Council decides against hub referendum

THE development application process will be the next chance to comment on the City Hub, after Shellharbour councillors knocked back a call to gauge the community's desire for the project.

As tensions mount over the $53.9 million facility, councillor Kellie Marsh proposed a referendum on the issue at last week's council meeting, which councillors voted down.

Councillor Helen Stewart said the question was not balanced.

"You can't hold a poll where you say, 'do you want the hub, yes or no?'," she said.

"There is no balance in that and it's very loaded."

A referendum would have cost about $250,000, but Cr Marsh said the hub's $53.9 million price tag was far greater.

"We're all talking about how we need to listen, well let's listen," she said.

"I've heard what the community is saying and they want us to go to a council poll."

Cr Stewart agreed more consultation was needed on the issue, but when councillor Peter Moran moved to hold public meetings in each of the suburbs and gauge support, the motion was also voted down.

General manager Michael Willis said that conducting straw polls would be "self-defeating".

"It depends who turns up on the night, there's nothing to stop people from turning up to multiple meetings so it's not going to do anything more than what the council's been doing," he said.

However, Cr Moran argued many forms of public consultation were self-selecting.

"In a whole lot of things, we actually put it out on the website and say give us your thoughts - that is a method of self-selection," he said.

"We're talking about public meetings [being] required for level one high-impact projects, yet we've just sat here and said we're not going to have meetings because they're self-selected - we've got to start pulling our socks up."

Councillor John Murray argued the facilities were still needed even if the hub did not proceed.

"All it means is we stop this process, don't have the facilities and we go back to square one and start planning for them again and wait anther three or four years to get to the same position," he said.

"We could do a lot more community consultation and do it better, but I think we still need to make a decision based on what is a good business case."

Following the meeting, Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said there had been several opportunities to comment on how the council should use developer contributions in recent years.

"People don't worry about things until it affects them personally," she said.

"The planning is done, the design work has started - we have already decided what will be included."

The Southern Joint Regional Planning Panel will consider the DA, which will also include a public consultation process.

"During that, there's still the opportunity to comment on what they like or what they want or don't want in the facility," Cr Saliba said.

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