Blue Mountains City Council holds another meeting on asbestos issue

Debate rages: Members of the public gallery at a council meeting in December 2017 when Blue Mountains City Council was under threat of suspension.
Debate rages: Members of the public gallery at a council meeting in December 2017 when Blue Mountains City Council was under threat of suspension.

Blue Mountains City Council will hold another extraordinary council meeting about its response to asbestos management on Thursday night, January 11.

Councillors will formally respond to the issuing of a performance improvement order by NSW local government minister, Gabrielle Upton.

Ms Upton announced the order on December 22, stopping short of a threat to suspend council for its management of asbestos throughout the city.

Council invited the minister to issue the performance improvement order last year, following the suspension threat, and Blue Mountains mayor Mark Greenhill has indicated his support for the course of action.

“This approach is considered to be a more targeted and effective response to the minister’s concerns, recognising the seriousness of asbestos management and reflects the council’s intention to place the safety of its staff and community at the centre of its operations and organisational culture,” he said.

But the meeting could be fiery with Liberal Cr Brendan Christie doubling down on his calls for a temporary administrator to be appointed to run council. He urged the minister to suspend council for six months at a December 19 council meeting, only for Ms Upton to announce three days later that she would not suspend council at all.

But the Ward 4 councillor hasn’t backed away from his stance since then.

“Asbestos in many ways is symptomatic of a council that needs large scale renewal at the operational level and the most effective way to deliver that renewal is through the appointment of a temporary administrator,” he told the Gazette last week.

Ward 1 Greens Cr Kerry Brown has welcomed the issuing of the performance improvement order. 

“We were very lucky not to be suspended given the extraordinary ignorance of councillors about work health and safety at Blue Mountains Council,” she said.

Under the order, councillors will be required to undertake training on work health and safety and environmental protection legislation and on their role and responsibilities as members of the governing body.

“The bottom line is that, if we want to stay in the job, we need to start acting like a governing body instead of a shadow cabinet for senior management,” she said.

“As a councillor I have spent the last 15 months struggling to get information on everything from asbestos issues to asset management of our heritage buildings and pools and overcharging on green bins. I look forward to a new transparent reporting regime at council,” said Cr Brown.

The meeting will start at 7.30pm in the council chambers at Civic Place, Katoomba.