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Ethics and the Constitution
InformationnigeltMonday, 27 January 2020 - 5:11pm
I have received an email, as may have many other members, dated 20th January purporting to be an ‘Update from North Arm Cove Community Association’, although nowhere does it specify which members of the association have authored the pronouncements or whether it is the product of a lone individual. (It is also necessary to note its time, 12.54 pm, as such apparent ‘thought-bubbles’ have recently been issued at seemingly daily – or at one stage hourly - intervals. This fiasco is fast approaching the level of a Marx Brothers production, but sadly lacking the comedy.) I have waded through the 4 attached PDFs which, in parts, strike me as incoherent at best and am therefore more than pleased to leave their dissection, analysis and commentary to those who have displayed by their posts to have the more than adequate relevant abilities, namely Bob Reid, Doug Kohlhoff and Tony Hann. Instead I would like to address other matters raised therein.
‘RU2 landholders have voiced their main reasons for joining the Association - - ‘. It seems to be generally accepted that there are approx. 3000 privately owned paper-subdivision lots near the village. Despite diligent searches I can find no evidence of either the NACRA/NACCAi committees or the general association membership over the years ever having established the ownership details of each individual non-urban lot. Similarly I can find no record of committees and/or members systematically approaching the owners of the 3000 to conduct a vote or even a simple survey to ascertain their wishes in this matter. The reference to ‘20 non-urban members’ doesn`t specify if these are village residents/owners with additional non-urban holdings and therefore already automatically qualifying for membership or are purely non-urban owners who do not. On present information these 20 would seem to account for less than 1% of the 3000 lots. I know of no accepted form of democracy where the stated interests/preferences of such a miniscule sub-set take priority over the unrepresented and unsought interests of the glaring 99% plus majority.
In the absence of any such authority to act on their behalf the sudden claim by the committee – or a clique or individual therein – displays gross arrogance bordering on megalomania. To make a unilateral all-encompassing decision to act on behalf of the non-urbanites for their own good without written, verbal or even implied consent is gob-smacking. Just when was the committee considering exhibiting even a glimmer of decency by advising that 99% plus of the intended imminent abrogation of their right to deal with MCC ? History is replete with examples of such actions being instigated ‘for their own good’ with highly negative consequences. Consider for just a moment if a committee of owners north of the highway, a numerically smaller group with entirely different interests to ours, suddenly took it into their heads, with no instigation, promotion or consent by us, to declare that they would take over as our representatives, involve themselves in our matters and handle relations with MCC. Outrage wouldn`t start to describe our response !
‘There is a perception and fear that there could be differences in priorities however no evidence has been presented.’ The evidence has been out there for years for anyone prepared to get off their backside and do the most basic of research. I would refer you to Online Petitions at ‘A Call for North Arm Cove’s Development and Potential’ and ‘change.org Great Lakes non urban land owners’. The former dates from 2016 and has 29 A4 pages of posts while the latter runs from 3 years ago and claims at last count 687 posts. (I have not counted them.) There may well be others and I`m told there is a similar Facebook site. (I`m not an aficionado of Facebook – particularly in view of recent revelations – so cannot/have not checked.) Perusing these posts it soon becomes evident that a large number (the majority ?) are simply rants ruing their decision to buy into the non-urban lots or accept transfer of such lots by inheritance – and the resulting accruing rates. Rather than accept any responsibility for their past actions they are intent on allocating the blame for their predicament upon others, in particular the Council. Considering the lengths Council has gone to to explain its position one can only conclude that this is a display by many of determined wilful ignorance. Simply referring online to ‘MidCoast Council – Non-Urban Land’ reveals in enlarged text ‘Non-urban land is NOT exempt from rates. - - rates are still payable even on empty blocks. Councils are required to charge rates on private land under the Local Government Act 1993. Council charges - - the lowest rates possible.’ (There are none so blind - - - ?) So their bitch, in the absence of accepting any self-responsibility for their predicament, should in fact be with the State Gov`t.
Usually in an ‘amalgamation’ of two well/equally informed,similar bodies with overlapping interests there is a ‘quid pro quo’ to not only encourage but also assist in the union. Here we have a total disparity in being informed with no declared or discernible interests in common and absolutely no ‘benefit in return’, either for NACCAi or the village as a whole. (Unless one counts partially satisfying the apparent megalomania of a clique or individual ?)
Zoning. On the same site Council also states in enlarged text ‘There is no plan to rezone Non-urban land in the area of North Arm Cove - - for urban purposes.’ In 1968 my work caused me to become involved in paper-subdivisions across NSW and in particular those at North Arm Cove, Bundabah and others nearby (then under the authority of Stroud Council), coming into contact with Council, lot owners, inheritors, etc. As far as I am aware – and I may well stand corrected - not Stroud, Great Lakes or MidCoast Council has ever put in writing anything to the contrary regarding non-urban zoning. Reception counter enquiries in the 1960`s and early/mid `70’s could be somewhat vague – eg. ‘We don`t think there`s likely to be any building permission soon’ – but written replies set the precedent for the present-day ‘There is no plan - - ‘ mantra. By the late ‘70`s, when Great Lakes took over, Council was getting heartily sick of the complaints of gullible individuals who had preferred to accept the unsupported word of weekend salesmen working on commission out of bunting-clad caravans parked prominently on the corner of the then Pacific Highway (now Gooreengi Rd.) and the village access road, promising nirvana and whatever else it might take to clinch a sale, while ignoring legally advised ‘due diligence’ enquiries with Council for a factual statement. Council took the initiative and put up the first of its successive signs over the years up to today, 100 metres or so from that corner, advising anyone contemplating purchasing non-urban land what they should do to protect their own interests. Unfortunately we do not hear from the literally thousands who had the common sense to heed Council`s advice, to ignore the blandishments and empty promises and not be taken in, to invest more securely elsewhere and to get on with their lives. These petition sites even today display enquiries from credulous individuals still wishing to follow this well worn track. Real estate sites, eg. Domain, and local agents are currently offering non-urban lots for up to $85,000 in the hope that such persons will ignore Council`s admonishments, put their brains in ‘Park’ and satisfy their impulses. One can only go so far in trying to protect individuals from themselves.
Seriously, do we wish to become mired in the interminable, for the most part self-inflicted, woes – and expense ! – of the non-urbanites ?
Perpetuating Ignorance. I have been puzzled that village residents, including at least one committee member, with non-urban blocks have been prepared to post on these petition sites but have apparently made no attempt to allay the ire, fears, misapprehensions etc. of the vast majority of their fellow but non-resident non-urbanites by simply posting on the same sites a referral to the MCC site and/or explaining in basic terms the contents of MCC`s Non-Urban Land advice. It speaks volumes for the lack of unity within this group that the committee/clique/individual are determined to ‘represent’; apparently it`s also fine to withhold information, ensure and perpetuate ignorance in your takeover target. Yes, I could do it, but first let`s see if any of the resident non-urbanites or more importantly any of the committee member non-urbanites are prepared to share their knowledge for the benefit of those less well informed individuals among their targetted non-urbanite ‘cousins’.
Before writing this post I tried to get answers to some of these matters by approaching a non-urban owning, village resident, committee member, outlining my reasons for wishing to speak and arranging a call time. At that agreed time the phone rang out and a voice asked me to leave my name and phone no. for them to call me back, which I did. To date, silence. Having made the effort to take on board a variety of thoughts/opinions and be open with mine in a discussion/exchange I trust that there will be no complaints about such being mentioned here.
Interestingly there are posts on the Online Petitions decrying the present-day decline in the state of the area, seemingly aimed at the actions of us local inhabitants. Much ire is expressed and directed at the Council for the state of the ‘roads’ through the non-urban lots; I am not aware – but could again stand to be corrected – that the residue of the subdivision (which would generally include the roads) has ever been wholly transferred to the Council, but it is reported (Cove website, 11/1/2012, ‘Some Early History of the Cove’) that in 1963 they did rule that the majority of them be closed, my understanding being that it was reportedly to avoid the potential mounting costs of having to service them. (I believe there are still questions of ownership regarding residual ‘bush’ islands within the village itself.)
Re-zoning. The question of re-zoning, provision of infrastructure, etc. on such a scale is not one for Council but the State Government, who in turn will refer to their case study example at Riverstone, north-west of Sydney, which involves approx. 3600 lots and approx. 550 owners. (See online NSW Planning & Infrastructure – Planning for Paper Subdivisions, page 4. Also, following a previous attempt to rezone the NAC non-urban lots, the post of Tony Hann on the Cove website of 12/4/2012 titled ‘Paper Subdivision – Notes’ following a meeting with the NSW Dept of Planning at Tea Gardens which included personnel administering the Riverstone re-zoning.)
I first became involved in the Riverstone paper-subdivision in 1968 and after 6 years of assessment/deliberation purchased non-urban lots there in 1974. Riverstone township could not/would not assist us with re-zoning requests. Blacktown Council agreed to listen to us but advised that eventually it would be (and proved to be) a State Government matter and that we should form a body of all landholders and become incorporated before we would be granted any meaningful input at Council and State level (which, despite dispersed owners, language barriers, very different preferences, etc. we did, resulting in VRMPD Inc, viewable online and Facebook). In contrast the current crop of NAC non-urbanites have shown no inclination to form a single body and, equally important, an expressed united voice and aim. Since around the turn of the century Riverstone has had the backing of both Council and State, whereas NAC re-zoning has the resolute opposition of both Council and State. Riverstone has all the relevant infrastructure at hand, merely needing for it to be extended for connection, nestling in a proclaimed development corridor with its own rail-line (being duplicated) and station, plus a highway connecting growth centres (already expanded from 2 to 4-6 lanes) while non-urban NAC has - - what ? - - besides an adamant, oft declared position by Council to stop any such development outside of their already planned and State Gov`t approved Tea Gardens/Hawks Nest hub.
The above is not mentioned to promote Riverstone lots but to indicate that following all the groundwork meetings and graft of the ‘70`s and ‘80`s, the gradual engagement of the Council and State (for their own benefit) in the ‘90`s, it was not until 2010 that the zoning was finally changed – in my case to ‘Ordinary Residential Scheduled Lands-Vacant’ - which did not and still doesn`t allow owners to build or do anything else with their land - not even camping ! (Time for an online petition ?) However, the end is in sight with the first parcel of lots being prepared by the State Govt`s body, Landcom. So it has been 52 years from first viewing, 46 years from purchasing, for the first glimmers of hope to appear on the horizon – it brings a whole new perspective to ‘patience’. Prepare yourselves - and generations to come - NACCAi !
If we could have learned anything from events of the last few months it should have been that fragmented development in densely wooded areas can so easily prove lethal, not only to those sufficiently divorced from reality to contemplate it in the first place, but more importantly for those dedicated individuals who take on the onerous task of having to then strive to protect such structures, even having on occasion to extract the owners, at great risk to themselves. Hopefully in the future greater attention will be paid to the opinions of the fire authorities regarding planning and zoning of such areas, for the problem is only going to get considerably and inevitably worse.
Aside from apparent reveries of empire building, does NACCAi – other than a handful of residential non-urban owners seemingly intent on promoting their own self-interest - seriously want to become embroiled for not years but decades, with absolutely no hint of a resolution, in the single interest of the non-urbanites, with them showing no inclination to commence the most basic steps in helping themselves. Continual complaining plus inaction are not the first steps to resolving their woes.
Miscellany. Glib use of the term ‘neighbourhood’ pertaining to thousands of cleared hectares north of the highway and hundreds of densely tree-covered hectares to the south does not constitute a neighbourhood by any stretch of the imagination other than in an overall administrative sense, no matter how often the proponents may repeat it or wish it to be so for territorial aggrandisement purposes. It includes the word neighbour for a specific reason, that being to signify a number of persons living near one another, especially when forming a community. It is difficult to construct a more apt and encompassing description of our village within its present boundaries.
The fact that some public servant short on imagination chose to append our name to a vast expanse of scarcely inhabited grazing-land or a lesser but still significant area of dense bushland with barely any occupants, legal or otherwise, is absolutely no reason for our in-house clique or individual to unleash their proprietorial instincts. Biting off more than one can chew comes to mind. We manage, barely at times, to service the needs – and occasionally wants – of our communal neighbourhood. Could we please limit ourselves to doing a known job well, rather than an overstretched mediocre performance to satisfy inflated egos.
The use of the term non-urban land holders had absolutely no connection with 1992, developers, etc. In 1963 Council`s re-zoning actions used the term non-urban. My paper-subdivision work from 1968 and access to Realty Realisations records from 1972 showed the term had been in use far earlier and was widespread across NSW. The relevance of the term ‘developers’ eludes me; although overt contributions may have been banned, it would be naive to conclude that influence cannot and is not brought to bear on the Council and its members via corporate bodies, associates, family members, etc.
Membership – Last but Most Definitely not Least ! For the reasons expressed above it should be freely open only to anyone owning property within the village area zoned Residential - not people renting and not non-urbanites. Anyone, say from Sydney, who has made a commitment of considerable energy, time and inevitably hundreds of thousands of dollars for their future in the village should automatically receive NACCAi membership on payment of the requisite fee if they so wish. I cannot recall it being needed in the past, but if it should ever prove necessary the presentation of a current rates notice should more than suffice. They may well be totally unknown to other members but should not have to be subjected to the petty prejudices of current individuals who seemingly are in desperate need of exercising authority. From my purchase in 1975 none of these authoritarian vetting measures were deemed necessary or employed. As in any social setting differences of opinion, personalities, etc. arose from time to time, but displays of maturity and common sense prevailed and if anything enhanced the association. In the rare cases that matters could not be resolved the individual would inevitably ‘take the hint’ and withdraw of their own volition. There is no reason to think that such a time-tested approach could not or should not continue. I have absolutely no interest in allocating further and quite unnecessary powers to committee members while their actions and output are in such a chaotic and questionable state as presently displayed.