An entire chapter of the recent Local Government Boundaries Commission report on council boundary changes was included in the final version of the report by mistake, the Land and Environment Court heard yesterday.
The surprising admission, made by counsel for the Commission Noel Hutley SC, referred to a chapter of the report which recommended that the City of Sydney be expanded to include the suburbs of Newtown, Darlington and Surry Hills.
The Commission’s report has been roundly criticised by the Mayor of South Sydney, Councillor John Fowler, because it examined different council boundary changes than the one proposed by the Minister for Local Government.
Hutley told Justice Talbot of the Land and Environment Court (LEC) that the inclusion of the chapter which made the Newtown/ Darlington/Surry Hills proposal (chapter two) was a clerical error which had been subsequently corrected by the Commission.
Although the error created the potential for confusion, Hutley said, it didn’t invalidate the report.
There is no evidence that the Commission failed to address the true proposal, he said.
South Sydney Council has taken the case to the LEC seeking an injunction against the proclamation of new council boundaries. Counsel for the Commission and the Minister have given undertakings that the proclamation of new boundaries will be put on hold pending the outcome of the injunction action.
South Sydney is also alleging that they have been denied procedural fairness by the Commission; however Hutley argued that the issue of procedural fairness applied to the boundary change review process as a whole and the onus could not be placed on the Commission alone.
Earlier, the Court had heard from counsel for South Sydney Noel Hemmings QC, who said the Commission didn’t consider the possibility of asking residents for their views on boundary change proposals affecting them.
They [the Commission] should have at least conducted a poll or a survey -¦ They should have published in newspapers the fact that they were conducting an inquiry, Hemmings said.
[The commissioners] were charged with the duty of examining and reporting [on the Minister’s proposal], Hemmings argued. They adopted a report; they did not examine -¦ The Minister was entitled to have an examination by the Commission.