Heated debate in Council chambers

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Councillor Karen McKeown has called for trespassing on Deerubbin Lands at Castlereagh to be referred to police in a heated debate over the future of bushland currently zoned for rural development in the Penrith Local Environmental Plan Stage 2.

Council has been asked to prepare Stage 2 of the LEP for public consultation and submission to the State Government by July 2013.

In the current plan, 114 hectares of bushland owned by the Deerubbin Aboriginal Land Council will be submitted for public consultation zoned for rural development (RU4), but Councillors Michelle Tormey, Kevin Crameri and Maurice Girotto wanted the lands zoned environmental (E2) prior to public consultation.

At Monday’s meeting Cr Crameri, who moved the motion to have the zoning changed, tried to persuade Council that they didn’t have to stick to their political lines and could vote in favour of his motion.

“New councillors should have been told these rules… that there should not be caucusing… at the last meeting we saw two caucus leaders get together and discuss this matter,” Cr Crameri said.

“That’s completely false and very close to a code of conduct matter… I only asked Ross [Fowler] what he was thinking,” retorted Cr John Thain.

“Can I ask that that comment be withdrawn?” Cr Fowler said.

Mayor Mark Davies asked that Cr Crameri withdraw the comment to which the veteran Councillor replied, “only if it makes you happy”.

Further persistence by Cr Crameri resulted in more calls from his fellow councillors, who put him on notice for “insinuating caucusing”.

Cr McKeown then spoke on the motion, stating that the interests of the Deerubbin people had not been taken into account and that they had been treated horridly in the discussion.

“It is absolutely outrageous that there has not been one phone call to the Deerubbin people since this matter rose… I have been sent links to Youtube videos of their land, that’s trespassing because that’s private land! I hope the Derrubbin refer this to the police,” she said.

Heckling from the audience, particularly environmentalist Geoff Brown, prompted the Mayor to warn the gallery for its poor behaviour and continual interuptions.

“Geoff Brown, we are trying to conduct a business meeting here so keep your comments to yourself,” he said.

“Stand up and get elected or shut up,” added Cr Greg Davies.

Cr Maurice Girotto said that with more than 600 signatures on a petition against the rural zoning, he felt he had to support the motion. Labor Councillors said that a substantial portion of the petition was not signed by local Penrith constitutents.

After final comments from Cr Tormey, who was cutshort by the Mayor and resulted in futher raucus in the gallery, Cr Crameri made his closing comments, the motion was put and defeated 12-3.

According to a Council spokesperson, Council aims to have the proposed plan on public exhibition from late February 2013, and encourages residents to review the plan and provide their feedback.

“Council will also discuss State Government acquisition of the proposed E2 zoned land with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the private owners.”

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