and see themselves as bearing the social costs of mining without sharing the benefits, while FIFO workers, who have no attachment to the place and impose large burdens on the locals' way of life, their services and infrastructure, take most of the economic benefits back home," she said.

The potential social impacts of this project have not been fully considered in the Shire’s Responsible Authority report and therefore will not be considered by the JDAP. To date only an outline management plan has been submitted. 

The Department of Planning made a statement on the 19th January, 2013 stating that the paid chairperson of the Kimberley Development Assessment Panel (DAP)  Mr Kotsoglo resigned last month before taking the job with the company Planning Solutions  .  No conflict of interest has arisen because Mr Kotsoglo had resigned as committee chairman before taking the job with the company. 

Planning Solutions (WA) Pty Ltd was established in April 1998 and Kotsoglo was the founding director of this company. He has been involved in it’s the business while he was sitting on the Assessment Panels. 
The Code of conduct is evidence that the DAP structure is not as transparent or accountable as has been claimed. Panels have a superior probability of producing incidents of conflict of interest at best and corruption at worst, precisely because lack of transparency and accountability of panel members. 

The permanent and known members will also make panels and panelists a target for people wishing to illegally influence the approvals process.  

The makeup of the Development Assessment Panels, with Local Government being a minority member shows a clear and deliberate attempt by the state to remove local decision making from the community and Local Government. Effectively,  locking both out of the development assessment processes and local planning issues.

Obviously an uneven number was required to avoid deadlocks. The issue is not the number of members on a panel, but it’s the ratio. The fact that these DAPs has Local Government as a minority is an outright attack on our democratic rights with community losing its representation.

With the Minister appointing three members and two elected members creates an imbalance and diminishes Local Government decision making. Community interest and the primacy of local Town Planning Schemes are gradually being diminished under the pressure of those with a short term commercial interest and those looking after only the big end of town.

However, the most concerning issue is the fact that when the DAP does sits today on the 4th April 2013 to assess Planning Solution’s application to build a FIFO temporary Workers village, none of the current Kimberley DAP members will be able to claim that they have no conflict of interest because every one of them has a working relationship with Mr Kotsoglo, Mr Planning Solutions himself. The DAP model requires that DAP members operate from an open, impartial and independent position. More concerning is the fact that only David Gray has declared an interest in today’s meeting.

According to Development Assessment Panel Procedures Manual - DAP Members are required to  report any suspected breach of the Code of Conduct, or any misconduct of a DAP member concerning DAP business. 

So when asked from the public gallery at the ,last Shire Council meeting:

 “Has the Broome Shire made a complaint under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003 (which enables disclosures to be made within defined forms of misconduct within the State public sector, local government and public universities without fear of reprisal)_ directly to the Director General or to the office of the Ombudsman for Western Australia regarding Mr Kotsoglo’s alleged Conflict Of Interest?”
The shire president replied and again stated on the local ABC radio the following morning that  Mr Kotsoglo’s conflict of interest was currently being investigated by Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC). 

As soon as a DAP member receives notice of an application, they should consider whether they face any conflict of interest. Members are encouraged to read relevant sections of the Code of Conduct.

Members are reminded that a failure to disclose a conflict of interest to the DAP Secretariat as soon as possible could constitute a contravention of the Act which carries a penalty of $5000. Reference: s266 of the Act. Impartiality interest means an interest that could, or could reasonably be perceived to, adversely affect the impartiality of a member with such an interest and includes an interest arising from kinship, friendship, partnership, or membership of an association, that is connected to a development application that is before the relevant DAP or which the member is aware may come before that DAP in future.

So here we go again today. We will witness yet another autocratic process that eradicates community values and silence our voice in planning. Totally strangers coming into town to approve their ex chairperson’s planning application to build a FIFO village. I smell a rat.  


  1. A great big stinking giant rat.

  2. Smoke across Karratha sky line caused by flaring

    Smoke spreads across Karratha Photo: A technical issue caused an increase in flaring at the gas plant in Karratha yesterday. (By Gian De Poloni)

    Woodside says a technical issue at its gas plant on the Burrup Peninsula caused a trail of dark smoke to billow across Karratha's sky line yesterday afternoon.

    A spokeswoman for the oil and gas giant confirmed the issue was triggered in the LNG Train One at the Karratha Gas Plant.

    It led to an increase in flaring and some dark smoke coming from the plant.

    Woodside says flaring is an essential process for safe operations of a gas plant and is normal industry practice.

    The spokeswoman says the company implements measures to minimise flaring.


    Opposition says election pledges in tatters

    The State Opposition says the Premier's election pledges are in tatters after Tony Abbott said he would be unlikely to contribute money to urban rail projects.

    Colin Barnett has promised a rail line to the airport and a light rail network but says both would be delayed if they do not receive federal funding.

    When asked about a Melbourne rail project this morning, the Federal Opposition Leader said the Commonwealth does not have a history of contributing to such plans.

    "I think it's important that we stick to our knitting," he said.

    The Prime Minister has previously said she is not making any funding guarantees.

    Labor spokesman Ben Wyatt says it was wrong for Mr Barnett to assume he would receive federal funding.

    "It was always ridiculous for Colin Barnett to walk around making election promises on the basis they'd be paid for by somebody else," he said.

    "Yet again Tony Abbott's embarrassing Colin Barnett.

    "Abbott won't change the GST and we now know should he become Prime Minister he will not give one cent to Colin Barnett's rail promises.

    "So Colin Barnett needs to clarify, will he deliver on those election promises or will he do exactly the same thing that he did to the people of Ellenbrook?"

    In a statement, the Premier Colin Barnett says while the federal government has historically focussed on roads, he would expect it to consider the projects given its support for the Perth City Link.