Who pays the piper?
Efforts to ensure the independence of social impact statements were quashed at Lismore City Councils last meeting after Cr David Tomlinsons amendment to the latest social impact assessment guidelines was voted down 7/5 by the pro-development lobby.
Allowing developers to choose their own assessors and pressure those people into providing the report they want creates a significant conflict of interest, Cr Tomlinson told Council.
Cr Graham Meineke, a professional planning consultant, said that the whole idea of Council controlling the contracting of consultants cast a shadow over the integrity and independence of consultants.
Cr Ros Irwin defended Cr Tomlinsons position, saying that the Land and Environment Court was now regularly dealing with skewed reports. The local perception, she said, is that who pays the piper calls the tune.
Cr Meineke pointed out that developers are already required to produce 11 reports, including Environmental Impact Statements, stormwater reports and soil stability reports, and Council does not determine who writes those reports those consultants are chosen by the developers.
Cr Jenny Dowell, who voted for the Tomlinson amendment, took the opportunity to commend Christine Minkov, the Councils social planner, for the quality and thoroughness of her review.
In contrast, Cr Brian Henry sounded a note of warning about the new policy guidelines, stating that the vague wording of the policy could create a false sense of expectation, where anyone might think they could thwart development.
Despite Cr Henrys concerns the updated policy was adopted unanimously and will be placed on display at the Council office in Oliver Avenue, Goonellabah, the CBD office in Magellan Street and on the Council website www.lismore.nsw.gov.au from November 29 for four weeks.