FORMER Vincent CEO John Giorgi says elected councillors need more training so they stop making decisions that are open to appeal to the unelected but powerful state administrative tribunal.
Mr Giorgi told the West Australian newspaper that councillors don’t understand their roles, particularly on planning matters: “You can be [an ordinary person] on the street today and get elected tomorrow and you’re expected to make multi-million dollar development decisions without any training whatsoever and that’s wrong,” he said.
However, one appeal before the SAT is a decision Mr Giorgi personally intervened in. Mark Burns—a Subiaco councillor—applied to open a gym in North Perth next to the busy Bikram Yoga and planning staff recommended approval, saying it complied.
But then-CEO Mr Giorgi scrubbed out the recommendation line by line, and advised the council to reject the application.
“I have 30 years of planning experience, both here and in the US, and when the agenda came out and I saw the CEO had lined through the recommendation from the planning department I was personally shocked,” Cr Burns said at the time. “I had never seen anything like that in all my days. This has turned into a political matter. Our application, as proven by a town planner in this now-crossed out recommendation of approval, is fully compliant.”
Vincent Mayor John Carey says he’ll encourage more training but notes “the council reflects the aspirations of the community”. He also points out current training was developed by Mr Giorgi. Councillors must abide by the planning scheme in their decisions but even these can be appealed to the SAT: decisions don’t have to be faulty to be successfully appealed.
by DAVID BELL