The proposal to rezone the Vadoulis Nursey into a commercial “employment zone” has been raised in state parliament following concerns about the role of residents and local councils in the code amendment process.

The matter was raised by local Member of Parliament, Mr Tony Piccolo who said that local residents are frustrated and feel disempowered by the whole process.

Residents in the area have raised concerns that the Gawler Council is not listening to them and is failing to ensure that their voice is heard in the process.

Gawler Council has asserted they are not permitted to consult with residents over the matter and process is purely the responsibility of proponents of the rezoning press.

Mr Piccolo told parliament that the “… objectives of the last round of planning and development reforms were twofold: one was to create certainty in the system—in other words, the assessment process of development where people knew what the rules were and the rules were quite clear for both residents and also investors—and the second part was clarity—in other words, the community understanding what role it played in the development process.”

“In other words, the community puts the policies in conjunction with councils and the government puts the policies in place and then you have an independent process to assess applications—two worthy objectives,” Mr Piccolo told Parliament.

“These objectives were meant to reduce the amount of conflict in the system. Personally, I do not believe we have quite achieved that balance and conflict still exists.”

“The issue that has arisen is about community engagement and consultation about the proposed code amendment. It is clear that the proponent is responsible for all investigations and undertaking community consultation. This will form a part of the report to the minister.”

“The council have argued that they have no role in engaging the views of the community on this matter; in fact, they have gone one step further and stated they are prohibited from engaging the community on the proposed code amendment. They blame the state government for their inability to engage the community on this critical issue.”

“To date, the council has made two decisions on this matter without any engagement with its own community to form its own opinion. Firstly, they have supported the initiation of the process for a code amendment and, more recently, have indicated that if the proponent meets the technical requirements of the code amendment, they will support the change.”

“But no-one seems to be asking the question: is the proposed development in the right location, as distinct from doing the right process?”

“If the council is correct in its interpretation of the law, it raises important issues. When do the community get the opportunity to have their say in the development of policy as the planning reforms had intended?”

“Who speaks on behalf of local residents if not the council? Is a privatised or outsourced engagement process desirable, and does it give residents an effective say?”

“If the council is right, then the law needs to be changed.”

“If the council response to date is wrong, it has effectively left this community without a real voice in this process on what is a very important issue. What redress do the community have for this failure if that is what is found?”

“Now the community has to find their own way through the whole process to ensure that they are heard. While the community consultation undertaken by the proponents is desirable, I do not believe it is sufficient for public policy decisions to be based upon it.”

Outside of Parliament, Mr Piccolo said he has now received two independent opinions which strongly indicate that Council’s interpretation of the law is wrong, and that they are able to form their own opinion about the code amendment and are free to consult their community in arriving at that opinion.

“It is clear that all the Council has to do, is use the formal feedback process provided by the code amendment policy, to provide their view.”

“The view that the Council cannot express its opinion on behalf of the Gawler community is just not correct.”

“It is not too late for Council to listen to and act on behalf of the Gawler community.”

Mr Piccolo said he hoped that the rumour he had heard that councillors had now been told to not talk with residents about their concerns, under the threat of legal action were wrong.

“If the “gag” rumour is true it raises some very serious issues about the independence and role of elected members in our community, which would need to be investigated.”

A complete version of my speech can be accessed here: