BUILDERS and property-owners could be forced to wait longer for a decision on development applications if Orange City Council cuts the fortnightly Sustainable Development Committee (SDC) meetings back to once a month.
The new council unanimously supported a move by Cr Reg Kidd to introduce a three-month trial reducing the frequency of ordinary meetings from fortnightly to monthly at their first meeting last Thursday.
Councillors formerly met on the first and third Thursday nights of each month for ordinary council business and on the Monday nights before the ordinary meeting for the SDC, where decisions were made on development applications and planning.
Deputy mayor and SDC chair Cr Jeff Whitton said the council was yet to decide on the frequency of SDC meetings but hoped they retained the fortnightly system.
“There is a potential you could slow down the output of applications,” he said.
“All councillors put their hand up to run for council knowing that there are two meetings a month so they can’t say we need to change to suit their lifestyle.”
Similar trials in the past to cut back meeting frequency failed because of the amount of work that stacked up over the month, Cr Whitton said.
He also feared councillors could lose continuity if both meetings were made less frequent.
“When it went to monthly meetings councillors got out of step with the process,” he said.
“The new [councillors] will find it hard when they’re trying to learn how the chamber works.”
But Cr Kidd said the system could work if the meetings were managed properly, councillors read the business papers and spoke to staff prior to the meetings.
“The major benefit of cutting it back to monthly is that there is less drain on human resources,” he said.
“It might give us all a bit of a shape up and make us work harder.”
The council will work through a backlog of business at the next two fornightly SDC meetings before they are cut back to monthly.
Cr Whitton said he did not agree with arguments for scrapping the fortnightly meetings because of the lack of items on the agenda for some meetings.
“Irregardless of how much paperwork there is in a meeting you have to treat it all with merit,” he said.
Council spokesman Nick Redmond said staff did not expect the monthly meetings to cause a backlog of council work or delays for development applications.
“We will need to assess it if it does have any impact,” he said.
“The vast majority [of DAs] are dealt with under delegation.”
Cr Kidd agreed.
“This perhaps will help streamline and quicken the DA process,” he said.