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CVC Councillors

Ombudsman NSW looks into retrospective DA approval process

Geoff Helisma

Councillors were split four to three at the May 25 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, when they approved a raft of existing building works at a Gumnut Road property in Yamba, however, three councillors lodged a rescission motion after the meeting.

Nearby residents lodged objections (a total of nine submissions and a petition signed by 40 people) to the “as-built inconsistencies with the approved” development applications (DA) and other unapproved works, which council’s planning staff described as “minor” or “very minor”.

Some of the modifications and works approved were non-compliant with CVC’s development control plan (DCP).

Objectors have raised issues with Ombudsman NSW, regarding how CVC has managed processing the DAs and CVC’s alleged indifference to unapproved building works.

Ombudsman NSW is currently making “preliminary enquiries” into the matter.

Councillors Debrah Novak, Karen Toms and Greg Clancy lodged the rescission motion, which outlined six reasons:

  • Council did not undertake progress inspections during construction works for both DA 2019/0439 (now MOD 2021/0016) and DA 2021/0153);
  • Council has varied the residential DCP floodplain management controls in relation to the required floor level of 2.9m Australian height datum (AHD) for the studio, consequently, CVC’s DCP would need to be updated as this has set a precedent;
  • The applicant has not provided a survey completed by a registered surveyor as required … when the DA was lodged or prior to commencement of construction;
  • The applicant has not provided a valid structural engineer certification for the whole build of the studio … occupation is prohibited without a valid structural engineer’s certification;
  • No valid structural engineer’s certification has been submitted for the existing retaining wall, which is now the foundation for the large extended deck; and,
  • The applicant has enclosed a deck without obtaining prior approval from council.

Acting general manager Laura Black said the rescission motion would be tabled at the June 2021 CVC meeting; however, she said the rescission motion “bears no relation to the ombudsman’s enquiry, at the moment”.

“As we [CVC] understand it, the ombudsman has received a complaint from a ratepayer … and the [ombudsman has] made an enquiry [regarding] our communication with that ratepayer,” Ms Black said.

“We are unaware of the nature of the complaint and we’ve provided a response to the ombudsmen, including all of our correspondence with that particular ratepayer.

“This rescission motion, though, is purely a rescission motion from three councillors, in accordance with the code of meeting practice, and it puts on the table that … the motion that we’ve resolved in relation to the DA modification [could] be rescinded….

“At this stage, the ombudsman is just undertaking preliminary enquires; we don’t know the nature of the complaint, but the ombudsman’s office actually doesn’t have any power to stop council from making a decision.

“We have been advised [Ombudsman NSW] has no intention of interfering in council’s decision making – so the rescission motion itself is not related to the ombudsman.”

Councillors Richie Williamson and Karen Toms were absent.

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