STH Policies
2008 Local Government Election

Background

Save The Highlands core purpose is to protect and preserve the integrity, character and heritage of the Southern Highlands.

Save The Highland (STH) was created as a non-partisan community action group to oppose the sale of our Public Parks and so-called Reserves. Following media attention on ABC Stateline, and well attended public meetings, 20 have been removed from the original reclassification list. Many still remain at risk, and we have specific policies to further address the matter, including the Friends of the Park initiative.

Since then STH has grown considerably and been encouraged to pursue direct participation in our Shire’s Government. The underlying issues which galvanised the community to oppose Public Land Sales, continue to be of great concern.

STH policies are a cohesive holistic approach to Local Government, and are the result of comprehensive consultation and extensive research. We seek to protect and improve the quality of life for Wingecarribee Shire residents by honestly addressing challenging issues.

STH recognises publishing a policy document may enable our opponents to attack single points in an attempt to discredit our Candidates. We accept that risk and stand by our sincere commitment to initiate and support policies that protect the integrity, character and heritage of the Southern Highlands.

We welcome public debate and feedback, and the support of fellow Candidates.

Appropriate Development

What does that mean?
STH supports a proactive approach to facilitate responsible Shire development. Being forced into a reactive defence against policies and projects that suddenly become more publicly apparent aids and abets irresponsible and detrimental development. When the community cannot defend itself against a “stop me if you can” developer, it virtually guarantees more brazen and arrogant disrespect for our Shire’s character, the residents’ legitimate concerns, and our Planning Polices.

We oppose development that is:
•  totally inappropriate for ecologically sensitive areas.
• destroys the separation of our towns and village.
• is inconsistent with existing neighbourhood and rural character.
• is poorly planned with regards to ascetic assimilation and traffic impact.
• forces ratepayers to subsidise requisite infrastructure to sustain a developments economic viability.

Is STH anti-development?  Absolutely not!
Integral to STH Development Policy is need for public input during the planning process, and direct neighbourhood involvement for relevant DAs.

We support developments devised in conjunction with Neighbourhood based planning to ensure new developments are congruent with existing Shire character.

We endorse an inclusive, open and transparent planning process will promote accountable development, preserve our unique quality of life, and contribute to Shire’s economic prosperity.

Policies
• Introduce an immediate moratorium on SEPP Seniors development.
• Prevent and/or mitigate adverse environmental impacts of developments, particularly large projects.
• Ensure the appropriate regulations and standards are adequately observed, enforced, and reflected in WSC policies, planning, and related management.
• Collect adequate development impact fees and spend them for the purpose they were intended.
• Plan and implement concurrent infrastructure development.
 • Ensure the DA process adheres to publicly stated WSC planning objectives.
• Guard against and investigate bait and switch DAs where the initially proposed and approved application substantially varies in scope and impact.
• Compel DA applicants to comply with the Shire’s rules and regulations, rather than vary planning control to placate an applicant wish.
• Place the onus on developers to prove no harm or detriment, rather than on the community to prove its likelihood.
• Implement WSC users pay development inspection policies and procedure to oversee adherence to DA plans as approved, building code and compliance with associated requirements.
• Mandatory DA notification for adjoining property owners and residents.

WSC Processes, Procedures and Accountability

Do you believe the present Council’s procedures and processes are transparent, equitable, and objective? Do you think WSC acts to protect the public interest and safeguard our Shire’s assets? Do you want to change the culture and attitudes that presently hold sway?

WSC Councillors, Directors and Staff must not betray public trust, abrogated their Duty of Care, and behave in an irresponsibly manner. We believe there is considerable room for improvement and an urgent need to restore community belief in the principles of good governance.

Fiscal Management
Shire residents are entitled to know what is happening to their money. The Lehman legal proceedings may take years to resolve. Does that mean a gag will remain in force for the entire duration of the matter? Legitimate questions regarding how and why the council made these investments are entirely different issues, as is the status of the tens of millions potentially at risk.

To claim these issues must also be subject to a gag order is highly questionable. What is our exposure, what immediate practical remedies are available, what steps were taken to explore a NSW Councils’ Class Action?

Policies
• Immediate, comprehensive independent audit of WSC finances.
• Independent investigation of any and all decisions made during the previous council’s term, which materially influenced our financial circumstances.
• Public disclosure of salaries, fees and other expenditures during the present, and future council terms.
• An independent review of all existing contractual and vendor relationships.
• Financial management policies that reflect community priorities and needs.
• Comprehensive review of staff recruitment, employment, training and retention procedures.

Governance Accountability

STH endorses these Seven Principles of Good Local Governance.

1. Respect for diverse lifestyles and views.
2. Best efforts to ensure Ratepayers and Residents are well informed, and encouraged to contribute to the decision-making process.
3
. Councillors, Directors and Staff have a Duty of Care to ensure their decisions and actions serve the best long-term interest of the majority of Shire Ratepayers and Residents.
4
. WSC will ensure decision-making processes are demonstrably transparent, honest and ethical.
5. Councillors are responsible, and accountable, to devise and articulate strategic policies which reflect the aspirations and needs of our Shire.
6. The General Manger, Directors and Staff are responsible and accountable for the implementation of the Council’s polices.
7. Council will ensure its services; programmes, processes and procedures are as accessible as possible, and consistent with WSC Code of Conduct.

Policies
• STH proposes to establishment the WSC Good Local Governance Committee (GLGC) composed of community representatives who directly participate in WSC Committees.
• The introduction of a WSC Annual Performance review conducted by a panel comprised of GLGC members, independent expert(s), designated Councillors and Managers. The panel will monitor, examine and determine the responsiveness, accessibility, quality, cost, affordability, necessity, sustainability and effectiveness of WSC services, and management practices.
• Annual User Satisfaction Survey soliciting community feedback on delivery of services, adherence to stated objectives, and WSC Governance performance.

Economic Sustainability

In reality, economic sustainability in our community is difficult to control and quantify.  Many external factors determine our Shire’s economy. Market influences, physical, regulatory, financial, and political policies, changing consumer and growth patterns, and other factors mean Federal, State and Local governments often view economic sustainability from different perspectives.

It is critically important to protect and enhance our tourism and recreation appeal by retaining the Shire’s character and scenic beauty. Most residents and visitors come to the Shire for scenic vistas, the ambience of villages nestled in verdant valleys, strolling street shopping, and the other features that make our Shire such a unique place. These are our Crown Jewels - permitting their degradation and destruction is extremely myopic.

Few people come here to buy Big Box retail specials at cookie cutter counters. To a major retail chain we a mere dot on a map, and to many of us they are an unwelcome blight of urban ugliness, which damage our local business.

We have a simple choice to make – do you want to marvel at the breathtaking beauty of our bird life, wake to their enchanting calls, or compel the next generation of Shire resident to buy the DVD on special to see what they looked like? Trucks and traffic lights neither enhance residents’ life quality nor do they create safe and pleasing tourist destinations. To remain an attractive and functional place to visit we must maintain and improve services, transportation systems, and environmental aesthetics, not overload and erode them.

The challenge is to devise plans for economic diversity that do not harm our principal assets, and create sustainable local employment opportunities.

Economic sustainability also pertains to our Local Government. How sustainable is the present WSC fiscal management model? What is the true financial position, and when will we be fully informed?
                    

Policies
• Attracting more visitors with events such as the Geraldine Turner initiated Regional Arts Festival.
• Initiatives that promote the long-term well being of our Shire, and encourage patronage of locally owned business and self employed residents.
• Determine is the real impact of Big Box retail – how many small business jobs do we lose? Who really benefits?
• Establish a clear, independent and farsighted understanding of the local economy, economic development capacity, and supporting infrastructure, avoiding any bias or advantage to a particular groups short-term interest and agendas.
• Develop economic policies and programs devised, and prioritised, to reflect the comparative advantages for the Shire’s economy.
• Ensure sufficient planning flexibility to allow adaptation to changing circumstances and unexpected opportunities.
• Common Commitment to economic sustainability through Local Strategic Partnership with Shire business, community and cultural organisations.
Environmental Responsibility

“The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant: "What good is it?" If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we     understand it or not. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like   but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.”  Aldo Leopold, 20th century naturalist.

What is our Environment? In one sense it is our surroundings, what we interact with in the world around us, what we see, hear, smell, taste and feels.

In the context of our Shire it is our natural world – the vegetation, birds and wildlife, our rivers, streams and air, and the scenic vistas of rural lands, and villas nestles in verdant valleys.

The decisions WSC have made, and will make, have a profound impact on our environment. STH believes Councillors’ polices and actions must be responsibly tempered to respect our natural surroundings, in order to prevent irreparable damage.It is Council’s duty to carefully preserve and respect the Shire’s crown jewels, to truly value the Shire’s essential aesthetic appeal.

Policies
• Develop appropriate policies to intelligently preserve the quality of Shire life to best serve the larger community interest.  
• Ecologically based infill policy to protect environmentally and agriculturally significant land.
• Ensure that significant recreational and Public Lands, natural corridors, and wildlife habitat are preserved.
• Acquire, maintain and promote the use of Public Parks, Reserves, trails, and natural open-space throughout the Shire.
Introduce Friends of the Parks sponsorship programme to encourages individuals, Community Groups and Businesses to sponsor and support specific Parks and Reserves.
• Protect and preserve environmentally sensitive land. Locations that contain physical environmental characteristics such as wetlands, streams and riparian areas, floodplains, geologic hazards, critical fish and wildlife habitat, and native vegetation corridors.
• Carefully monitor and manage the excessive and improper use of insecticides and pesticides.
• Protect the Shire's water resources from excessive commercialisation and pilfering.
• Establish a committee to investigate, inform and educate residents on the issues of invasive exotic trees, hedge heights, and anti social plantings.
• Reinvigorate the Shire's tree registry programme, and facilitate community awareness of same.

Sports, Recreation and Culture

These essential Shire services need to be properly maintained, effectively promoted, and sensibly planned for the benefit of the greater Shire community.

Sports & Recreation Policies
• The Leisure Centre. The real question is can we afford it, not, do we want it? Given the uncertainty of the Shire’s financial position, the nebulous construction and operating estimates, and ongoing related expenses, STH contends it is irresponsible to embark on such a huge project at this time. STH will support the No vote.
• Commission an independent review of previously submitted plans to enclose Bowral Pool, and the upgrade of other recreational amenities.
• Explore possible construction of a high standard Athletics facility to attract regional and interstate Athletics carnivals.
• Consider upgrade of Mittagong Pool and possible winter conversion into a skating rink.
• Examine ways to better utilise and benefit from each WSC sports, recreational and cultural facilities.

Cultural Policies       
Support and facilitate a biennial International Cultural Festival, which Geraldine Turner has already initiated.
• Attract and sponsor cultural events and activities, which showcase local talent and accomplishments.
• Proactive utilisation if WSC venues and facilities for Cultural events.
• Explore establishment of community kiln, and other facilities which encourage local arts and crafts.

Community Needs

STH endorses polices which promote engagement and participation among Shire residents, enable community interaction, foster social cohesion and inclusive, connected Shire Communities.

Policies
• Prepare and implement a coordinated, cohesive WSC Community Strategy.
• Coordinate and expand existing WSC Community Services, and where necessary, initiate new or different services, and delivery methods.
• Expand and promote Community Garden programmes.
• Consultative partnerships to identify and respond to community needs.
• An action plans to achieve the agreed Community Strategy objectives, and monitor delivery and satisfaction performance.
• Ensure each WSC department is committed to the identified priorities.
• Broadcast WSC Meetings on Community Radio.
• Promote equality and inclusion.
• Explore extending council insurance policies to cover community groups on council premises and property.

Youth Policies
STH Youth Policies are based on sound research into the effectiveness of Youth engagement and consultation. Surveillance and prosecution have their place in our society, and many studies suggest prevention and education are extremely effective and socially beneficial in the longer term.

• Expand and establish an inclusive WSC Youth Advisory Forum to enable Youth consultation and participation in Community and Council processes, and encourage admirable Youth programmes such as Blooming Kids.
• Proactively encourage the establishment and expansion of tertiary education facilities.
Utilise existing and expanded WSC Services to respond to Youth issues, and create new Opportunity Partnerships.
• Commit WSC to supporting Youth work ethic programmes and volunteering.

Seniors Policies
We have an expanding seniors population whose services and facilities needs require thoughtfully planning.

• Expand and establish a broadly based WSC Senior Citizens Advisory Forums to provide a communication and information mechanism for our Shire’s Senior Citizens, and associated Community Groups and Organisations.
• Annual Seniors Festival that showcases senior’s talents and abilities.

Infrastructure Investment & Maintenance

What is the true infrastructure cost of a development? Does accelerated deterioration disguise the real cost and pass it on to future generations?

Policies
• Consider when public interest must take precedence over private profit?
• Ensure infrastructure be in place, and/or built concurrently with any new development.
• Ensure adequate roads/traffic mitigation plans are in place before large developments are permitted.
• Deny developments that will cause traffic congestion that will maximise or exceed the Shire’s acceptable traffic service levels.
• Determine the potential impact of investment losses on infrastructure expenditure and planning.

Future Shire
Save The Highlands endeavours to initiate and promote a unifying vision for our Shire.
What do you want our Shire to look like in ten years? Think about it, and please Value Your Vote. The September election is possibly the most important in our Shire’s history.