Sometimes there can be little wonder that planning and heritage protection within our suburbs is in a state of ruin, when you just take a look at some of the people in council who are actually running the show. We’ve recently learned of Parramatta Council’s ill-conceived approval to bastardise the convict-built heritage of Lennox Bridge. Back in August we lifted the lid on the former Mayor of Auburn and councillor, Mr Ronny Oueik, and his enduring attempts to demolish his own heritage-listed Federation mansion known as Camden Lodge. Now the case of his right hand man, the deputy mayor of Auburn, one Salim Mehajer, a young 26 year old property developer with expensive tastes in cars and some very questionable driving skills.

In October it was reported that this upstanding member of society took his $250,000 Ferrari 612 Scaglietti out for a drive in Lidcombe, lost control of the vehicle and veered onto the footpath striking two pedestrians, Nhu Hua, 68, and Teyet La, 40, who suffered serious injuries requiring surgery at Westmead hospital. The deputy mayor was convicted of negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm in Burwood Court, but parts of the story were changed after he revealed having to swerve away from another car, a fact he didn’t tell police earlier, saying rather he was distracted by the flash of a bystander’s camera. Despite the possibilities of severe punishment including stiff fines and jail time, Mehajir walked away with a relatively minor 12 month suspension for negligent driving and 150 hours of community service. No doubt his cause was helped by several personal references by dignitaries including councillors and state members, and being represented by former judge and Royal Commissioner, Greg James QC. He was actually commended by the Judge for his outstanding contributions to society.


Image The Area News

This poses the question, does he deserve a place on council after all this? Is he a worthy representative of our community? And in a broader sense, do we want or need high flying property developers running our councils? Surely there are pecuniary interests at stake here, or at least a massive conflict of interest. On one hand, the council are supposed to assess DA’s and govern planning decisions based on community needs and unbiased procedure. Being the director of a property developing company while being sworn in as deputy mayor or councillor for that matter is not going to give unbiased decision making, because they have a stake in the building and development industry, they are in fact making money out of pro-development decisions, and that is not in the best interest of our communities. There is no way a developer should be on the council just as a convicted felon shouldn’t be in the police force.

jflowersFormer Mayor of Rockdale John Flowers who is now a state MP is another pro-development politician. During his time at Rockdale Council he was involved in the so-called ‘Destinations’ failure which set Rockdale up as a new Gold Coast style tourism centre complete with marinas and parking over the beach dunes. Residents breathed sighs of relief when that was finally deemed dead and buried, but not content with merely harassing Rockdale residents alone, as a state government MP he is at it again, spruiking the merits of high rise in areas such as Botany Bay, where he believes buildings such as the gaudy Novotel are the way forward, and that the number of 60’s and 70’s blocks of 2 and 3 storey units in the area are a result of ‘‘planning paralysis’’ and ‘‘urban decay’’ (what he really means is they are not overdeveloped). Many of us find them more attractive and certainly more appropriate in scale and size to the modern day alternatives.

In his inaugral parliament speech he supported measures by his Liberal government to assist developers state-wide, allowing them to appeal to a Joint Regional Planning Panel if their DA was initially denied. This panel would consist of independent analysts including, you guessed it, developers. NSW Planning Minister Brad Hazzard sang the praises of the pro-development stance. ‘This means rezoning proposals which have merit — for instance those which are well-located, planned and will assist housing supply — may be supported after an independent review.’’ We see it another way… that even though a development has been knocked back due to being inappropriate, over-sized or unwanted by the community, it will still get through via this back door. Meanwhile, under Hazzard’s  white paper reforms, we as residents won’t even get the right to know when a development is going up next door to our own homes.

Community members need to stand up against these self-interested developer-councils, pro-developer state government, and their developer lobby group buddies such as Urban Taskforce. They are taking us all for a ride. With the O’Farrell government’s white paper on planning undergoing public consultation as we speak, we need to oppose the ridiculous planning laws now being proposed and enforced upon us.  There are many community groups around the Sydney area who are fighting long and hard battles against the various waves of this tide of bad planning. As a direct result of the green and white papers, a conglomerate known as the Better Planning Network (BPN) has recently been formed with the aim to combine us all in our fight at a state level. Here is an email link that contains a letter opposing the planning reforms. Please look and fill it out, it only takes a minute, and we will only win with many voices.

Go to: http://betterplanningnetwork.good.do/nsw/email-the-premier-2/


Main title image. Deputy mayor of Auburn Salim Mehajer, SMH.

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  1. June M Bullivant OAM says :

    The problem being is these types of people have positioned themselves into every Council in the Western suburbs, were are ruled by developers with a need of money for their self indulgent ways. The people who used to serve on these councils would roll in their grave.This is why we are losing our heritage values, and our heritage items. It will be too late to save our history. We need to get behind the Better Planning Network and see if we can help to put legislation in place which will protect us and our history.

  2. Dorothy Warwick says :

    It has always amazed me that local Councillors or even State and Federal politicians do not appear to need ANY qualifications whatsoever to stand and be elected to ‘represent’ their community. This is why we are getting so many developers onto these platforms – they have the money behind them to put into the electioneering process. Our early politicians had the mentality that they were there to SERVE their constituents – not their own pockets. We were always under the impression that if a councillor/politician received ONE letter from a constituent, then that basically equaled 100 voters who were concerned for that same issue. These days, they just seem to ignore the concerns of those that write to them – replying with platitudes and excuses, never in support. Surely to goodness there must be someone out there with some concern for our heritage who is not afraid of party politics and will STAND WITH US to try and save our history. Once it is gone – it is gone FOREVER! Can you imagine this happening in England or Europe??? No matter their blend of cultures – they continue to preserve their heritage items. Why can’t we do the same? If the Better Planning Network is the way to go then we must help to give it a bigger voice and get more involved, before is is too late.

    • inheritanceorg says :

      Yes Dorothy, absolutely correct. I’m certain there are councillors out there that still act on behalf of the community, but increasingly they are being overrun by cowboy developers such as is the case in Auburn. We need to expose them for what they really are, greedy money makers who get into local politics purely to push their own agenda. With the election of the pro-development O’Farrell Govt and Labor scandals before that, it is clearly now a state problem. The indvidual community groups are doing great work at a local level, but we now find the need for the Better planning Network to combine our forces and tackle these problems where they start, so we need to all get behind the BPN and use their facilities such as email links and online petitions. This is a step forward for OUR cause, it is the building of an appropriate sized army to take on the massive battle ahead. The first priority is to burn down O’farrell’s Planning White Paper. Only with numbers do we stand a chance.

  3. -O- says :

    I’ve only just found your blog, it’s on a topic very near and dear to my heart. I’m going to read back through your posts so I can become familiar with the information you are sharing. Thanks so much for your work!

  4. June M Bullivant OAM says :

    The amount of people who are against the decision to put portals in the original fabric of the Lennox is very rewarding, there have been only minimal support to destroy our heritage, the problem is that our decision makers are not listening, they make decisions because they can, and with no consideration for the heritage of our country, this is driven by money, power, politics, deals done at local government to posture for their own glory where politicians who have been interested in history, suddenly change their position and vote for this development. The worst thing that has come out of this is that like Windsor Bridge, the politicians have been bending the truth and the facts to suit the purpose, there is another alternative which will give the same result, but the decision makers refuse to even explore this, despite being shown very clearly that this could save our heritage. Help us to have this decision overturned to explore other ways of having the portals moved to save the Lennox. Sign and share our petition with your friends on


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