“What a day, what a procedure, what a trick you are doing.”
The words of Liberal councillor Jess Diaz summed up his frustration at the actions of his Labor colleagues in the final ordinary Blacktown Council meeting for the year on December 6.
The Labor majority resorted to a tactic once employed by Liberal councillors to push through a plan they’d had on the agenda since May.
Previously the council had approved its May Cowpe Reserve masterplan, which involved rezoning three reserves in Rooty Hill to fund the construction of a NSW Hockey centre.
The council report indicated an expected $210,000 loss from the proposal, balanced against the creation of a state-significant facility.
The resolution was hit by a rescission motion by Liberal councillors Jess Diaz, Frederick Brillo and Peter Camilleri last month.
Predicting a similar move after again approving the proposal last week, Labor councillors Brad Bunting, Tony Bleasdale and Carol Israel put forward a rescission – which they and their Labor colleagues then voted against.
The tactic prevented Liberal councillors from further delaying the plan, as council standing orders only allow for one rescission motion on a substantive matter.
The tactic drew the ire of Cr Diaz, who called it “atrocious to say the least”, which prompted deputy mayor Cr Bleasdale to respond, “we learned the trick from you”.
Cr Diaz then railed against a perceived lack of community consultation and failure to consider objections.
“What you’re doing is rushing this. I’m sure this is going to come back to haunt you,” he said.
“You want to railroad this and you want us to do it blindly. This is not the way to do this.”
But mayor Stephen Bali accused Cr Diaz of being “asleep at the wheel” regarding the council’s original report supporting the proposal, as well as the subsequent cost-benefit analysis.
Cr Bali also expressed concern that NSW Hockey would walk away from the deal, including a $1.2 million contribution to the development, if it was delayed further.
Cr Bunting said the council had only received three objections from the community about selling reserves to fund the May Cowpe masterplan. He said the benefit to the greater community outweighed the concerns of the objectors.
“We’d all like to have a piece of land behind us for recreation, but in a growing city like Blacktown, obviously we can’t all have that,” Cr Bunting said.