Blue Mountains mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill, issued a statement after last night’s extraordinary meeting.
“There is no basis upon which the minister may properly suspend the governing body of the council.
“There is nothing more important than ensuring the safety of our workforce and our community. There is no doubt that council, like all councils in NSW, has a significant challenge in managing asbestos in our city. I am personally committed to meeting this challenge and all of the councillors have shown a full commitment to addressing this challenge.
“In the last eight months, council has recognised that we have had weaknesses in dealing with asbestos and we needed to improve. We then took immediate action to improve council’s systems and processes – the very thing the minister wants us to do.
“We have responded to every requirement of the NSW government. We have followed every instruction of SafeWork NSW. We have complied with every improvement notice issued. We initiated an independent investigation into council’s management of asbestos. We have allocated significant funding asbestos response and remediation.
“We have commissioned some of the top experts in NSW in asbestos assessment and remediation to help council improve our response. We are now establishing a permanent asbestos response team.
“We have repeatedly expressed our willingness to participate openly and co-operatively in any investigation by the NSW Government to ensure we get the job done properly.
“We have taken every opportunity to improve the standard of our procedures and practices. We have made every commitment to fix problems and learn from our mistakes.
“I am confident that there is nothing more that the council can do, over and above what it is already doing, to deal with the asbestos management issues. If there is anything else the minister wants, we will do it.
“I consider this proposal to suspend the council as unnecessary. I was surprised that the minister for local government issue a notice of suspension two days after the minister for better regulation announced an investigation, and when council is meeting all compliance requirements of the NSW government’s own regulator, SafeWork.
“If the Blue Mountains City Council is being considered for suspension when hundreds of improvement notices are issued annually to other councils across NSW surely this would set an untenable precedent.”