ON SATURDAY we will cast our vote to indicate who we want to represent us on Lismore City Council. Eleven people, including the mayor, will be voted in and over the course of the next four years they will meet in council chambers, argue their points of view and make decisions that affect our little piece of the Earth. These people will be required to read extensive amounts of background material, attend regular workshops and meetings and perform various other civic duties. They will do so for very little financial remuneration and will cop a lot of flak along the way when others in the community think they have made a bad decision.
But it must be very disheartening and disempowering when the council makes a decision, has that decision ratified in court, and then has it completely overturned by the State Government.
But that is exactly what has happened to the council over the Champions Quarry expansion.
After considering all the submissions made by neighbours and the community regarding Jeff Champion's development application to expand his quarry operations from approximately 29,000 cubic metres a year to 200,000 cubic metres, the council rejected the application on 11 separate grounds. Mr Champion then took the matter to the Land and Environment Court, which upheld the council's decision.
But Mr Champion also asked the State Government's Planning and Assessment Commission to consider it a matter of 'regional significance' and the commission found in his favour this week. The expansion will now go ahead.
While Mr Champion would argue we need to get the gravel from somewhere and getting it locally rather than trucking it in from elsewhere is a good thing, it is a devastating decision for the neighbours who bought into Tucki Tucki for a quiet lifestyle and who have been fighting the expansion for several years.
But it's also a slap in the face to the process of local government when elected representatives aren't able to carry out the decisions they make on behalf of the community.
The same situation occurred in Byron Shire in regards to Splendour in the Grass establishing a festival site at Yelgun, and I'm sure it has happened in numerous other local government areas around the state.
But local government should not be ridden over by bureaucrats from Sydney - local government is the area where members of the community feel like they can have some real input.
There is currently a review of local government going on in NSW (by bureaucrats in Sydney).
I hope the candidates elected on Saturday know what they are in for. It could be a rough ride.
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