Sticky future for ‘showy’ policy?

FORMER Vincent mayor Nick Catania says a new rule requiring Vincent’s elected members to record all meetings with developers sounds like a good idea in principle but might be sticky in practice.

He says the more important aspect of transparency is to make sure every meeting with developers includes the city’s planner and other relevant staff, a convention he always made sure to stick by and which is still carried out today.

“When I was there, nothing was conducted behind closed doors,” Mr Catania told the Voice. “During my time everything was conducted in the open so that you wouldn’t go one to one with a developer, you’d make sure you had planning staff there.

“To me, registering a meeting? Nothing wrong with it, but if I had to register a meeting every time I walked down Fitzgerald Street, there’d be no book big enough!”

He thought it might be more showy than practical.

“I think maybe the intent is right, I’m not criticising the intent, but I don’t think you should shout out ‘look what I’m doing! I’m the purest of the pure because I’m registering everything!’”

Another former Vincent mayor, John Hyde, who now works as an anti-corruption consultant for the United Nations, says “it’s a very good move to boost transparency”.

Now helping nascent democracies in the Pacific stamp out corruption, the former Perth Labor MP says “real corruption is becoming more sophisticated but transparency remains the best deterrent”.

But he adds the rule ought to apply to those against a development too: “The key will be to exclude loopholes such as residents who are lobbyists and lawyers who may not declare their role when contacting their local councillors over neighbourhood development issues or opposing developments by competitors”.

Neighbouring Perth lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi says her council hasn’t formally considered this kind of thing. “I personally have no issue with anything that enhances transparency,” she says, but notes the WA local government department has guidelines.

Prominent local developer Danny Psaros has no problem with the new rule: “We believe in transparent process and if meetings need to be registered then we fully support this process,” he says.

Mr Carey says he’d like to see the rule, introduced last week at Vincent, apply at all councils, but says he’s not going to hold his breath for state government action. The policy will be reviewed in three months.

by DAVID BELL

10. Irwing & Keenan 40x7

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