Melville ratepayers take council to task


Melville Residents and Ratepayers Association president Gary Crawford and secretary Mark McLerie.
Melville Residents and Ratepayers Association president Gary Crawford and secretary Mark McLerie.

Formally re-established on March 1 after a 12-year hiatus, the new-look MRRA is headed by Gary Crawford and Mark McLerie.

“Over the last two years, there has been some disquiet and some concerns over the operation of the council,” Mr McLerie said.

“Some of the previous MRRA executive committee came to us and said, here is a vehicle, why not invigorate it because clearly the general opinion out there is that council is not operating effectively.”

Mr McLerie said the association would gather information from Melville residents who had experienced difficulties dealing with the City.

“There is a common thread to all these stories and that is that the City is not listening to ratepayers when they have a problem,” he said.

“When there are problems, it is a struggle to try and get sense out of the City.”

Mr McLerie said the MRRA aimed to act in accordance with the State Government’s agenda of improving the openness, transparency and accountability of all local governments.

He said the council’s recent rejection of a proposal to provide free access to the audio recordings of all council meetings was an example of the City failing to meet those standards.

“Councillor Nicholas Pazolli put up what was a very sensible proposal,” Mr McLerie said.

“Why the council should knock that back I think is a really good example of this culture of keeping things very close to your chest.

“That’s not the way the council should be, which is open and transparent.”

The City of Melville declined to respond to Mr McLerie’s comments.

Non-compliance issue highlights problem

MR McLerie said a wall built on land adjoining his home in breach of approved plans was an example of an operational failure on the part of the City that took 18 months to rectify.

When the issue was eventually resolved, he submitted a series of questions to the council about the incident.

He alleged the responses tabled in the minutes of the August 2015 council meeting omitted extensive background information and in some cases were significantly different to draft responses obtained by Mr McLerie through the Freedom of Information Act.

“I believe all residents and ratepayers need to get together and encourage our councillors to investigate similar breaches of the City’s operational activities,” Mr McLerie said.

City of Melville chief executive Shayne Silcox confirmed that a minor non-compliance issue had been identified with the wall following an investigation and the builder addressed that problem.

“The City is responsible for enforcing building compliance within its local government area, whether by statute or State Administrative Tribunal direction,” he said.

“Retrospective approval was granted on a certified building application supported by all relevantdocuments, in accordance with the requirements of the Building Act 2011 and Building Regulations 2012.

“The City’s responses to the questions put to Council were accurately given.”

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Timeline of events

October 2013: Mark McLerie informs the City of Melville that a builder was constructing a boundary wall on land adjoining his that was not in accordance with approved plans and structural engineering drawings. The City does not intervene. Mr McLerie subsequently lodges a complaint with the Building Commission which leads to an SAT hearing.

May 13, 2014: SAT makes two orders against the builder requiring it to undertake rectification work to the wall. The rectification work is completed in November 2014, five months past the original June deadline and 12 months after the issue was identified.

February 1, 2015: Mr McLerie writes to the City questioning the adequacy of information provided by the builder in its January 24, 2015 retrospective building approval application, specifically a lack of structural engineering detail.

February 5, 2015: The City issues a retrospective building approval certificate for the boundary wall (BA-2015-155). Mr McLerie alleges BA-2015-155 did not include certified structural engineers drawings for the as-built wall. The City contests this and says the structural engineer’s drawings were sighted at the time of approval.

February 18, 2015: At an SAT hearing the builder confirms that certified structural engineering drawings of the as-built wall had not been completed and subsequently agrees to provide the drawings.

February 25, 2015: The builder provides the drawings and certification for the as-built wall.

July 8, 2015: The Building Commission cautions the builder for failing to comply with an order of the State Administrative Tribunal in relation to the boundary wall.

September 15, 2015: At its ordinary council meeting the City provides responses to a series of questions from Mr McLerie relating to this incident. The responses presented to councillors omit extensive background information provided by Mr McLerie. Unsatisfied with the answers, which he felt provided little in the way of explanation, Mr McLerie successfully obtains the draft responses to his questions under the Freedom of Information Act. In some cases, the draft responses contain more information than was provided to Mr McLerie, councillors and included in the minutes.

October 13, 2015: Despite personally contacting all councillors and the Mayor to brief them on the omitted background information and evasive answers, the majority of councillors confirm the City’s response in the minutes.