Nevenka Bareham signs open government reform package with ALP Ward 3 Candidate

Media Release Monday 16th February 2015

Nevenka signs open government pledgeThe Greens candidate for the Newcastle Ward 3 by-election, Nevenka Bareham, today affirmed her support for a suite of democratic reforms to Newcastle Council that will be under threat if conservative forces regain control of the council.

Co-signing the reform agreement with Labor’s Ward 3 candidate Declan Clausen, Ms Bareham said that the by-election result will determine whether Newcastle Council moves on from the dark shadow that is still cast by the secretive and conservative Liberal/Independent bloc that previously dominated the council during Jeff McCloy’s tenure as Lord Mayor, or whether it would usher in a fresh approach that would re-connect the council with the community.

“It’s important that Ward 3 voters understand what is at stake in this by-election,” Ms Bareham said.

“Voters’ support for the Open Government Reform Package agreed between The Greens and Labor during the Lord Mayoral by-election late last year signalled a crucial positive change in the way Newcastle Council operates. The Reform Package provides the basis for improving the council’s relationship with the community after the closed conservatism of the McCloy era,” Ms Bareham said.

“If elected, I’m committed to ensuring that the initiatives in this Open Government Reform Package are fully implemented, so the community can once again have confidence in our council, and so the council once again values community engagement.

“I’m confident that Ward 3 voters want the fresh, open and transparent council that these reforms are about, rather than a return to the closed, secretive conservative council that has made these reforms necessary.

“Ward 3 is already represented by two conservative councillors who formed part of a dominant council voting bloc backed by the former Lord Mayor, Jeff McCloy, who resigned after ICAC revealed his involvement in illegal developer donations to Liberal candidates.

“If another conservative Independent is elected, it will be back to the dark days of the McCloyals, and these reforms will be voted down by the same conservative bloc,” Ms Bareham said.

“Ward 3 needs a genuinely progressive elected representative who wants to represent the grassroots community, and who will listen to and work with the local community to tackle local issues.

“That’s what this reform agreement is about, and that’s what I’m about,” Ms Bareham said.

For further information contact

Nevenka Bareham (Greens Candidate, Ward 3 on 0431211586)

Open Government Reform Package for Newcastle City Council

These reforms are intended to restore community confidence in the council and the office of Lord Mayor, and to establish systems that ensure the highest level of transparency, accountability and probity in our City’s governance.

Objective #1
Establish procedures that ensure the highest level of transparency, accountability and probity in our City’s governance

  1. Make all Councillor/staff workshops and briefings open to the public, subject to the confidentiality provisions of the Local Government Act.
  2. Amend the Council Code of Conduct and Code of Meeting Practice to remove unnecessary impediments to councillors performing their duties as elected representatives.
  3. The Lord Mayor, the General Manager and their staff will maintain an online, real-time open diary like those used by some NSW State MPs. This diary will record the times, participants and topics of discussions of any meetings in which they are involved with people not employed by council, including but not limited to development or project proponents, lobbyists, government agencies, other elected officials, and community groups.

Objective #2:

Restore community confidence and genuine consultation into Council’s practices.

  1. Establish a network of council-supported, community-based groups or committees who represent the interests of residents in the local communities.
  2. Create an Internal Council Ombudsman role to independently investigate and respond to complaints about council administration.
  3. Provide increased opportunities for community members and groups to address the elected council at ordinary council meetings, Public Voice sessions, and site inspections, and remove unnecessary vetting of access to these channels of input.

Objective #3
Undertake procedural reform to include the community.

  1. Revitalise and expand Council’s committee system as a key structure for community and expert input into council decision-making.
  2. Implement a fortnightly council meeting cycle by interspersing ordinary Council meetings with meetings of strategic advisory committees.
  3. Ensure resident consultation before any decision to remove significant local assets, including significant trees.
  4. Improve communication methods with the community to ensure that all residents have an opportunity to be involved in their council e.g. improve Council’s website to make it faster, more accessible and easier to use and search.
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