AFTER THE RACE: Residents are chasing council documents on the Supercars event, pictured here on the Sunday of the inaugural 2017 race. Picture: Jonathan CarrollA STATE tribunal has upheld a residents’ group application to have Newcastle City Council hand over four documents about the Supercars race, but the council has appealed against the decision.
Newcastle East End Residents’ Group won its day last month before the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and the council appeal will be held on May 25.
The residents’ group had sought the documents under the General Information (Public Access) Act, and the tribunal’s senior member,Deborah Dinnen, said the council needed to “support” its decision to deny the group access to four documents deemed relevant under the act.
Ms Dinnen accepted there were “some significant issues of public concern” raised in the group’s application, which said there had been “no environmental impact statement or assessment, no social impact statement or assessment” and no “open and transparent community consultation” before the race.
Ms Dinnen said she gave the group’s evidence “significant weight” but she gave “minimal” or no weight to various arguments against release put forward by the council, including that the council or any “third party’s” interests would be prejudiced by the release of the documents.
She accepted that releasing the documents may “prejudice the working relationship” between the council and a state government agency, Destination NSW, but gave this “little weight”.
“I note that the fact that disclosure might cause embarrassment of a loss of confidence in the particular agency or in the government is irrelevant,” Ms Dinnen said.
She ordered two documents released in full, and two with redactions agreed to in a confidential section of the hearing between the council and herself.
Residents’ group secretary Joan Browning said that underneath a “thin veneer of ultra-positive spin and good news media releases, the council had “an entrenched culture of secrecy, cover-ups and obfuscation”.
She said the documents were “crucial to any informed public discussion about the future of this event”.
But council chief executive Jeremy Bath said the council’s “legislative obligation” to disclose information had to be balanced against the need to protect its “business, commercial, professional or financial interests” and those of any “third parties it deals with”, in this case Supercars and Destination NSW.