Lord Mayor Clover Moore has voted to side with developers over the community in the ongoing case of the Barangaroo development. At a Council meeting last Monday I introduced a motion calling for the City to provide $10 000 to the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) should it proceed with legal action in conjunction with the Barangaroo Action Group if new development plans are approved by the Planning Minister. As a result of Clover’s vote the EDO may now not be able to proceed with this action.
The EDO approached the City to contribute to possible action so that it was clear that the EDO was acting in the broader public interest and not just in the interests of a particular group of residents. The Lord Mayor’s actions have prevented the City from genuinely aligning itself with the broader community by ’getting down in the trenches’ with residents to oppose the massive overdevelopment on Barangaroo. Her actions have also jeopardised the ability of the EDO to act for local residents.
The application before the Minister for Planning is to excavate a giant pit that will house at least four floors of car parking to be used for commercial parking for the foreseeable future. These plans risk spreading contamination into the harbour and onto Council land. They also fly in the face of claims that the development will be environmentally sensitive by providing commercial parking for over 800 cars and leaving no room for trigeneration systems which would have provided low carbon energy to the development. Council planning staff say the plans are so riddled with problems that they would never be approved were the decision up to Council. You can read the City’s damning assessment here.
Prior to the meeting I sought legal advice on whether or not the Lord Mayor, as a member of the Barangaroo Delivery Authority Board, would have a conflict of interest in voting on this matter. The advice indicated clearly that she would have a conflict and should therefore absent herself from the voting. The advice is attached here.
Despite this advice, which I circulated to all Councilors prior to the meeting, the Lord Mayor did not declare any sort of conflict in the matter. She chose to remain in the Council chambers while my motion was debated and then to participate in the vote on whether or not it should be adopted.
The vote came down to a 5-5 split, with fellow Greens Councilor Irene Doutney, Liberal Shayne Mallard and two members of the Clover Moore Party (John McInerney and Marcelle Hoff) voting with me in support. Labor Councilor Meredith Burgmann, supporting the state government party line, voted with Clover Moore and the remaining three members of her team to oppose the motion. Moore then used her casting vote as Lord Mayor to vote a second time and defeat the motion.
Had Moore absented herself, in line with the legal advice, the motion would have passed. The Council would be standing up for what it has repeatedly stated it believes in and would not be relying on volunteers from the community, such as the Barangaroo Action Group and The Friends of Barangaroo, to fight its battles.
I have since filed a complaint with the NSW Ombudsman and the Department of Local Government asking them to confirm the legal advice that Clover Moore had a conflict of interest in this matter.