I am writing in relation to the 2 development applications currently before Sutherland Shire council, which have been lodged by the Gymea Trade Union club.
These are currently the subject of much concern to local residents, who have raised many objections, and we are awaiting the outcome of the approval process for both.
My understanding is that of the 15 Sutherland Shire councillors who are eligible to vote on these applications, the 7 Labor members are excusing themselves, citing membership of Tradies, Labor’s traditional links to the Trade Union movement, and donations made by Tradies to the ALP, as reasons for conflict of interest.
We feel that this effectively leaves us, as residents, voiceless in this process, especially given that 2 of our Ward B councillors, are Labor - being both Barry Collier and Jack Boyd.
I am aware that there are certain rules relating to political donations by developers, but Tradies claim they are acting as a "community minded club", rather than as a developer. I question this definition.
These developments - both the affordable housing and a low cost child care centre - are proposed for properties which were previously family homes until they were acquired by the Tradies.
Neither of these proposals are a core activity of a licensed club. Furthermore, Tradies have stated publicly that their “strategic masterplan” for the area is for an entertainment precinct.
Aside from the properties in Lancashire Place that will be demolished for the affordable housing development, there are two other houses currently being used as office space/storage by Tradies, and two townhouses in the Lancashire Place/Manchester Road complex.
They own other property in the vicinity of their club, and in just the last few days, have purchased two other family homes in Wolstenholme Avenue, right behind the proposed affordable housing development.
They claim to have no plans “at present” for these homes. My hope is that they will not be left derelict, as their other properties in Lancashire Place were.
So where is the line is in terms of being a property developer or a club?
It’s worth noting that in a telephone exchange with Mr McAleer (CEO of Tradies), I asked him why the club had not consulted with the community prior to lodging their DAs with council (three days before Christmas 2016,).
His reply to me was: “No developer does that”. So in his own words, his club is a developer.
So how does this affect the donations the club has made to both the ALP and Labor politicians campaigns in recent years? Is this conduct legal? Or are there questions that should be asked of both parties in relation to these donations?
Given that the club has now purchased new properties in the vicinity of the entertainment precinct it wishes to build, should the ALP decline to accept further donations from them?
Should these Labor councillors resign their memberships of Tradies? Will the Labor councillors also have to abstain from voting on any future DAs submitted by Tradies?
What for me, started as a straightforward objection to what I see as overdevelopment and its associated social and traffic issues, has grown into a very uneasy feeling over the whole process, especially the resounding silence of the Labor councillors elected to this ward on a platform of saying no to over development.
Trish Halls, Gymea