Minister orders public inquiry into council

A public inquiry will be held in to “serious issues” plaguing a NSW council.

Shelley Hancock

NSW local government minister Shelley Hancock on Wednesnday announced the inquiry into Wingecarribee Shire Council in the state’s Southern Highlands.

“Wingecarribee Shire Council’s performance is being seriously hampered by a range of financial, legal, cultural, structural, reputational and governance issues which are of great concern to the local community,” Mrs Hancock said.

The decision follows a recommendation by Council’s interim administrator Viv May, and was necessary to restore community confidence, the minister said.

The inquiry will investigate:

  • Whether members of Council’s governing body fully understand their roles and carried them out properly
  • Whether councilllors improperly interfered in operational matters
  • Whether Council’s governing body is in a position to direct and control the affairs of Council  in accordance with the Local Government Act

Ms Hancock suspended council in March citing a worsening breakdown of relationships between councillors and senior staff.

On Wednesday she also reappointed Mr May to his position and deferred the election scheduled for December 4 until the inquiry is completed.

Barrister Ross Glover, who was Counsel Assisting during the recent Blue Mountains City Council inquiry, will conduct the Wingecarreibbee inquiry and present the minister with a report.

Council will remain suspended for a period no longer than 30 days after the report is handed down.

News directors appointed

Mr May welcomed the decision, saying the voice of the community had been heard.

Viv May (image: Wingecarribee Shire Council)

“Credit for the Minister’s decision must go to the many residents who worked tirelessly to expose the perceived failures of both the elected body and former executive and the arrogance of some who did not follow their clearly stated guiding principles and responsibilities in relation to exercise of functions generally, decision making and community participation,” he said in a statement.

He said the rebuildling of Wingecarribee Shire Council was well underway and the public inquiry would add value to the process.

The announcement comes after General Manager Lisa Miscamble on Monday announced the appointment of three directors as part of the new council structure adopted in July.

They are Geoff King (Director Communities and Place), Carmel Foster (Corporate Strategy and Resourcing) and Karin Targa (Director Service Delivery and Projects).

Mr King previously led the City Strategy Unit at Parramatta and Ms Foster was Corporate Services Group Manager at Port Stephens Council. Ms Targa has held serval local government roles including most recently at roles Bayside where she was City Projects Director and Director of City Operations.

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5 thoughts on “Minister orders public inquiry into council

  1. As a former Councillor (2012-2016 term) I can say this is good decision, the right decision and long, long overdue. WSC’s fault lines were more than evident during my time and several of us called for Administration then or a full externally conducted review. Both the then management and majority of councillors rejected our Motions repeatedly. The community of WSC has suffered too long and it was only pressure from our two local MP’s that brought it to a head. The Minister has finally made the right decision – thanks in no part to the excellent work of Mr Viv May who is to be congratulated on his efforts todate.

  2. That council is not the only NSW council the performance of which has been being seriously hampered by a range of financial, legal, cultural, structural, reputational and governance issues which have been of great concern to the local community.

  3. What do you do when the local government itself, the Councillors AND the Department and Ministers Office dismiss concerns raised by the public?

    1. Hi Susanne – your problem is exactly the problem we had. There were only two councillors who thought there was a problem (myself and another). We sent complaints to the DLG, we tried to get an external company to be accepted and at every point stymied (DLG said ‘no case to answer’ which was rubbish, fellow councillors were part of the problem so would not pass Motions, the GM and DGM refused to have an external company do a review – they knew they’d be exposed). What changed the tide was our GM failing to submit bushfire reports. My co-councillor (I stepped down in 2016) contacted our 2 State MPs who swung into action, a community group got petitions together and individuals inundated the Minister. The Minister was very reluctant. Our MP’s and subsequently the Administrator’s report turned the tide. It’s taken 9 years to get to this point, a lot of formal complaints and consistent pushing by the community. You need real evidence which we had.

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