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Call for city councillors to declare developer contact


A call for Adelaide City councillors to declare any contact with developers on an online register will be discussed at Tuesday’s council meeting, with opposition to the move already brewing.


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Area councillor Robert Simms’ motion will request that council administration provide a report on how such a register – to be updated within 10 days of any councillor having contact with a developer – might work.

Simms said while is it normal for councillors to have contact with developers there can be a perception by the community of council bias towards developers.

“I think the community can sometimes have concern around the influence that [developers] have,” Simms said.

“I’m not suggesting anyone is doing anything untoward, it’s more about ensuring we have the best practises in place when it comes to accountability and that our council is modelling the best behaviour.”

But Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad has branded the move “a waste of time”.

“I think it’s really important to note that currently under our current policy resolutions that we have something called conflict of interest policy, which basically forces every elected member to disclose before an item’s presented at a meeting if you have a conflict with regards to any item that’s arising on the agenda and it could be a perceived conflict, actual or material,” Abiad said.

Simms pointed to Western Australia’s City of Vincent, which in 2015 adopted a policy requiring council members to record developers’ names, the date and time of contact, type of contact, property or properties to which the contact relates, nature of the issues covered in the contact and the council member response.

It also requires the council CEO to ensure the public register is updated fortnightly.

“We’re in the middle of a Federal election campaign [and] there is a lot of concern… in our democratic processes,” Simms  told InDaily.

“I think for our democracy to work effectively there needs to be maximum transparency and accountability and I think a lot of people have lost faith in democratic institutions… and if we’re going to restore that then I think we need to see all levels of government adopting these kinds of measures.

“If you have a look in the policy document from Vincent, what they do is disclose the nature of the discussion and who they met with.

“So, if there was a particular advocacy on a particular topic that would be disclosed. And then the community has the information.

“So, there are no secrets, there’s nothing to hide and it’s out in the open.

“And I think when you do that, that actually enhances community faith in the decisions that council make and the institution itself.

“It could also serve as a template for other councils in SA to follow.

“I think that would be a great thing. It would be an example of Adelaide doing what it does best, paving the way for others to follow.”

Abiad said the “council itself makes no decisions with relation to any planning applications. None”.

“So, I just don’t understand the value of that motion or the proposition because the council never decides on planning application. The only two authorities that do that is CAP (the Council Assessment Panel)… and it has its own rules on disclosures and discussing any items on the agenda with developers. And the other one is SAPC (SA Planning Commission), which is the state government body,”  he said.

“So under the CAP provision, for example, the elected member, which I think is councillor Moran, she has an obligation, just like every other CAP member to disclose any of those meetings because they make decisions with regards to development applications and development approval.

“But councillors themselves do none of that. So we have no influence over development plans, we have no influence over approving a development, so why is this being proposed?”

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