Mayoral Minutes 2024

1.  Maintaining the Momentum

Date: 13 February 2024

Recommendation: That the information be noted.

Welcome to an exciting 2024; I anticipate the year ahead will be filled with stimulating and interesting debate as we approach the NSW local government election in September. 

It's a critical year to reflect on our local needs, collaborate on solutions, and capitalise on opportunities to make a real impact in our community. We should prioritise fostering a culture of open dialogue and actively listen to the community's needs, engage in constructive debates, and provide clear, actionable plans for improvement. 

We can work together to ensure that single issues don't dominate the September 2024 election debate and that we strive for an election that genuinely represents the diverse needs and aspirations of our community, fostering open conversations and innovative ideas.

Strong Start to 2024

Our popular event program started with exceptional enthusiasm in 2024, with various celebrations to unite our community and recognise what is great about our city.

New Year’s Eve in Koshigaya saw record crowds, with 25,000 people coming together to enjoy an evening of entertainment, attractions, and fireworks in our city centre. Campbelltown’s Australia Day event celebrations in Koshigaya Park saw 10,000 community members enjoying a program of Australian music and a relaxed, fun, and family-friendly atmosphere, with various activities on offer.

I also had the honour of presenting Australian Citizenship to 152 of our residents in two citizenship ceremonies on Australia Day and announcing the recipients of this year’s Australia Day Awards.

The following residents were recognised for their ongoing contributions to Campbelltown:

  • Citizen of the Year – Samantha Oakes
  • Young Citizen of the Year – Hayleigh Keogh
  • Senior Citizen of the Year – Ian Shepherd
  • Environmental Citizen of the Year award - Rita Mikolaitis
  • Sports Award of the Year – Angela Jean Fowler
  • Community Group Initiative of the Year award – Eden College

Thank you to all of those who nominated these outstanding members of our community and to the nominees and the winners for the contributions they make to our city every day. I would also like to thank the Australia Day Awards Selection Committee for assisting in assessing this year’s nominations to recognise these worthy winners.

I look forward to our exciting event program continuing this year, with various events scheduled in the coming months, including Ingleburn Alive, Challenge Walk and Ramadan on Q.

Highlights of Achievements in 2023

I’d like to begin the year by reflecting on our achievements from 2023.

Development of our City

2023 was marked by significant strides in development and planning within our community. Key milestones included the finalisation and approval of the Ingleburn CBD Planning Proposal and the endorsement of the Rosalind Park Planning Proposal, which has been forwarded to the Government for a Gateway Determination. Noteworthy achievements also encompassed the reclassification and rezoning of the Animal Care Facility, alongside receiving Gateway Determinations for multiple planning proposals across the region. The year further saw the amendment of the Campbelltown Local Infrastructure Contributions Plan and the gazetting of Amendment No 34 for Blairmount Heritage, highlighting our commitment to preserving our cultural heritage.

Our development team determined 446 development applications with a combined capital investment value surpassing $750 million. The team also attended 31 pre-lodgement meetings to discuss future development opportunities and six Design Excellence Panel meetings.

Their efforts facilitated significant housing supply initiatives in response to the NSW Government’s call, approving developments that promise over a thousand new residential opportunities. These projects are pivotal in meeting the growing demand for residential spaces within our community and in diversifying the housing options available to our residents.

Among the key developments: Menangle Park has approved two stages—Stage 4 South and Stage 3 North—adding 595 residential lots to the area, the approval of 131 new residential lots at Maryfields Estate and the addition of 90 residential lots in Gilead. Unfortunately, and despite our best of efforts, the Figtree Hill release continued to be held up awaiting an approval from the State Government on the upgrade of Appin Road.

An approval was also given to a significant urban development project at 22-32 Queen Street, Campbelltown, featuring 558 apartments across five residential towers, which promises to deliver modern urban living spaces in the city centre, has also been approved.

Student accommodation has been increased with the approval of new accommodation facilities for 180 students at the Hurlstone Agricultural High School Farm Hub facility, which highlights our focus on supporting educational communities and fostering a conducive learning environment.

Ensuring a high standard of compliance and safety throughout the city, Development Compliance team responded to 468 building and unauthorised use matters and conducted 268 swimming pool inspections. Our team responded to 1,540 parking-related complaints, 1,066 unattended motor vehicle, and 913 companion animal-related complaints.

In addition to the above, upholding our commitment to a safe and healthy community, our Environmental Health Officers undertook an incredibly high number of public area inspections, with 1,064 food premises inspections, 273 public health premises inspections and 224 wastewater management system inspections to ensure our community’s safety in these venues.

Support for our Businesses and Community

2023 was a year of fostering community and business growth, with our Outdoor Dining Grants program revitalising local eateries and contributing over $120,000 towards outdoor dining improvements. Our public facilities saw record visitations again, reflecting the vibrant community life our services support. The Campbelltown Arts Centre welcomed 91,673 visitors, and our libraries welcomed over 320,000 people in 2023.

Our childcare services provided quality care to 860 children, with four of our services being recognised for their excellence in meeting or exceeding national standards, which is the highest percentage of services exceeding those of any provider in our LGA.

The enthusiasm for our swim school program and participation in athletics and swimming carnivals at the Campbelltown Athletics Centre continues, we had 4,159 swim school enrolments, delivering 39,570 swim school classes and hosting 69 schools' swimming carnivals. Our school children also enjoyed 121 athletics carnivals at the Campbelltown Athletics Centre.

The Campbelltown Sports Stadium witnessed unprecedented attendance, with 77,865 attendees throughout the year across 41 activations. We were 1 of only 28 venues across Australia and New Zealand to host a team for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup with the South Korean team calling Campbelltown their temporary home and were awarded a FIFA pitch rating of 5/5.

Further enhancement to our facilities has increased our fitness classes and expanded our fitness membership base to include 1,670 fitness classes and 1,888 members obtaining fitness memberships at our gyms, the highest level of both on record.

The Visitor Information Centre in our city witnessed a remarkable surge in visitation, experiencing a 40% increase with a total of 5,680 visitors from local, interstate, and international backgrounds. The Centre also received prestigious recognition in 2023, being rated the number one attraction in Campbelltown on Trip Advisor.

Our Animal Care Facility hosted 1,454 animals throughout the year, with 1,317 animals sold, rescued, or released to their owners.

New and Improved Infrastructure

Throughout the year, our City Services team has made remarkable strides in enhancing the infrastructure and public spaces across the Campbelltown LGA, significantly improving the quality of life for our residents and visitors.

Here's a comprehensive overview of the key achievements.

Approximately 245,000 m² of roads were resurfaced, including major projects on Eagle Vale Drive, Raby Road, Slater Road, Eagleview Road, Englorie Park Drive, and Parkside Crescent. The program also included 7,000 m² of heavy patching for essential road repairs.

Following the 2022 flood event, we efficiently reconstructed flood-damaged roads, covering approximately 650m of Georges River Road, 1.2km of Hansens Road, 1.8km of Minerva Road, 500m of O’ Hares Road, 700m of Peters Meadows Road, and 550m of Wedderburn Road.

The team has undertaken the replacement of 6,500 m² of footpaths across more than 1,000 locations, alongside 3,200 linear meters of kerb and gutter replacements. Additionally, 1.5 km of new footpaths and 485 m of new cycleways were constructed to enhance pedestrian and cyclist accessibility.

Our efforts included bus shelter installations, pedestrian crossings, and traffic devices at various locations.

2023 also saw the treatment of 45,000m² of car parks at key locations such as Ambarvale Sports Complex and Lynwood Park, among others. This initiative ensures better access to our city's recreational facilities.

The introduction of McBroomie, our footpath sweeper, alongside our hot water pressure washer, played pivotal roles in maintaining cleanliness across CBD areas, parks, and public venues, accumulating 1,070 service hours for McBroomie alone.

Our proactive approach to graffiti removal, litter bin servicing, and tree management has significantly contributed to the city's cleanliness and greenery, fostering a more pleasant urban environment. Graffiti removal responded to 1,230 requests, and diligent attention to street and park litter bins resulted in the servicing of approximately 402 bins each week, totalling 19,296 bins. Our efforts to maintain cleanliness in the city also extended to collecting 3,764 reported dumps and managing trees with 200 removals, 900 prunings, and 714 plantings.

Recycling and Waste Management saw initiatives to repurpose 378.94 tonnes of road sweepings and the comprehensive collection of residential waste, totalling approximately 66,108 tonnes of kerbside clean-ups.  We collected 2,608,602 general waste bins, 1,162,338 recycling bins, and 659,594 organic bins from our residents.

Our Environmental Protection Officers responded to 1,332 requests from the public and undertook 3,125 illegal dumping investigations. while the recently opened Community Recycling Facility on Hepher Road, Campbelltown had 10,920 visitors and contributed to diverting around 135,491 kilograms of waste from landfill.

Sports field care involved 570 tonnes of top dressing, 155 hectares of renovations, and treatment of 539 hectares for weeds, pests, and diseases. A total of 40 tonnes and 1,790 litres of fertiliser were applied to sports fields.

Our public space assets program achievements encompassed synthetic grass renewal at Macquarie Field Park, Monarch Oval, Glen Alpine Tennis Court, floodlight renewal at Campbelltown Showground Park and Kooringa Reserve, fencing replacement at our Animal Care Facility, and shade sail replacements at various locations including Field House Reserve, Mandurama Reserve, Willowdale Park, and Campbelltown Sports Stadium.

Major bridge works, stormwater drainage renewal, and public space asset programs were also successfully completed, featuring projects such as asphalt sheeting on the Gilchrist Drive Bridge and stormwater pipe relining in Macquarie Fields.

Our efforts also included bus shelter installations, pedestrian crossings, and traffic devices at various locations. From synthetic grass renewal at various parks to floodlight upgrades and shade sail replacements, our team has diligently worked to enhance the usability and aesthetic of our public spaces.

Projects for our City’s Future

Our Project Delivery team saw the Development Application for the HJ Daley Library’s relocation to its temporary site on Queen Street officially lodged.

Ongoing construction activities in the Billabong Parklands have seen the completion of structural, tiling and artificial rockery works for the water bodies, substantial progress on the amenities building and pump room, and extensive landscaping activities throughout the precinct.

At Raby Sport Complex, the former Indoor Centre has been demolished, paving the way for ground-breaking and construction activities for the new Indoor Sports Centre.

Initiating the enhancement of Bob Prenter Reserve, groundwork for the new field lighting has commenced, with upgrades scheduled for completion before the start of the 2024 Winter Sporting Season.

The Farrow Road Commuter Carpark construction contract was awarded, with onsite works set to commence in February 2024.

Western Sydney Infrastructure Grant (formerly known as WestInvest) project planning works have progressed, with the funding deeds expected shortly. Our Project Management Office continues to mature, strengthening Councils project delivery capability, enhanced reporting transparency and visibility.

Supporting our Environmental Assets

Continuing the Koalatown campaign, we achieved milestones such as establishing Koalatown Certified Schools and Koalatown Certified Properties, accomplishing habitat restoration, conducting biennial koala monitoring, and initiating the most comprehensive vehicle strike hotspot project in the history of the LGA.

Embarking on a ground-breaking initiative, we commenced the development of Council’s inaugural Urban Greening Plan, aimed at augmenting and safeguarding the tree canopy throughout the LGA.

Striving to enhance public recreation and amenity, we both completed and initiated work on significant bushland upgrades, including projects at Ingleburn Reserve and Keith Longhurst Reserve.

Initiating largescale site restoration works at Campbelltown and Macquarie Fields Grey Headed Flying Fox (GHFF) camps as part of our GHFF Camp Management Plans, we dedicated efforts to restore 3.87 hectares of land.

Our commitment to environmental stewardship is evident in the completion of priority weed management across 134.4 hectares of land, conducting 234 private property inspections and addressing 17 new priority weed incursions to safeguard our local environment.

In fostering community engagement with the environment, we successfully delivered 76 community events and environmental workshops, captivating the interest of 8,065 community members.

Under our Bushfire Management Programs, we accomplished 31.8 hectares of Bushfire Protection Zone maintenance and 25.65 kilometres of fire trail maintenance.

To bolster urban tree canopy and biodiversity, we planted 6,626 trees across reserves throughout the LGA, reinforcing our dedication to sustainable green practices.

Improving our Open Space

Our dedicated Open Space team has accomplished a series of notable achievements, including the successful Beersheba Memorial Palm planting, and the Steven Tougher Memorial Tree planting initiative in Koshigaya Park.

The enhancement of recreational spaces was further exemplified through the completion of projects such as the James Ruse Park Playspace, Satsukino Park Playspace and the Queen Street Improvements. The sod has recently been turned on the Marsden Park District Playspace.

Continuing their impactful contributions, the team successfully executed the Queen’s Jubilee planting along Camden Road and installed shade structures as seven playspaces, including Digger Reserve, Eschol Park Sports Complex, Kenny Reserve, Rizal Park, Lorraine Cibilic Reserve, Hallinan Park, and Macquarie Fields Park.

In addition to these on ground achievements, the Open Space team has been actively engaged in planning projects, such as updating the Memorials and Monuments in Public Open Space Policy. They have embarked masterplan design initiatives for key open space areas like Varroville Reserve, Rosemeadow Sports Complex and Koshigaya Park, and has collaborated with the Department of Planning on the Glenfield Parklands Master Plan ensuring a comprehensive approach to the stewardship of our Open Spaces.

Celebrating our Residents

We held 19 citizenship ceremonies, welcoming a total of 1465 new Australians in 2023. We celebrated 227 HSC High Achievers and also recognised 51 local organisations, whose 1035 volunteers contributed more than 216,000 hours of their time to our community.

Advocating for our City

In advocacy, we wrote over 200 letters to Ministers and Shadow Ministers making representations on critical issues for Campbelltown and engaged in 27 meetings with Ministers, Shadow Ministers and Members of Parliament across both NSW and the Commonwealth. We secured a total of $179,234,994 in grants from the NSW Government, including the competitive round of Western Sydney Infrastructure Program (formally known as WestInvest) and $2,574,247 from the Commonwealth Government during 2023.

Supporting our City’s Growth

We have sought alternative revenue growth opportunities outside of traditional sources of rates and grants. In accordance with Council’s Investment Property Policy, robust strategy and governance framework, we have been successful in growing Council’s commercial property portfolio from approximately $25 million in 2018 to $134 million in 2023. Combining both gross income and capital growth for the period the commercial property portfolio has generated a strong 15.6% total return for 2023.

This year’s result is off to a good start, with the acquisition of 10 Digitaria Drive, Gledswood Hills further enhancing Council’s portfolio. The portfolio continues to provide supplementary operating revenue to enhance Council’s service provision and diversify our revenue base.

I look forward to keeping you updated on our ongoing achievements throughout the year.

2. The Provision of Social and Affordable Rental Housing in Campbelltown

Date: 13 February 2024

Recommendation: That the information be noted.

The process of navigating social and affordable rental housing in Campbelltown involves balancing community needs, financial sustainability, and quality of life.

We represent a dynamic community that serves as a testament to resilience, inclusivity, and community spirit. Campbelltown has long been acknowledged for its housing affordability, establishing itself as an attractive option for individuals and families searching for a place to call home without the intimidating price tags commonly associated with other areas of Sydney.

Campbelltown has consistently played a crucial role in addressing the most challenging issues related to urban development, not only by addressing housing affordability but also by shouldering a disproportionate share of the responsibility for social and affordable rental housing across Sydney.

Firstly, I will delineate the distinction between these terms and their application to Campbelltown.

‘Housing affordability’ generally refers to the measure of whether a typical household has the financial capacity to purchase or rent a typical home. Several affordable ratios are commonly used, including purchase affordability, repayment affordability, and income affordability.

According to a recent speech delivered by the Minister for Housing, Sydney ranks as the sixth most expensive city for housing globally. Although this is concerning, it is crucial to contextualise it within Sydney's overall performance as a global city.

In 2023, Sydney achieved the fourth position globally regarding liveability, as reported by The Economist Intelligence Unit's Global Liveability Index. Furthermore, Sydney's global appeal was confirmed by the 2022 Anholt-Ipsos City Brand Index, which ranked Sydney as the third most appealing city worldwide. Moreover, the 2021 Global Power City Index emphasised Sydney's dedication to environmental sustainability, placing it third globally and 12th overall based on its six urban functions.

Sydney is distinguished as a global city based on numerous positive indicators, and it is imperative for the government to acknowledge the significance of liveability when considering affordability.

‘Social housing’ encompasses housing provided by state authorities (public housing), non-profit community organisations (community housing), and Indigenous organisations (Indigenous housing). Social housing policies were initially implemented in the early twentieth century and subsequently became a prevalent approach for accommodating working-class families in the post-war period. Nevertheless, there was a decrease in public housing construction in the latter part of the twentieth century, and the focus of its provision shifted towards low-income, higher-need households who were outside of the labour market.

According to a study conducted in 2023 by Western Sydney University, Campbelltown surpasses other areas in Sydney regarding the availability of social housing, with 8.4% of its housing stock allocated for this purpose, which is more than double the national average of 4%. This rate is the highest in our region, surpassing Fairfield's rate of 7.7% and Canterbury-Bankstown's rate of 7.5%. In stark contrast, Wollondilly and Camden exhibit significantly lower rates of 1% and 1.3%, respectively.

The concept of affordable rental housing has arisen in response to the decrease in social housing and the shift in policy. In New South Wales (NSW), the definition of affordable housing is provided in the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979, which encompasses housing for very low-income households, low-income households, or moderate-income households as prescribed by the regulations or as provided for in an environmental planning instrument.

When analysing the availability of affordable housing, Campbelltown's rate of 1.7% is lower than Fairfield's 3.26% and Canterbury-Bankstown's 2.41%. However, it is notably higher than Camden's 0.55% and Wollondilly's 1.14%. These statistics highlight the significant role played by Campbelltown in servicing the demand for social and affordable housing.

This comparison is limited to councils in Western Sydney. The disparity becomes significantly wider when these figures are contrasted with those from the inner city and eastern suburbs, highlighting a notable imbalance. The statement raises substantial concerns regarding any proposal suggesting elevated benchmarks for social or affordable housing in Campbelltown compared to those for the inner city, eastern suburbs, Camden, or Wollondilly.

Any proposed initiative designed to expand the availability of affordable rental housing in Campbelltown to meet the community's affordable housing requirements poses a financial challenge for the ratepayers and residents of Campbelltown. Currently, the management of affordable rental housing developments, once constructed, requires management by a Community Housing Provider (CHP). The obligation for paying land rates is associated with the property's ownership and utilisation.

Affordable rental housing, which is owned and managed by Community Housing Providers (CHP) as described above, is exempt from land rates according to existing laws. This results in a transfer of the financial responsibility to other rate-paying residents, who face higher rates to offset the CHP’s exemption.

According to the Local Government Act of 1993, any loss of land rate revenue resulting from exemptions is offset by raising the rates for the remaining ratepayers in the following years. Expanding the inventory of affordable housing under the ownership and management of CHPs will increase the financial burden placed on our local residents. Within the Campbelltown Local Government Area (LGA), there are currently 123 properties that are exempt from land rates, resulting in an additional burden of $185,000 on landowners who are responsible for paying rates annually.

The disproportionate allocation of affordable rental housing projects within a specific council area to address the shortage of such housing in the surrounding LGA cluster will significantly impact our city's rates, services, and overall quality of life.

According to the liveability ranking of Sydney's 569 suburbs, the highest ranked suburb is Campbelltown at 222, followed by Macquarie Fields at 311 and Leumeah at 334. Based on this ranking, it appears that there is a significant amount of work to be done in this area.

In recent times, there has been substantial discourse regarding the reform of social and affordable rental housing by the federal and state governments. The establishment of Homes NSW is anticipated to bring about substantial changes. In her most recent media statement, the Hon Rose Jackson MLC, Minister for Housing declared, "Homes NSW will rebuild the social and affordable housing system in NSW”.

The lack of clarity surrounding the reform agenda and the ongoing uncertainty regarding the operational mechanisms of the development incentives provided by recent affordable housing reforms pose significant challenges in formulating our Affordable Housing Contribution Scheme.

While I hold a differing perspective on certain proposed ideas in the report presented by The Parks, it is evident that considerable effort has been invested in developing the framework under review. I am apprehensive, however, about the potential impact of these unknown reforms and the subsequent policies the government intends to undertake will have on Campbelltown.

Before proceeding with the development of our own scheme, it is imperative to gain a comprehensive understanding of the NSW Government's intentions, as their actions may put our residents and ratepayers at a significant disadvantage.

I have secured a meeting with the Minister for Housing in March to address these matters and additional concerns.

3. Navigating Change: Embracing Critical Junctures

Date: 13 February 2024

Recommendation: That the information be noted.

In my first Mayoral Minute, I underscored the multifaceted responsibilities of a mayor, which extend beyond the formal boundaries delineated by the Local Government Act 1993 to embrace the boundaries of societal expectations within the context of our community ambitions and aspirations.

Our Council, along with other governmental bodies, operates within the confines of established pathways shaped by both formal statutes and informal traditions. Within this framework, there exists the potential for incremental reforms and adjustments, primarily facilitated through the Integrated Planning and Reporting framework. These adaptations generally align with the established direction, utilising both positive feedback and constructive criticism to refine and affirm our course.

As outlined in institutional theory, the notion of path dependence explains the challenges and constraints entrenched institutions face. It highlights the profound influence of historical events, self-reinforcing processes, and critical junctures in dictating the evolution of institutional structures.

We, as individuals or collective groups, approach the systems that govern and facilitate our progress as requiring particle modification. These modifications are critical and provide essential and ongoing improvement to our governing system and achieve better outcomes and efficiencies for our residents.

Over the last two years, we have passed many modifications to our policy frameworks, introduced new strategies, and dealt with non-functional or outdated approaches. We will continue to make these changes, and we have several others on the way, some of which I have highlighted in my previous Minutes, to be implemented before the end of the Council Term.  

I believe that we are on the verge of such a critical junction that will occur with or without our cooperation. We must prepare internally and externally to take advantage of such major change and ensure we can advance the welfare of our Council and our residents.

The notion of a "critical juncture" plays a pivotal role in understanding the dynamics of institutional change and development. It refers to a period of significant transformation, where the decisions made can lead to profound and long-lasting impacts on the trajectory of an institution or a society. A critical juncture can be seen as a moment of opportunity or vulnerability, not just a challenge to be met but a gateway to potential transformation and renewal.

These junctures are characterised by their potential to catalyse substantial change by introducing new development paths and allowing for innovative solutions and novel approaches to emerge. This flexibility can enable institutions, including councils like ours, to adapt to new challenges, reinterpret their roles, and realign their strategies to better serve the needs and aspirations of their communities.

External factors often cause critical junctures, and currently, the social, political, and economic influences are converging to create a scenario for change. These forces are not merely background noise; they are powerful dynamics that shape the city and impact the residents, presenting challenges and opportunities that require thoughtful navigation.       

In recent months, our Council and the community we serve have been navigating through a period of significant transformation, influenced by several critical factors that have profound implications for our collective future.

The escalating cost of living crisis, alongside rising inflation and interest rates, presents a complex challenge, not only for our residents but also for the operational dynamics of our Council. These economic pressures are compounded by increasing service costs, cost shifting, a surge in public sector expenses, and evolving conditions around contract negotiations. Such developments are poised to significantly affect our capacity to deliver services and constrain our ability to implement enhancements in the future.

Coupled with these economic pressures is the current trend of government austerity measures, characterised by reduced spending and a contraction in the grants available to councils. Additionally, the processes for obtaining and managing these grants have become increasingly complex, adding another layer of challenge to our fiscal management and strategic planning efforts.

In the current economic condition, the reduction in government spending and the availability of grants, coupled with cost-shifting from other levels of government, directly impact our ability to fund projects, initiatives, and services that are vital to our community's well-being. It necessitates a strategic reassessment of our service delivery models and an exploration of new funding mechanisms, including partnerships and alternative revenue sources.

In conjunction with the economic challenges and government spending trends, our Council must also navigate the complexities introduced by an ever-evolving planning reform that the NSW Labor Government is undertaking through piecemeal changes. The impact of the growing so-called “housing crisis” and walking away from the Western Sydney City Deal commitments are all challenges we must deal with.

Amid the prevailing economic challenges and the trend of reduced government expenditure, our Council is also confronting the complexities arising from the continuous evolution of planning reforms initiated by the NSW Labor Government. These reforms, characterised by incremental modifications, significantly influence our strategic and operational landscape.

The withdrawal from the City Deal commitments, including the commitment to our rail connection planning and rapid bus delivery, presents additional hurdles requiring careful navigation and strategic foresight.

While navigating through the myriad of challenges presented by planning reforms, the housing crisis, and shifts in government commitments, it's essential to recognise the substantial opportunities that lie ahead for our council and community. Notably the development of the new Western Sydney International Airport and its potential to create opportunities for trade and tourism on our doorstep.

Also, our robust asset and financial investment portfolio in the city herald significant prospects for growth, revitalisation, and enhanced community well-being.

Clearly, the current landscape, with its numerous challenges and opportunities, represents such a juncture for our council. The journey ahead will require resilience, foresight, and collective action. We face a unique combination of circumstances that demands our attention, strategic thinking, and decisive action.

We must prepare, both internally and externally, to harness this impending change, aiming to enhance the well-being of our Council and community. By confronting the complexities of our current situation with determination, we position our Council to not only negotiate this pivotal moment effectively but also to emerge more reinvigorated, agile, and adept at meeting our residents' changing requirements.

We have started to address these challenges head-on and to develop a strategic framework that will enable us to capitalise on this critical juncture. We are committed to keeping the Council and the community informed and engaged with our ongoing efforts and will provide comprehensive updates on the proposed framework and policies that are being developed to address these issues as soon as possible.

4. Turning the Sod on Future Research

Date: 13 February 2024

Recommendation: That the information be noted.

I was honoured to join the Premier of NSW, Minister for Health, Member for Campbelltown, Chancellor of Western Sydney University, Chancellor of University of New South Wales, Chair of the Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research, CEO of Walker Corporation, CE of the South Western Sydney Local Health District and other dignitaries, to take part in the sod turning for the Lang Walker AO Medical Research Building this morning.

The $55 million building will be home to the Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research – Macarthur. This important facility is being developed in partnership with Western Sydney University and the University of New South Wales, on the NSW Health site, adjacent to Campbelltown Hospital, made possible through the generosity of the late Lang Walker AO.

The translative research undertaken will focus on key health issues within our community including mental health, indigenous health, paediatrics and children’s wellbeing and diabetes, improving health outcomes for our community. The facility will complement the work in the adjacent Campbelltown Hospital and Macarthur Clinical School.

This facility will generate much needed higher-order jobs for our residents within the Campbelltown Health and Education Precinct, with access to the latest research laboratories and technology in a purpose built space.

I look forward to seeing our local research improve the lives of our community, and extend to patients across Australia and the globe.

5. Religious Celebrations

Date: 26 March 2024

Recommendation: That the information be noted.

As we enter this period graced by significant religious observances, it is a profound reminder of the rich tapestry of faiths and traditions that enliven the heart of our community in Campbelltown. This month is marked by moments of deep reflection, spirited celebration, and collective contemplation for many within our vibrant city, each honouring their beliefs in a chorus of cultural harmony.

As Lenten observances end, our Christian residents prepare for Easter. Easter celebrates Jesus Christ's resurrection, an event central to the religion's beliefs about salvation and eternal life. It follows the 40-day period of Lent, a time of fasting, prayer, and penance, and comes to a crescendo during Holy Week, which includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday (commemorating Jesus' crucifixion), and culminates in the joyous resurrection of Easter Sunday. 

This monumental event is not merely a historical recollection for those who follow the Christian doctrine; it is a celebration of the victory over sin and death, a testament to the power of redemption and the hope of eternal life. Easter is the cornerstone upon which the Christian narrative pivots, affirming the belief in the divine power of Christ and his role as the Saviour.

In Campbelltown, as in many places around the world, Easter is a religious observance and a cultural event that brings people together in various ways. For those of the Christian faith, church services, prayer, and community gatherings are at the heart of the celebration.

Beyond its religious roots, Easter symbolises renewal and hope, themes that resonate across different backgrounds and beliefs. It's a time for family and community, for reflecting on the values that bind us together, and for optimistically looking forward to the future.

Many families attend sunrise services, share special meals, and partake in activities such as Easter egg hunts, which have become a beloved aspect of the holiday's modern incarnation, particularly for children.

Campbelltown's council has shared in the celebration in a small way this year by holding a community Easter egg hunt at Koshigaya Park on Saturday 23 March 2024. 

Simultaneously, our Muslim community members are engaged in the sacred month of Ramadan, a profound period of observance that is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It is a time dedicated to fasting from dawn until sunset, prayer, and spiritual enrichment. This solemn commitment is a demonstration of faith and seeking closeness to the divine, where the act of fasting serves as a means to cultivate self-discipline, empathy for the less fortunate, and a more profound sense of spiritual mindfulness.

Throughout the month of Ramadan, Muslims in Campbelltown and around the world engage in additional prayers, known as Taraweeh, often performed in congregation after the breaking of the fast. It is a time when the community comes together, not just in shared worship but also in acts of charity and kindness, reinforcing the social bonds and mutual support within the community.

Ramadan is not only a personal celebration for Muslims but a communal expression of joy, gratitude, and togetherness. This year we have extended Ramadan On Q from one night to two in the Campbelltown CBD at Lithgow Street on Friday and Saturday 22 and 23 March 2024.

To all who are in the season of celebration, I extend heartfelt wishes on behalf of Campbelltown City Council. May this time be filled with peace, fellowship, and a profound sense of community. Whether with family or cherished friends, may your observances be imbued with the spirit of harmony and the warmth of togetherness. Happy Easter and Ramadan, Kareem, to one and all.

This time of year is yet another opportunity to recognise and honour the cultural richness of our shared community life. By fostering an environment of mutual respect and understanding, Campbelltown continues to be a place better place. Here's to celebrating the diversity that binds us and fostering the unity that propels us forward as a community.

6. Local Government - Transparency and Accountability

Date: 26 March 2024

Recommendation: That the information be noted.

In November 2023, I discussed the increased focus on transparency and accountability within local government and its decision-making processes. It is crucial to continue to engage with this dialogue, seizing every opportunity to refine our governance systems.

As such, I want to expand on a few elements of these ideas. Before I do so, I will provide a background on the Australian government system and how such a system could hinder accountability in Local Government.

The complexities of Australia’s multi-tiered government system, comprising federal, state, and local tiers, often presents challenges to transparency and accountability, particularly in local government operations. The convoluted dynamics between these tiers significantly shape national and local development trajectories with stark implications.

We see this dynamic clearly in the current housing debate.

The Federal Government has set the National Housing Accord at 1.2 million new well‑located homes over five years from mid‑2024. Varying reports suggest New South Wales would need to build 314,000 new homes by 2029, or about 75,000 a year, with complex sub-targets. While the debate around federal involvement in housing is noteworthy, I will save that discussion for a later date.

The NSW Minns Government has triggered a raft of planning reforms aimed at meeting the ambitious housing target, which has implications for and places pressure on councils throughout Sydney. I have discussed the merits of these policies previously, and I will continue to do so in the future as more information becomes available. What is essential for our discussion today is the idea of accountability.


Accountability can be understood as an “obligation to answer for the performance of duties, paired with the correlative right of someone else, typically the person for whom the duties are performed, to demand such an answer”.

Accountability within this multi-tiered structure is a multifaceted and complex concept, requiring an understanding of who is accountable, to whom they are accountable, for what aspects of the multifaced concept they are accountable, and the mechanisms through which this accountability is exercised. In order to assess the accountability, the assessor requires visibility over the duties, performance and answer. This therefore requires transparency over these elements.

The overlapping responsibilities between government levels, as exemplified in the National Housing Accord, often result in a 'blame game' that obscures clear lines of accountability for the public. The confusion, disagreements and finger-pointing make transparency and accountability luxurious items beyond the reach of most voters, to whom the government of all levels must be accountable.

Along with campaigns, political games, and intended and unintended misinformation during elections, the mechanisms through which accountability should be exercised make it hard for everyday people to know which level of government is doing its job properly.    

Determining who bears responsibility should NSW fall short of its annual housing target exemplifies this opacity. Is it the federal government for inadequately supporting infrastructure development, the state government for not providing the necessary regional infrastructure that would allow the immediate delivery of housing, or less complex planning processes that would see faster determinations of DAs, or is it local government for their final part in the determination process?

The 'blame game' serves a political purpose: to deflect failure, confuse lines of accountability and retain power. It relies on convincing voters that the deficiencies of others have hindered success. However, such deflections undermine genuine accountability and often overlook the continuous nature of governance beyond electoral cycles.

Academics and specialised commentators will generally examine the answers to the Housing Accord questions and provide commentary on its success or failure. In plain terms, public perception of the outcome will sadly be determined by a media war that will be aligned with the electoral cycle.

As we navigate these challenges, it is crucial to promote informed discussion, foster public interest in less publicised yet critical issues, and advocate for clear accountability measures across all levels of government. Only through such efforts can we ensure that government systems remain robust, responsive, and genuinely accountable to the communities they serve.

Cost Shifting

A less known, but just as critical issue as the housing accord, is cost-shifting. The dilution of accountability through complexity, lack of transparency, and blame game are worth exploring as they undermine local government's financial viability and councils' ability to deliver community-level services and maintain essential local infrastructure.

Recent studies commissioned by Local Government NSW (LGNSW) have heightened concerns, revealing that NSW Government policies are exacerbating the trend of cost shifting.

The latest report by Morrison Low, an independent consulting firm, details the fiscal impact for the 2021/2022 financial year (available at It demonstrates an alarming $1.36 billion in expenses that have been transferred onto the shoulders of councils, and its rate payers —a $540 million increase from the figures reported in 2017/2018. This significant rise equates to a potential loss in services, opportunities, and amenities for our residents and businesses.

This burden averages out to an additional $460.67 in costs for each ratepayer across New South Wales. The implications are stark: with councils required to cover these costs for the State Government annually, our communities suffer—they receive fewer services, endure poorer infrastructure, and forgo enhancements in community facilities.

Essentially, ratepayers are unwittingly contributing to hidden taxes that benefit other levels of government. Essentially, Local Governments are held accountable for the failure of other levels of government.  

Evidently, our communities deserve more favourable conditions, and this trend of financial erosion must be halted. It's imperative to recall that before the recent state election, the then Opposition Leader, now Premier, Chris Minns MP, acknowledged the detrimental effects of cost shifting on the financial health of the local government sector. Now, in 2024, it is a priority for both councils and communities to see the NSW Government swiftly and decisively address the issue of cost shifting.

This action must encompass a multifaceted approach, including regulatory reform, appropriate budget allocations, and the provision of suitable funding to ensure the sustainability and efficacy of our local governments. Most importantly, it needs to be transparent.

Transparency Over Council Briefings

As we advocate for greater openness and responsibility from other government tiers, it's crucial that we apply the same principles to our own operations. We've identified several issues in recent times that need attention, and I'm committed to addressing them before the current council term concludes.

Our schedule currently includes one formal council meeting monthly, supplemented by a series of briefings. Since 14 December 2019, councils have been mandated to broadcast meetings online as per the Local Government (General) Regulation 2021 and the Model Code of Meeting Practice for Local Councils in NSW.

I'm proud to note that our livestreaming have been ongoing since February 2020, and despite occasional technical glitches, the community feedback has been generally positive.

We've evaluated our audio-visual infrastructure in line with our commitment to enhance the Council Chamber. We're planning substantial improvements to elevate the quality and accessibility of our public meetings, fostering a more engaging meeting experience for residents. Due to the project's scale, the anticipated upgrade is scheduled for later in the year.

Webcasting of council meetings was a transformative practice that played a crucial role in enhancing democratic engagement and bolstering public trust in local governance. Through live streaming sessions, the council demonstrates its unwavering commitment to transparency and establishes a new standard of accountability for councillors, executive staff, and other attendees.

This approach ensures that the actions, behaviour, and comments made during meetings withstand public scrutiny and adhere to the highest standards of integrity. Furthermore, the availability of meetings for later viewing significantly aids in maintaining accurate minutes and records, which is paramount for historical documentation and accountability.

Webcasting and recording council meetings liberate the democratic process from physical constraints, enabling broader participation by allowing community members to witness and engage with their local government in action regardless of their location or schedule constraints.

In doing so, it directly counters misinformation by providing an unfiltered and reliable record of proceedings.

The imperative for transparency and intelligibility in council decision-making cannot be overstated. The exhaustive and technical nature of council reports could be daunting, sometimes even for the councillors themselves. For this reason, we have established briefings wherein council staff distil complex details into presentations, and sometimes experts are brought in to clarify the finer points.

The briefing process is necessary to ensure that councillors are thoroughly versed in all aspects relevant to their decisions. However, it raises a compelling question: why should this level of clarity and insight be exclusive to council members?

Our residents, who entrust us with the responsibility of making decisions, deserve the same level of accessibility to the information that informs these decisions. It is untenable to present our residents with convoluted reports while reserving the clarification of these issues for closed sessions.

We must bridge the gap between council deliberations and public comprehension.

Our established webcasting and recording capabilities present a prime opportunity to extend the transparency and accountability inherent in our council meetings to our briefing sessions. This initiative would not only subject the briefings to the same level of public scrutiny as the meetings themselves, thereby upholding integrity, but it would also significantly lower the barrier to understanding, reducing the 'information cost' borne by the public.

Section 10A of the Local Government Act, which prescribes confidentiality for some issues during council meetings, or other determination of confidential matters which may arise from time to time, can be appropriately extended to these briefings, safeguarding sensitive information while not detracting from the overarching goal of transparency.

In light of these considerations and to foster a thorough and open debate, I have refrained from using my mayoral minutes to institute this change. Instead, I have tabled a Notice of Motion for discussion. I am confident that the council will reach a resolution that underscores our commitment to an informed and engaged community.

Countering Misinformation

Misinformation is a term applied to information that, upon presentation, is believed or claimed to be true but later is found to be false or misleading. It does not accurately represent the actual state of affairs and can be particularly maleficent when it affects public understanding of critical issues or impacts the outcome of elections. Misinformation can arise unintentionally due to errors or misinterpretations or be disseminated deliberately as part of disinformation campaigns.

In the governance context, spreading misinformation can erode trust in public institutions, hinder effective decision-making, and cause division within the community. This is why mechanisms such as webcasting and thorough documentation of council meetings, and hopefully briefings, are not simply beneficial, but essential.

They serve as an antidote to misinformation by providing direct, unfiltered access to source material and discussions, allowing the public to form opinions and make judgments based on factual and verified information.

Addressing misinformation effectively requires a commitment to transparency, promoting media literacy, and proactive communication strategies that ensure the public has easy access to accurate, timely, and relevant information.

Council must constantly combat any misinformation that could erode public trust in our institutions, especially during election campaigns, when some candidates may spread misinformation to gain election favour.   

Unlike federal or state governments, local councils often operate with more limited resources and a less prominent public platform, making addressing misinformation more complex. The scarcity of resources does not absolve us of our duty. On the contrary, it demands a more intelligent and strategic approach to ensure the truth prevails.

The integrity of our democratic institutions relies heavily on the accuracy and fairness of information disseminated to the public, particularly during elections. The council must take a firm stance against any misinformation propagation, whether from current or aspiring councillors. Such actions, designed to deceive the public and undermine the trust in our institutions, cannot and will not be tolerated.

I have asked General Manager to ensure that Campbelltown City Council exercises constant vigilance and implements a comprehensive and unequivocal strategy to combat misinformation. We shall explore, without exception, all appropriate and legal avenues to combat the spread of misinformation. This includes but is not limited to, reporting any potential misconduct to the relevant authorities and considering legal ramifications where necessary.

We will not hesitate to correct the record publicly when falsehoods are identified. Furthermore, we will actively promote transparency and accessibility to information, bolstering our communication efforts to prevent misinformation from taking root.

7. Charity Gala Dinner Success

Date: 26 March 2024

Recommendation: That the information be noted.

On Saturday 2 March, we welcomed more than 200 guests to Ottimo House for my annual Charity Gala event, where $41,677 was raised in support of Humanity Matters’ Feet on the Street program.

This is a fantastic outcome that will help Humanity Matters to extend their outreach services to highly marginalised young people across Campbelltown. As Campbelltown continues to grow and move forward, it’s important that we think about the young people who are the future of our city. There are more than 34,000 people aged between 10 and 25 who live in Campbelltown, almost 20 per cent of our population.

Humanity Matters work directly with young people who may be struggling with their mental health or who are disconnected from mainstream opportunities, providing them with pathways into education, employment and other services.

I would like to thank our fantastic sponsors Campbelltown Mall, Menangle Park by Dahua Group, Cameron Brae Group, Marsdens Law Group and Saxon Developments for their support of this years’ event.

I would also like to thank everyone who came along and enjoyed a fun night for an important cause.  A great evening was had by all and the generosity of the Campbelltown community was once again on display, making a real difference to the lives of young people across our city.