Call for proactive planning

Terry Dodds who is leaving council after being appointed chief executive of Tenterfield Council.

Terry Dodds who is leaving council after being appointed chief executive of Tenterfield Council.

With the sudden resignation of council’s director transport and utilities Terry Dodds, the previous mayor Michael Britten is calling on council to appoint “a progressive head of engineering”.

Mr Dodds who has been with council for about 18 months, has been appointed chief executive at Tenterfield Council, in the New England region and an acting director is expected to be appointed in three weeks. 

The transport and utilities portfolio is a busy one with major work scheduled for Merimbula Airport and studies starting on the Merimbula ocean outfall. Mr Dodds has been widely commended for his comprehensive review of the asset management plan for his portfolio.

Council said it expected it will take up to three months to appoint a new director.

”Work on the airport will continue during this period. All queries related to the airport will be directed to the general manager and the acting director, when they take over in three weeks’ time,” a council spokeswoman said.

However the previous mayor, Michael Britten believes it is an opportunity to inject cultural change into the entire engineering department of council.

“With the resignation of the recently appointed head shire engineer (director transport and utilities) council needs to appoint a progressive leader in this area and allow that person to review staff who make the policies that make it difficult to achieve growth in a large coastal shire,” Mr Britten said.

He is calling for a more “proactive rather than reactive” approach to development and planning in the shire and has suggested that planners are stymied by the engineers.

“While the planners have received a clean bill of health recently in day to day simple DAs they cannot achieve results in major development, while the engineers are ambivalent to development and take years to deal with what should be simple issues and have no vision to create practical and  good development in this shire,” Mr Britten said.

He said it had taken six years to get to the point of having a construction certificate on his sub-division.

“And could take up to a further two years if council continues to insist on a 12 month break between the second and third coat bitumen road seals as they have been doing to in other developments to date. 

“I don’t want to see Merimbula become a Surfers Paradise, but we do have to have some growth and with the time it takes to do anything we’re losing good ideas and development,” Mr Britten said.

“We need a progressive head of engineering services 

“No effort has been made to reform the rules by which development occurs and the overlay of state legislation that adds to the complexities,” Mr Britten said. It is a reference to the NSW Planning rules which govern towns and villages in the shire and which have so far prevented Bunnings from building in Tura Beach because Tura is still classed as a village.

Behind the scenes there is believed to be some disquiet among senior staff who are “at the political coalface” according to one insider and under constant questioning by councillors.

However there could be further staff turmoil ahead after council went into confidential session at the last meeting, Wednesday, August 30 to discuss “organisational structure”.

Fairfax Media understands this to be a reference to the number of directors in the organisation and a desire on the part of some councillors to see a change.

Councillor Jo Dodds had voted to have the discussion in open session “because I’m all for transparency” but said sometimes it was not possible “because of the legal/code restrictions”.