Councillor Bob Cook
Newcastle City Council
Open Letter in the public interest to Councillor Bob Cook
You have placed yourself in the position of chief advocate for the destruction of the Laman Street Landscape and Architect and engineer of a scheme to level Laman Street. It would be much better if you were to honour and respect your elected role as an unbiased Councillor prepared to impartially review the evidence the citizens of Newcastle wish to place before you. You so openly show your bias even to the extent of arguing against independent assessment to protect certain staff and other experts from 'potential reputational damage'.
I note in the press you seem to be considering litigation. The Law is a blunt instrument Bob, as we found out last year. The court would not allow us to place before it, the professional evidence regarding the exaggerated risk reports Council was using. No matters of merit were allowed to be argued. Council won their case by arguing that the S88 of the Roads Act was a stand alone law and the General Manager by using S88 in this instance was not required to consider the provisions of any other Act. She only had to form the opinion that the trees were a Hazard to traffic in Laman St..
The situation is entirely different now and S88 of the Roads Act is an inappropriate instrument to use in designing a landscape future for Civic Park and Laman Street. You can't realistically claim a hazard to traffic now.
The 3 trees cut down after the Pasha Bulker Storm had not been blown over as claimed and the 14 trees currently being considered have not fallen over in the last twelve months.
Too many citizens now know that Council cannot in good faith rely on the earlier unscientific and exaggerated risk claims of the past and must obtain an independent assessment.
I do also wish to remind you that you, no doubt unwittingly, caused confusion in the first instance by bundling risk assessment with your advocacy of your own development proposal for the levelling of Laman Street and extending it into Civic Park.
With development proposals there is a simple rule that should be followed: Developments require an approved Development Application and Assessment. Council's own Developments of course require an independent assessment. Furthermore if you wish to develop Community Land you are required to ensure that your development complies with the official Plan of Management and if it doesn't you must seek to change the Plan of Management in a lawful way.
The Parks and Playgrounds Movement is a pubic interest body and we would suggest that you take a step back from this issue and allow independent assessment. You are going to have to ultimately submit your Development Proposal if it is brought the Council to public scrutiny and independent assessment.
Doug Lithgow President Parks and Playgrounds Movement