Development application approval gives Miranda RSL Club financial security

Miranda RSL Club officials say “the financial security and future of the club rests on the outcome of this DA” for the development above Aldi, at the rear of the club. Picture: John Veage

Miranda RSL Club officials say “the financial security and future of the club rests on the outcome of this DA” for the development above Aldi, at the rear of the club. Picture: John Veage

Miranda RSL (Diggers) Club has been thrown a financial lifeline – but not before a heated debate over corruption allegations levelled at Labor councillors under parliamentary privilege.

A development application (DA) the club is depending on for survival was approved by Sutherland Shire Council at its meeting on Monday in line with a recommendation by the Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel (IHAP).

The club is a partner in Miranda Central Development, which involves construction of a five-storey apartment complex above the Aldi supermarket in Wandella Road.  The project site includes the club’s car park.

In a letter to councillors and Miranda MP Eleni Petinos, club officials said the club traded out of external administration in 2015, but still had substantial debts, which were incurred prior to that period under former management.

The letter said the “financial security and future of the club rests on the outcome of this DA”.

“Without an approval, we will not be able to refinance our existing debt obligations and the continued presence of the RSL becomes uncertain at best,” the officials wrote.

Ms Petinos read extracts from the letter in State Parliament, where she accused Labor councillors of unnecessarily delaying the DA by referring it to IHAP when there were minimal objections.

”The subsequent delay increased financial hardship and uncertainty for the RSL, which would otherwise have had a decision at the beginning of March,” she said.

Ms Petinos said, “The seven ALP councillors are meddling in development applications, propping up their mates and penalising those who do not bankroll them.”

“One might ask who could potentially benefit from the demise of the local RSL?” she said.

Ms Petinos said Tradies (Sutherland District Trade Union Club) had amalgamated with Caringbah RSL Club and had considered doing likewise with Bundeena RSL Club.

“Might the effect of the closure of the Miranda RSL be that Tradies, one of the closest competitors of the RSL, will be presented with an opportunity?” she said.

Labor councillor Barry Collier said Ms Petinos had engaged in “gutter politics” by making serious allegations under parliamentary privilege, while Cr Jack Boyd said the MP’s comments were “pathetic and childish”.

Mr Collier said the director of planning had advised he did not have the authority to approve the DA because the initial proposal exceeded the height limit set by the LEP.

Labor councillors succeeded with a motion at Monday night’s council meeting, condemning the use of parliamentary privilege to damage any person’s reputation without substantive evidence.

It also stated the Labor councillors had correctly followed procedures.

Liberal mayor Carmelo Pesce said Cr Collier couldn’t complain about allegations under parliamentary privilege, as “he has been doing it for years”.

Cr Pesce told Labor councillors, “You should grow a thicker skin, because I cop this every day.”

Former mayor Kent Johns said he had been “accused of everything from stealing babies to rezoning the whole of the shire”, but “not once did I come up here and cry”.

UPDATE MONDAY

Liberal councillors have hit back at Labor opponents, who complained they were labelled “corrupt” by Miranda MP Eleni Petinos under parliamentary privilege.

Ms Petinos’s comments over a development application (DA) involving Miranda RSL Club (story below) was debated as a matter of urgency at Sutherland Shire Council’s meeting on Monday night.

The DA was later approved in accordance with a recommendation by the Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel (IHAP).

Ms Petinos listened from the public gallery during the debate on her comments in Parliament.

Mayor Carmelo Pesce said Cr Barry Collier couldn’t complain as “he has been doing it for years”.

Cr Pesce said Mr Collier had used parliamentary privilege to imply he and other Liberal councillors were corrupt.

”From the time I became mayor, the Leader wrote a misleading story which implied I was a developer, and I have been getting this crap that I am corrupt ever since,” he said.

“I get sick and tired of being called corrupt because we as Liberals did our job and put in a LEP (local environmental plan) that was needed.”

Cr Pesce told Labor councillors, “You should grow a thicker skin, because I cop this every day.”

Cr Kent Johns, who stood down as mayor after corruption allegations, and was subsequently cleared, said no one had been attacked under parliamentary privilege more than he had.

“It was done by Barry Collier,” he said.

Cr Johns said he was “accused of everything from stealing babies to rezoning the whole of the shire”.

“But, not once did I come up here and cry,” he said.

Cr Johns said, if Labor councillors were aggrieved at Ms Petinos’s comments, they should refer them to the Office of Local Government.

Deputy mayor Peter Scaysbrook (Labor) said the planning process had been “hijacked by a political stunt”.

Cr Scaysbrook said the integrity and honesty of Labor councillors was called into question because they “dared to question a DA”.

Cr Steve Simpson (Independent) said parliamentary privilege should not be used to damage any person’s reputation without substantive evidence.

Cr Simpson revealed he had been under investigation for six months because of a false claim of corruption.

“I wasn’t game to tell my wife,” he said.

Cr Simpson said he did “not think anyone who stands for council should have to grow a thick skin”.

Cr Michael Forshaw said if Ms Petinos believed the councillors had acted corruptly she should refer the matter to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

The Labor councillors and Cr Simpson combined to pass a motion condemning “the use of parliamentary privilege by any politician to damage any person’s reputation without substantive evidence”.

The motion also stated all procedures concerning the Miranda RSL Club DA were correctly and properly followed by Labor councillors Barry Collier, Jack Boyd and Peter Scaysbrook.

It “refuted any suggestion that any breach of conduct under law or policy occurred”.

EARLIER

Miranda MP Eleni Petinos has been accused of engaging in “gutter politics” by suggesting, under parliamentary privilege, Labor councillors sought to assist a takeover by Tradies of Miranda RSL (Diggers) Club.

Labor members of Sutherland Shire Council said the allegations were “untrue and indefensible”, and challenged Ms Petinos to repeat them outside Parliament

.

The RSL club is a partner in Miranda Central Development, which involves construction of a five-storey apartment complex above the Aldi supermarket in Wandella Road and behind the RSL club on Kingsway.

The project site includes the multi-deck car park for the club and gymnasium.

A decision on the development application (DA) is expected to be made at the council meeting on Monday, May 15.

Ms Petinos read in Parliament extracts from a letter from the club president and vice-president, which stated, “the financial security and future of the club rests on the outcome of this DA”.

Apartment complex proposed for the car park above Aldi and behind Miranda RSL Club. Picture: DA

Apartment complex proposed for the car park above Aldi and behind Miranda RSL Club. Picture: DA

“Without an approval, we will not be able to refinance our existing debt obligations and the continued presence of the RSL becomes uncertain at best,” the letter said.

Ms Petinos said, despite minimal objections to the DA, the seven Labor councillors had directed the DA be referred to the Independent Hearing and Assessment Panel (IHAP).

”The subsequent delay increased financial hardship and uncertainty for the RSL, which would otherwise have had a decision at the beginning of March,” she said.

Apartment complex proposed for the car park above Aldi and behind Miranda RSL Club. Picture: DA

Apartment complex proposed for the car park above Aldi and behind Miranda RSL Club. Picture: DA

Ms Petinos said, “The seven ALP councillors are meddling in development applications, propping up their mates and penalising those who do not bankroll them.”

“One might ask who could potentially benefit from the demise of the local RSL?” she said.

“Based on previous examples, Tradies (Sutherland District Trade Union Club) amalgamated with Caringbah RSL approximately eight years ago, according to an article in the Leader last week.

“The same article indicated that Tradies considered its options when it came to Bundeena RSL.

“Might the effect of the closure of the Miranda RSL be that Tradies, one of the closest competitors of the RSL, will be presented with an opportunity?

“It is on public record that these Labor councillors have been funded by Tradies over at least the past 15 years, funnelling more than $350,000 into their local campaigns.”

Cr Barry Collier said Ms Petinos had “engaged in the lowest form of gutter politics – making serious allegations attacking the character and personal integrity of my fellow Labor councillors and myself under the cloak of parliamentary privilege at a time when there are a few members in the House to challenge her”

“Her statement to Parliament is not only a tissue of lies but indicates that this unpopular MP doesn’t understand the council processes, hasn’t done her homework, and is prepared say anything to grab a headline in an effort please her pre-selectors,” he said.

Mr Collier said the council’s director of planning had advised he did not have the authority to approve the DA because the initial proposal exceeded the height limit set by the LEP.

Cr Collier said Labor councillors referred the DA to IHAP “for expert independent advice in the interests of community concerns about overdevelopment – a platform we were elected upon”.

 He quoted from an email he received from the RSL’s development partner, which said the IHAP referral had “resulted in an improved outcome and amenity for the future neighbours.”

Privacy louvres would be fitted to the new development to overcome the concerns of a young couple who lived in an adjoining apartment, the email stated.

The email thanked Mr Collier “for your interest in this project and for giving us the opportunity to sit with our two objectors in a constructive manner.”

Labor councillor Jack Boyd said it was “pathetic and childish” for Ms Petinos “to use parliamentary privilege to push a number of misleading, inaccurate and defamatory statements on an issue she clearly doesn’t understand.”

“Shire Labor was elected with a significant mandate to defend the community against overdevelopment, and we take that responsibility seriously,” he said.

“This DA was well over the height restriction, and we followed due process by referring it to the IHAP.”

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