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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Friday, 19 September 2008
Gosford Council road tragedy: Subpoena skirmish on planning a partial insight into systemic problems?
Mood:  sad
Topic: legal

Gosford City Council are in for a legal and PR hammering after the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald and other press today on the the awful tragedy of a family of 5 including 3 children killed after driving into a road collapse:

* 19 Sept 2008 Tears as council blamed for deaths Sydney Morning Herald.

Ken and Gaye Holt MALCOLM BROWN | Coroner finds that Gosford City Council had failed in its duty of care to keep the Pacific Highway at Somersby safe.

* 19 Sept 08 Road collapse: Council neglect caused death Sydney Daily Telegraph

Recent legal skirmishing over a subpoena into water and land assessment processes in the context of planning and DA processing at Gosford Council may possibly reveal some insights into how that council is performing, or not, on the related issue of hydrology/erosion affecting roads.

The subpoena to the external auditor consultants retained by Gosford namely Internal Audit Bureau was lodged by the applicant in Diamond v Birdon & Hawkesbury City Council 40733 of 2008 but ruled out on legal grounds of irrelevance to that litigation recently (but only just given the Crown Solicitor filed their strike out documents out of time and were accepted in good faith, perhaps naively). Another similar subpoena to Gosford City Council itself seeking the IAB report(s) was withdrawn for similar reasons of potentially being legally misconceived.

However in the process of the Crown Solicitor's counsel successfully striking out the subpoena to IAB they in turn confirmed in their affidavit the existence of their external auditor's report(s) into Gosford Council staff and systems regarding planning assessments. Which staff are adversely named, if any? Is the IAB report probitive of systemic failure in the organisational culture of Gosford? Is it also of relevance in the coronial inquest on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald and other press today given the common issues of assessment of hydrology and watercourse management? Does it say anything about the State Government department(s) assessment of watercourses and hydrology in the local government area?

Of potential interest regarding the collapsed road tragedy is that the integrity of environmental assessments might just overlap into this other policy work of safety and maintenance issues: Hydrology, and water flow analysis (say in sand mining or bottled water extraction) involves very similar issues of erosion and sedimentation control. Is it the same staff involved in the assessment process? 

We don't really know how probitive the external auditors report(s) are to the collapsed road tragedy but we think it's in the public interest for the IAB reports into Gosford on DA assessments regarding planning assessment of hydrology and watercourses to be in the evidentiary mix in light of the coroner's finding against the Council in the news today.





Posted by editor at 9:20 AM NZT
Updated: Sunday, 28 September 2008 12:23 PM NZT

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