GOVERNANCE ON, AND OF, THE CENTRAL COAST – draft for discussion

Governance of the Central Coast needs to be re-conceptualised. CPCC seeks to advance a pubic-wide discussion with purpose: to replace the current NSW Government imposition of

Citizens, all citizens of the Central Coast are subject to 3 levels of government:

Local government …       where the instrument is the Central Coast Council [CCC] led by its 15 Councillors, 3 each

Elected from 5 wards. The Councillors in session shape the CCC’s policy position which is then delivered largely by the CCC’s salaried and apparently well-educated and experienced bureaucracy.

NSW government …       where each of 4 Central Coast electorates, Gosford and Terrigal and The Entrance and Wyong, elect a single Member of the House of Representatives [MHR] to the NSW Parliament where the NSW Government legislates for all matters pertaining to NSW except for those reserved for the Commonwealth by the Australian Constitution.

Federal government … where each of 3 Central Coast electorates, Robertson and Dobell and Shortland, elect a

single Member of the Legislative Assembly [MLA] to the Australian Parliament where the Australian Government legislates for all matters pertaining to Australia as specified in the Australian Constitution.

The Federal Government makes laws and provides funding for matters given to it by the Australian Constitution, and

which require huge planning throughout the nation: the military; immigration; taxation; excise duties; trade; international affairs.

The NSW Government makes laws and provides funding for other matters given to it by the Australian Constitution,

and which require huge planning throughout NSW: managing large cities like Sydney; and growth areas such as the Central Coast; public schooling; public health and hospitals; public roads; mines; ports, rail, and so on.

Federal v NSW:  Over the years, the Constitutional powers have become woolly as the federal government has entered many big policy areas for which states have responsibility.

The Central Coast Council, like all local government, has no Constitutional powers. Traditionally, local government has been regarded as a provider of essential local services: garbage collection; curbing and guttering, etc. However, the essential importance of local government has seen the strengthening of local government over the decades to the point where some political theorists now advocate a Constitutional change.

Tensions now often develop between LGAs [local government authorities] and their dominant state government. This is especially true when a state government uses its power to over-ride the wishes of an LGA because to do so suits its purpose and, as it has power and the LGA does not, the state government wins, the local citizenry lose out.

The Central Coast is now facing such a tension between the NSW Government and the interests of the Central Coast citizenry. Many, if not all, of the seemingly unresolvable environmental problems facing the Central Coast are rooted in the NSW Government’s insistence on using the Central Coast for a ‘spill-over’ area for its and Federal government’s mismanaged policies on accelerating population increases over the last 40 years, and privatised and mismanaged Sydney infrastructure.

In respect of Central Coast Council’s many challenges, the silent ‘elephant in the room’ is out-of-control population growth: Mangrove Mountain dumping and our drinking water; Wallarah 2 coal mining and our drinking water; deaths and deformities from coal-fired power stations and massive ‘ash dams’; over-fishing; crowded trains with too few baggage racks; crowded roads; crowded and impossible-to-get GPs, over-priced specialists, and jammed-up hospitals; oil/gas derricks and persecuted marine life off our beaches;  uncontrolled de-aforestation; loss of habitat and wildlife corridors; out-of-control and murderous feral cats; and on and on.

We can blame the NSW government and Federal government, but without an alternative plan we are WEAK … and we look like bleating complainers … whingers. We need a plan … a comprehensive plan … a plan which is just ONE HANG-TOGETHER comprehensive plan, but WITH THREE [3] COMPONENTS:

  • Components to be implemented and funded and ‘legislated’ … by the Central Coast Council [CCC]
  • Components to be implemented hand-in-glove with the CCC … and funded and legislated by the NSW Government
  • Components to be implemented hand-in-glove with the CCC … and funded and legislated by the Federal Government.

To be clear, our Central Coast citizen’s plan might have in it, an Education Policy involving schooling, TAFE and a  Central Coast University with a research focus on the social, economic, science, cultural, environmental and life-style essentials of CENTRAL COAST Youth, Workers, the Aged, and those requiring Care.

In this case, it would be the job of the local government which prepared such a People’s Plan to [a] request, negotiate, campaign and politically DEMAND the NSW and Federal governments FUND their elements of our plan and [b] implement the sections of the plan for which local government has responsibility.

It would be the job of the NSW Government to listen to the CCC and fund the elements of the People’s Plan for which the NSW Government has responsibility.

It would be the job of the Federal Government to listen to the CCC and fund the elements of the People’s Plan for which the Federal Government has responsibility.

It should be clear from the outline above, that the flow of planning should run from the Central Coast citizenry UPWARDS through the elected, multi-representational ward-structured local government … to the bigger-picture NSW and Federal governments. Over time, with experience and developing competence, in this way the NSW and Federal Governments will be capable of collecting local data which reflects locally EXPRESSED needs, and of planning THEIR budgets to provide the funding that each of the LGAs need to meet the entirety of their citizenry’s needs. In short … the citizenry express their needs … their elected local government produces a local plan … and the NSW and Federal governments fund the elements of the LOCAL plan.

There are some serious consequences of this type of politics.

First … the plan will contain all the elements that the citizenry want. What a change!!!! The voting public will know that in amongst all the political noise and mayhem of an election campaign, there is at least one, comprehensive, excellent plan that represents THEIR “preferred future”. What a change!!!!

Second … the local plan will have immense credibility with the CC citizenry. Why? Because, if the CCC has done its work expertly then the entire citizenry will feel themselves ‘owning’ the plan … it will reflect the citizenry’s will. It will be THE plan … its contents will only be accepted after widespread community collaboration [not a weak ‘consultation’] … over considerable time, say 2 years … with rigorous public debate facilitated by community groups and community media … and finally debated and adopted by our local, elected, CCC.

Third … as the citizen’s plan becomes accepted as the central political document for our region, no candidate for elected office in the NSW electorates of Gosford, Terrigal, The Entrance and Wyong … or the Federal electorates of Robertson and Dobell … will be guaranteed of election if they don’t support the elements of the citizen’s plan as endorsed by the elected CCC. Yes … of course there will be candidates who shilly-shally and try to manuipulate us with partial support for THE plan, or conditional support for the plan, but those shilly-shallying can be exposed for what they are. Others will choose to be different, by being different on matters the plan is silent on. There is plenty of room for difference, but on issues comprising THE citizens’ plan … they do so at their electoral peril.

Fourth … candidates INSIDE political parties seeking to be pre-selected, will not be chained to the dictates of the small-but-powerful factions … because, to have an electoral chance of winning in the PUBLIC election, they will need to identify with contents of the CCC citizens’ plan. So, to use an example or two … if the CCC plan accepted, as the overwhelming majority of Australians already accept, that pensions should be increased to a guaranteed level above the Poverty Line, that same-sex marriage should be legal, that people in extreme distress should be allowed control over their own life, that parking at public hospitals and train stations should be free and adequate, etc … then the factional thugs who control numbers and policy INSIDE a political party would be largely stripped of their authority as pre-selection candidates point out that with a citizen’s plan widely supported, no-one is going to vote for someone who is against its strongly supported elements, just because they are “Labor” or “Liberal”. Game over for the factions.

Fifth … adopting a CCC plan that genuinely reflects the will of the people … will massively empower the CCC. The plan will carry strong political legitimacy and open NSW and Federal Government doors to s/he who is advancing it.

Resistance from NSW or Federal government politicians will be felt in all 4 NSW electorates, and community media, community groups, and political activists will immediately know that THEIR plan is being mangled. On the Coast we have several swing seats on which government could turn. This is fertile ground for a citizens’ plan and rapid attachment to it by the membership of political parties. The factions will be out-flanked and rendered impotent. Parties will need to become less branch-stacking … and more policy-driven as they seek to mix it with the community and participate in an ongoing political process in which THE plan is the centre.

At the moment, in January 2019, we have a “governance” mess on the Central Coast. True, it could have been a lot, lot worse had the ‘push’ for developers’ control been successful at the last elections. Currently, our CCC appears to be staffed by well-educated and competent workers … and led by 15 disparate Councillors who appear not to be self-aggrandising developers and appear to be genuinely concerned for community. It is early days.

However, this Council is still dealing with legacies which were messes … and trying to approach some important new policy areas with progressive intent. But, there is no plan. Well, that is not quite true … some from within the CCC would argue that the CCC does have a plan … its ‘Community Strategic Plan’. I point out that the CSP was a child of the preceding Administrator appointed by the NSW Government and it adopted the Administrator’s methodology which was deeply flawed. In any event, the resulting ‘plan’ is not a plan … it has nothing but 5 multi-definable objectives with no detail, no objectives, no plan. Even the CCC says that these matters will appear in OTHER plans.

Then, irrespective of the quality or usefulness of the CSP, there exists another plan, this time developed by the NSW Government.

If all the lies, obscurantism, wilful denial and 2017 baloney were swept away, we would be left with the stark reality that the Central Coast is dominated by a NSW Government-imposed plan titled “Central Coast Regional Plan 2036”. More recently, the NSW Government has made a mockery of the Council’s authority in general, and its CSP in particular, by announcing a thuggish edict [plan] concerning the development of Gosford’s CBD.

The new Central Coast Council [CCC], with its so-called ‘Community Strategic Plan’, has only a few generalised objectives and a number of ad hoc projects [some very good] concerning various policy areas. The CSP, lacking purpose and detail, provides no protection for the Central Coast against the onslaught of NSW Government domination, undemocratic tyranny, and poor policy objectives, such as the edict concerning the Gosford CBD.

The NSW Government’s plan to 2036 has a very narrow interest … it wants to house an extra 140,000 people in 40,500 new dwellings [just in the NORTH of the CC Region] and it wants to mine $180,000,000 of coal and sand from near and under our waterways.

The NSW Government says:

“The Central Coast Regional Plan 2036 is the NSW Government’s

strategy for guiding land use planning decisions for the Central Coast

region” [see pp3 of INTRODUCTION to Implementation Plan 2016-2018].

These are not my words. This is the stated strategy of the NSW Government. The key elements of the “land use” are: the housing of 140,000 spill-over population from mis-managed Federal population policy and mis-managed Sydney housing and infrastructure which leaves Sydney often immobile and constipated; $180,000,000/year income from Central Coast mining.

Recently, the Federal Government has flagged ITS view that ITS policy on migrant intake [population] should be informed by the states [such as NSW] telling the Feds just how many migrants it can absorb appropriately.

I support this view, although for different reasons than our pro-Trump PM. I support this policy for stark management efficiency reasons. Of course, to get decent population figures/data, the state government would have to ask LOCAL governments to provide THEIR numbers which, in turn, infers the existence of a REAL local [CCC] integrated plan for a wide range of matters, such as roads, parking, housing, transport, environmentally sustainable jobs and industries in CC, schooling, health care, and so on … that is, a Central Coast local government “preferred future” plan constructed in close and participative collaboration with the wide community. On the basis of THIS plan our CCC could make sensible predictions of desirable population needs and thus supply sensible numbers to the NSW and then Federal Governments.

My own view is that population increases on the Central Coast, except for refugees from the wars and poverty we have helped inflict, should not be increased at all, until the CCC asks for more … thus giving the Central Coast some time to adjust to the new realities of Climate Change, a technologically accelerating economy, and the desperate need for a modern education system including a massively repaired TAFE, our own CC university with an unashamedly CC focus, and schools that are socially cohesive rather than community-separating.

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