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May 18, 2021

Independent inquiry into developer’s complaints

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The so-called secret dossier of complaints compiled by Bob Ell’s Leda group against Tweed council officers is likely to be the subject of an independent inquiry.

Mayor Barry Longland says an independent expert is likely to be appointed to examine whether Leda’s complaints about council planning staff have any validity.

Cr Longland said he believed both Leda and the majority of Tweed councillors supported someone from outside council taking a look at both sides of the argument.

He said he expected a former departmental bureaucrat or retired council general manager to conduct the probe, rather than the inquiry being undertaken by the Department of Local Government.

The investigation could be similar to the 2001 probe into Tweed Shire Council planners by NSW Planning Department investigator Robert Bulford.

Mr Bulford examined complaints by the former owner of Kings Forest, Narui, against the council’s former chief planner David Broyd, eventually finding there had been no bias in the council’s planning department.

Last week council general manager Mike Rayner met with local government minister Don Page in Sydney to give council’s side of the current dispute with Leda.

Mr Rayner reported to councillors that his meeting with Mr Page was ‘productive’.

Later that same day, representatives of Leda also visited Mr Page to voice their concerns about ‘green’ bias by planning staff.

Mr Longland said any inquiry would hear both sides of the story.

‘Leda believe they have grievances but equally our planning staff have their own story to tell,’ said Cr Longland.

‘Our planners have their own version of their dealings with Leda and how they have been treated by Leda. Councillors are all in favour of a process to bring about a resolution to Leda’s claims. That may well involve third-party mediation.’

Cr Longland said he didn’t believe the department’s Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel, similar to that which replaced the disgraced Wollongong City Council planning unit, was the appropriate body to carry out the mediation.

Leda’s regional manager Reg Van Rij refused to comment on reports that he wants Tweed shire planning staff removed from the approvals process.

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