Ombudsman finds no evidence of corruption in Endeavour Cove review
12 October 2021
A Victorian Ombudsman investigation into planning matters at Endeavour Cove has found no evidence of corruption, confirming the results of an independent review commissioned by Kingston Council in 2019.
The Ombudsman report, which was tabled in Parliament today, followed Council’s own review which was conducted to ensure an independent assessment of planning decisions in the area and provide transparency to our community.
The review by Hall & Willcox Lawyers found no evidence of corruption or fraud, however did identify a number of mistakes and made a series of recommendations to improve planning controls. Read Council’s March 2020 Cove review media release.
The Endeavour Cove area in Patterson Lakes was established in the late 1980s and has different planning rules to other areas of Kingston.
The Ombudsman report made similar findings that corruption was not substantiated, although there were errors in judgment and that Council needed stronger oversight of:
- recording of interaction between developers, Councillors and planning officers
- the use and recording of ‘call in’ powers and planning delegations
- the declaration and management of conflicts of interest by Councillors and planning officers
- and concerns raised by the community over planning decisions in the Endeavour Cove area.
The Ombudsman stated that as Council had committed to implementing recommendations from the two earlier reviews that address these issues, “this report makes no formal recommendations to Council”.
Kingston Interim CEO Tim Tamlin said he hoped the release of the Ombudsman report would reassure the community there was no evidence of corruption and that Council was taking action to ensure past mistakes are not repeated.
“Council’s own review and the Ombudsman both found no evidence of corruption, although we acknowledge that unfortunately a number of planning mistakes have been made over time. For the past 18 months we have been strengthening our planning controls and are taking action to modernise planning rules at Endeavour Cove,” Mr Tamlin said.
“We hope that the Ombudsman report, Council’s own independent investigation and the many improvements underway will help reassure the community that there is no truth to rumours circulating in the area and that Council is working to rebuild community trust in the planning process.”
Council has done significant work to strengthen controls and provide our community with confidence in decision-making, with action including:
Probity Review: Following an IBAC investigation regarding the City of Casey which led to that Council’s sacking, Kingston Council was keen to reassure the community that no similar concerns existed at Kingston. Council engaged lawyers Holding Redlich to conduct the review, which found no evidence of improper conduct at Kingston Council. Read Council’s May 2020 Probity Review media release. Council has committed to fully implementing the 13 recommendations to strengthen planning processes.
Governance Review: An overall review of Organisation Governance was conducted in late 2020 by Moore Australia which found Kingston is “operating a predominately functional governance model with a large number of strategic objectives for focus. The maturity assessment concludes a current state of developing with a target future state of mature”. The Governance Review provided key recommendations to further develop the governance model and an implementation plan has be presented to Council’s Audit Committee in September 2021. Read media release on Governance Review
Endeavour Cove planning action: Council is undertaken a range of action within the Endeavour Cove area to improve the current complex planning controls and to strengthen community confidence in planning decisions in the area. This includes:
- Council has commenced background work for a proposed Planning Scheme Amendment to update and modernise the planning controls for the area. Community consultation on the changes will be held in coming months. Interested community members can sign up to receive updates at kingston.vic. gov.au/cove-news
- VCAT/Planning compliance matters: We’re currently working through a number of planning matters including: Car parking: Council and the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) have previously refused to grant a planning permit for a 10-storey building with a car parking reduction at 64 Pier One Drive, Patterson Lakes. The applicant has lodged a further planning permit application (KP-2021/160), again seeking a reduction in car parking and use of the land for the purpose of dwellings. Endorsement of development plans: Following concerns raised by Councillors and the community over previous planning decisions to approve development plans at 54 Pier One Drive and 115A McLeod Road, Council is in the midst of proceedings before VCAT to represent our position. This matter is scheduled to be heard by VCAT over a two-day hearing on 10 and 11 March 2022.