Minutes of the Berry Forum Meeting
Held 7 March 2024 7.30pm at the Uniting Church Hall

Present: 50 people attended, including Mayor Amanda Findley, new CEO Robyn Stevens, and Councillors Serena Copley, Matthew Norris and Patricia White.

Welcome and IntroductionLaurie Watson (Chair)
Minutes of the meeting held on 7 December 2023: Approved

Guest Presentations
Presentations were made on The Future of the Station Master’s Residence by Andrew Killingsworth, and Handheld Defibrillators by David Arakie.

Council’s financial crisis (Stuart Coughlan)
Two slides were presented that showed the substantial growth in personnel costs and staff numbers. Based on his personal involvement in Westpac’s financial crisis in 1992 and the subsequent successful recovery program, Stuart stressed the need for immediate action and a staff hiring freeze. Council’s staff attrition rate is 15-20%, so staff costs could be reduced without the need for redundancies.

Berry Hotel DA
There are now two processes working in parallel:

  • Land & Environment Court – the applicant lodged an appeal with the Court based on a claim of deemed refusal, and a conciliation conference has been scheduled for 22 July.
  • The Regional Planning Panel Chairman informed residents who made oral submissions in February that the Panel would consider Council’s assessment when it is completed and then make a decision to either approve the DA, to approve it subject to conditions, or to refuse it.
  • If the decision is refusal, the applicant may continue pursuing the case in Court.

Council has engaged Alyce Kliese of Shaw Reynolds Lawyers to handle the Court case and liaise with residents wishing to make oral submissions in July. Alyce has asked the Forum Committee to assist with coordinating the oral submission process. She has also advised, that at this stage there is no benefit in residents sending additional written submissions.

Planning Updates

  • DCP for Berry – Following completion of the community survey on 16 February, the next stage of the consultation process will be a workshop on Sunday 17 March from 2pm to 4pm for members of the Berry Forum and Berry Historical Society.
  • Service Station – Viva Energy has obtained approval for the takeover of OTR from the ACCC. We will contact Viva management when the transaction is completed.
  • 55 Wire Lane – a DA has been lodged for a 4-lot subdivision. A Planning Proposal for a rezoning of rural land to residential was refused in 2019.
  • 23 parker Crescent – the applicant has appealed Council’s refusal of his DA for three dwellings. The LEC onsite conciliation conference has been set for 28 March.

Mayor and CEO

  • The Mayor introduced the new CEO, Robyn Stevens, who spoke briefly about her new role.
  • The Mayor spoke to the presentation on Council’s financial crisis, but did not respond to any of the serious issues raised. Instead, she stated Council was not a bank that closed all its branches and decimated its staff. In response, Stuart pointed out that the Mayor had grossly distorted what he’d said. 

General Business
A resident sought to lobby for the previously studied issue of a 40kph speed limit throughout the town, a proposal that had been roundly defeated by the community in October last year: The Forum consequently declined to revisit the matter, so the resident advised he would conduct a private survey.

Meeting Closed 9pm      Next Forum Meeting: 6 June