Shellharbour mayor asked to quit hub panel

Shellharbour councillor Kellie Marsh believes Mayor Marianne Saliba should stand down from the Joint Regional Planning Panel when the council’s City Hub project is due to be determined.

Shellharbour City Council has appointed independent consulting firm Helen Mulcahy Urban Planning to prepare an assessment report on the development application to ensure it ‘‘is dealt with independently and impartially’’.

‘‘The decision to involve an external, independent assessor was supported by our probity adviser to ensure there is complete impartiality in the process,’’ the council’s general manager Michael Willis said.

However, Cr Marsh said this would mean little if Cr Saliba retained her position on the deciding panel.

The panel consists of three state government representatives and two council representatives.

‘‘The general manager and council have said they want an arm’s length approach in the approval process ... if that is what the council truly wants, I call on our mayor to stand down from the JRPP while they investigate the City Hub,’’ Cr Marsh said.

‘‘Cr Saliba has an opinion on the City Hub and has voted for the hub on a number of occasions.’’

Cr Marsh said she was happy for the council’s second representative, Graham Rollinson to keep his place on the panel as he was an independent representative.

A Shellharbour City Council spokeswoman said under the JRPP code of conduct, the mayor was not required to withdraw from the panel.

When asked if she would stand aside, Cr Saliba said, ‘‘Absolutely not’’.

‘‘I am one of a panel of five and I have no personal gain from this project whatsoever,’’ Cr Saliba said.

‘‘I am there to represent the people of Shellharbour... I am not exercising my role or responsibilities if I do stand aside.’’

Mr Willis said that in October 2012 the business case for the hub was evaluated under the NSW Treasury Gateway Review process guidelines for public buildings and would be volunteered for another analysis prior to a final contract being awarded.

‘‘This is a significant public project that will be thoroughly scrutinised before it is placed before council to make a decision about its construction," he said.

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