Letter to Department of Education

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Complaint about Cromer Primary School Principal actions - fearmongering about proposed boarding house at Cromer.

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Suite 10, 895 Pacific Hwy, PYMBLE, NSW, 2073, PO Box 415 GORDON NSW 2072
www.mbtownplanning.com | [email protected] | (02) 9144 7968

25 September 2015
Mr Jason Baldwin
The Director
Warringah Principal’s Network
Level 2, 75 Talavera Road
MACQUARIE PARK NSW 2113
By email: [email protected]
Dear Mr Baldwin,
Breaches of NSW Department of Education and Communities Code of Conduct
by Ms Maureen Gray, Principal of Cromer Public School
I write to inform you of breaches of the NSW Department of Education and
Communities Code of Conduct (the Code) by the Principal of Cromer Public School, Ms
Maureen Gray.
Ms Gray has breached parts 4.4, 4.7, 13.1, 13.4, 13.5, 18.1, 18.3 and 23.2 and has
acted contrarily to the Statement of Ethics.
The breaches have occurred through Ms Gray’s position as the Executive Member of
the Cromer Public School Council (the School Council), through which Ms Gray
excercises functions on behalf of the NSW Department of Education and Communities
(the Department), and in her actions directly as School Principal.
Acting as the Executive Member of the School Council on behalf of the Department,
Ms Gray authored and sent correspondence from her Departmental email account [email protected] - to Warringah Council objecting to a development
application for a boarding house at 18 Grover Avenue, Cromer. It is part of the
content of that correspondence that has caused a particularly serious breach of the
Code.
Further to that, Ms Gray has allowed the school newsletter and the school’s website to
be used to promote a campaign against the proposed development and has authored
and taken responsibility for material on the school’s website, also opposing the
proposed development. In so doing, Ms Gray has promoted the Save Cromer website
and has used school resources to coordinate the making of submissions against the
proposed development. The form letters used for many of those submissions contain
content that is in breach of the Code when supported by an employee of the
Department in that capacity. Ms Gray continues to breach to Code by allowing the
Cromer Public School Community Hall to be used for meetings of groups that are
opposing the proposed boarding house.
The correspondence that Ms Gray sent on behalf of the School Council, including a
covering email to one of the local Warringah Councillors, forms Annexure A to this
letter.
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Copies of newsletters accessed on the Grover Public School website form Annexure B
to this letter.
The development application
The development application in question is DA2015/740. The development application
seeks approval for:


Internal and external alterations to the existing single storey dwelling house at
18 Grover Avenue, Cromer.



Construction of a new single storey building in the rear yard area.



The development will have a floor space ratio of 0.3:1, which is a very low
density by Sydney Metropolitan standards.



The house will contain four self-contained boarding rooms and the rear building
will contain a further four self-contained boarding rooms. A common sitting
area will be provided in the main house along with an outdoor seating area
between the buildings. The rooms will be around 25 square metres not
including the kitchen and bathroom facilities provided to each room.



A hardstand parking area will be constructed in front to accommodate two cars,
and a hardstand area will be provided to the eastern side to accommodate car
turning, two motorcycle spaces, two bicycle spaces and garbage bins.



The rooms will be let in lodgings in accordance with the NSW Boarding Houses
Act, 2012. The boarding house is not intended to accommodate “vulnerable
people” as defined under that Act. The minimum period of occupancy will be
three months. The accommodation will not be provided to any particular
category of person – it is simply providing self-contained rooms to letters.
There could potentially be two people in each room but the accommodation
would tend attract single people.



A plan of management will govern the operation of the boarding house,
including house rules concerning noise, smoking, alcohol use, drug use and
maintaining cleanliness. There will be no on-site manager.



The development application is made pursuant to State Environmental Planning
Policy (Affordable Rental Housing) 2009.

My role in the development application has been to provide some strategic advice and
to prepare the statement of environmental effects that accompanies the development
application. I also intend to address the Warringah Development Advisory Panel of
Warringah Council when the matter goes to that panel. I have not been engaged by
my client to write the present complaint – I am acting on my own initiative because I
am disgusted by the conduct of your employee.
The school council submission
The submission that is authored by Ms Gray raises several matters, and includes the
following paragraph that is particularly relevant to the breach:
This DA has galvanised the suburb as a whole with residents not wanting their
way of life affected by the possible transient nature of some boarding house
residents. It would appear as of 28th August only one submission out of over
200+ was in favour of a boarding house for people who needed affordable
housing in the suburb of Cromer. A number of parents who have children
enrolled at Cromer Public School have raised concern that they would no longer
feel comfortable in allowing their children to walk past the boarding house to
and from school on a daily basis. For the parents this boils down to a matter of
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safety and the possibility of children being placed at risk from unknown
persons.
The last paragraph of the letter states:
Cromer Public School Council requests that Warringah Council give serious
consideration to the very real concerns of so many Cromer residents and
ratepayers that have been raised with regard to DA 2015/0740. Please
maintain Cromer community’s current zoning in the best interest of children,
young families, residents who have purchased their first homes for the lifestyle
they have been led to believe Cromer has to offer and existing residents of long
standing. Please keep the suburb of Cromer as a low density (R2) residential
area that is a haven of family life on the Northern Beaches.
The matter that principally breaches the Code is the obvious inference that the
submission makes about residents of boarding houses generally and about the people
who would reside in the actual proposed boarding house. In particular, the
submission makes a clear inference that the residents of the boarding house would
pose a threat to school children walking past it. It is obvious from the phrasing of the
submission that the alleged threat to children is from the direct actions of boarding
house residents due to alleged characteristics of those residents. This includes that
the residents are “unknown” and “transient”.
An allegation that boarding house residents are likely to be a threat to children
amounts to an allegation that boarding house residents are likely to be paedophiles or
abusers of children. To identify a person as a paedophile is one of the worst
accusations that could be made about that person. Perhaps only “mass murderer”,
“rapist” or “committer of genocide” would be equal or worse. The only other
imputation from the comments of Ms Gray about boarding house residents is that they
could be accused of being likely to commit acts of indecency (such as exposure),
assault or kidnapping. I cannot think of any other things that boarding house
residents would inherently be capable of doing that would be covered by the notion of
a threat to children, which Ms Gray is stating is associated with boarders.
I expect that Ms Gray might seek to defend her comments on the basis that Ms Gray
is merely conveying views of members of her community rather than expressing them
herself and that it is her role to do so. Further, she does not directly say that parents
should feel uncomfortable having children walk past the boarding house, but that the
parents feel that way. However, I would disagree with such a defence, were it made,
for the following reasons:


Ms Gray clearly has the ability to exercise a veto in relation to the letter – if Ms
Gray knew that an action were against school policy, she would not be obliged
to act on the instructions of other members of the school council to carry out
that action;



Material in newsletters on Council’s website and which have presumably been
distributed as hard copy to parents indicates Ms Gray’s support for the
campaign against the boarding house on grounds that are included in form
letter objections to the proposal – given that Ms Gray draws parents attention
to those form letters and encourages parents to make submissions based upon
them. Those objections include the statement that transient lodgers present
security and safety concerns by being close to the school. That can only
amount to an allegation that they are sufficiently likely to be paedophiles or
child abusers for that likelihood to present a safety concern (being a level of
concern not associated with residents of detached housing or other forms of
housing in the area);

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To set out the case that the residents of Cromer are said to be making is clearly
intended to state the school council’s view that resident objections are valid;



The last sentence of the first of the above-quoted paragraphs (beginning with
“For the Parents this boils down to…” is written as a statement of fact. In that
sentence, the “the risk from unknown persons” is given the status of objective
fact; and



It is Ms Gray’s duty under the Code, and in particular under the Statement of
Ethics, to “oppose prejudice” and to behave “in ways that advance vibrant,
sustainable, inclusive and responsible communities across NSW”. By supporting
the campaign in her role as school principal, Ms Gray is working against
inclusive communities and is promoting prejudice.

Ms Gray’s letter promotes prejudice towards people in the community based upon the
type of accommodation that they live in. It promotes the alienation of such people
from the community and engenders their stigmatisation.
The proposed boarding house will merely accommodate people who seek
accommodation in a comparably small though comfortable, furnished, self-contained
room. The boarding house will have many similarities to studio accommodation.
There is no basis for any assertion that the residents will pose any greater a risk to
children walking past than the risk posed to a child walking past a group of detached
houses.
If the proposed development were to accommodate “vulnerable persons” who require
assistance in their daily living, there would have to be a different management of such
premises (referred to as an “Assisted Boarding House”) in accordance with the NSW
Boarding Houses Act, 2012. Such a boarding house would similarly not pose an
unacceptable risk to children walking past and it would be wrong to stigmatise and
alienate the residents of such a boarding house. However, in this instance the
proposal is not for such a boarding house and the need for on-site management that
is associated with such a boarding house does not arise in this instance.
Ms Gray demonstrates that she is aware of other submissions that have been made
objecting to the proposed development. The majority of the letters are form letters
that make the following comments (amongst others):


It is out of character with the local community of Cromer, this is a familyoriented suburb.



Security and safety concerns with transient lodgers 300m from Cromer Public
School.



Transient residents do not identify with the local area and would threaten the
local sense of community.

The raising of those sorts of issues represents prejudice against people based on the
type of accommodation they live in. I note that there is no particular basis to the
suggestion that residents are ‘transient’ because the boarding house rooms will be
their place of residence. I would accept that the period of tenure would tend to be
less than for detached houses – but to characterise the residents as ‘transient’ is to
devalue and dehumanise those residents. Even if they may be living there for a
shorter time than most other residents of Cromer – they are still human beings and
are deserving of being treated with dignity and respect. For the submissions to
suggest that the residents are likely to cause a security and safety concern is wrong.
It is wrong for the people making those submissions to generate fear and prejudice
within their community. Ms Gray should be putting a contrary position (and I do not
mean supporting the proposed boarding house, but merely correcting the assertion
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that boarders pose a risk to children) – instead Ms Gray is encouraging and inflaming
fear and prejudice in Cromer, contrary to the Statement of Ethics within the Code.
Some of the other submissions include the following comments:


…the main concern is lodgers. Who will they be drug users/trafficers (sic),
pedophiles (sic), parolies, generally unsavoury character??????????? (by
Foggitt)



This area is simply not suitable for a boarding house and I fear for the safety of
our children, not only because there will be no control over who will be living
there (pedophiles???) (sic) but also because the children might be exposed to
drug/alcohol problems (by Kohn)



My kids will be walking past this house twice a day without supervision in the
next few years and I don’t trust the type of people staying in this boarding
house. Most are filled with ice addicts, heroin junkies, pedophiles and jail birds
(by Mapp)



We don’t want a heap of junkies and ex convicts living around out (sic) children
(by Devereux)



How will we know our children will be safe? That they aren’t being watched as
they walk to school. (sic) Can we call the owners at midnight if there is fights
(sic) or yelling or any weird behaviour? Or do we just call the police? This
boarding house does not benefit the elderly, the less fortunate, single mums,
disabled…It benefits transient people that have to move around for who knows
what reasons. They could be perverts, they could be drug dealers, they could
be anyone and because it is private there is no way of knowing or checking..
(by Sheather)



…it’s near parks and play grounds which could attract bums deviants (sic) to
the risk of children. You would only have to have one child witness an incident
and they would be scarred for life, there would be total blame on the Council
(by White)

Ms Gray, acting in her capacity as an employee of the NSW Department of Education
and Communities, should be completely distancing herself from those types of
comments about people in the community. Instead, Ms Gray has aligned herself and
the Department with those comments. Those comments are amongst the comments
that Ms Gray has explicitly sought to represent.
Ms Gray’s position of leadership and trust within the Cromer community gives
additional credence to the expressions of prejudice and hate directed towards
boarding house residents. This is a betrayal of the trust that has been placed in Ms
Gray by the Department.
The comments by Ms Gray supporting the notion that there is a “…matter of safety
and the possibility of children being placed at risk” promote hate towards people
based on the type of accommodation that they live in. Furthermore, if the
development application is approved and the boarding house is established, the
people living in that boarding house are likely to be stigmatised by those comments
and may potentially receive verbal and/or physical abuse from surrounding residents
whose emotions have been inflamed as a consequence of Ms Gray’s campaign
mounted by her in her role as an employee of the Department.
Ms Gray’s comments and her actions in inflaming hatred towards boarding house
residents is likely to have very real impacts to residents should the development
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become established and commence operation. When the boarding house residents
move in, they may be impacted in the following ways:


many people who live in Cromer may assume that the residents may be
paedophiles, criminals, drug dealers or such like;



some people who have taken the comments to be true might physically attack
or verbally abuse the boarding house residents, particularly when the boarders
walk out of the property and are seen doing so; and



if any children reside in the boarding house and attend Cromer Public School,
they may be ridiculed and be more likely to be abused or humiliated by other
children at the school. A child could live in the boarding house with their sole
parent who might need to live with their child in the boarding house out of
necessity. A child could have a divorced or separated parent living in the
boarding house and could sometimes visit that parent at the boarding house. A
child could have a grandparent, auntie, uncle or close family friend living at the
boarding house and could sometimes visit that person at the boarding house.
If the child is known by other parents or children to be visiting or to be
associated with someone who lives at the boarding house, the child could be
ridiculed or humiliated by other parents or children due to the stigma that will
have been encouraged by Ms Gray.

I do not raise those concerns as a hypothetical possibility – I raise those concerns on
the basis that I genuinely believe that the boarding house residents will (if the
development is approved and proceeds) suffer actual stigmatisation and abuse as a
consequence of the campaign of fear that has been waged against the proposal by Ms
Gray. The position of Ms Gray and the school council will have been instrumental to
those outcomes. This is completely contrary to the Statement of Ethics in the Code.
The actions of Ms Gray and the school council are likely to be instrumental to there
being actual verbal abuse and humiliation, and possibly even physical violence,
against the prospective boarding house residents. I do not know whether the violent
attacks on residents will be relatively minor or more significant. However, the actions
of Ms Gray and the school council will contribute to legitimising such violence and will
make it more likely that the violence will be of a significant nature.
The actions of Ms Gray and of the school council are likely to have had an effect on
the attitudes of children at the school. It is likely that communications within the
school community about the proposed boarding house will have exposed children to
attitudes of prejudice towards boarding house residents. If the development is
approved and does commence, it is likely that some of the residents who have raised
fears about boarding house residents will instruct their children to avoid walking past
the boarding house. Ms Gray will have given credence to those attitudes and might
even directly instruct children in that regard. Photographs of school children holding
placards opposing the boarding house have been published in the Manly Daily
demonstrating the exposure of children to the campaign, and it is almost certain that
those children have been told that boarders pose a threat to them.
By teaching children to fear boarding house residents, Ms Gray is teaching children to
be prejudiced and is entrenching attitudes of prejudice throughout the lives of those
children. That will perpetuate the cycle of prejudice through to future generations.
The proper role of Ms Gray would be to educate children not to be prejudiced against
people on the basis of the type of accommodation that they live in. Instead, Ms Gray,
as an employee of the Department, is promoting such prejudice.
A further problem arising from the actions of Ms Gray is that it distorts the
understanding of children about actual risks to their safety. Teaching children about
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the risks of sexual abuse or of kidnapping or physical abuse must surely be done in a
carefully structured way and must be based on expert evidence about how such issues
should be taught and explained to children. By raising false fears about boarding
house residents, children will be given false information. If children subsequently find
out that boarders are not inherently dangerous or more threatening than other
people, they will be more likely to disbelieve accurate teaching about stranger danger
and sexual abuse. Furthermore, by emphasising the danger from boarding houses,
children may gain a false sense of security in relation to detached housing, dual
occupancies or secondary dwellings (granny flats).
If there is to be a message to children about being careful when walking around
Cromer, surely children must be as much aware of risks from residents of dwelling
houses, dual occupancies and secondary dwellings as they are about risks from
residents of boarding houses (or for that matter residential flat buildings and
townhouses). Some of the children who are being taught to be prejudiced towards
boarding house residents will probably sometimes go to places where there are flats
and apartments. Not all of the children being exposed to these views would spend all
of their time in Cromer. Some may visit divorced or separated parents, other
relatives or friends in other suburbs. The promotion of fears about boarding house
residents does not equip such children about how they should be careful in a range of
urban environments.
Yet a further problem with Ms Gray’s actions is that they promote unbalanced views in
the community about assaults to children and about sexual abuse. Children do need
to be taught about such things as stranger danger and about the need to be
accompanied by a responsible person in certain situations. However, most sexual
abuse of children is perpetrated by people that the children already know. Again, the
important thing is for the teaching of children about those dangers to take place on
the basis of proper research and in a considered, structured way. It should not take
place in an unbalanced, unstructured and spasmodic way. Raising fears within
children about boarding house residents represents such unbalanced, unstructured
and spasmodic teaching.
The newsletters and campaigning
The Cromer Public School website contains links to school newsletters that contain
material related to the “Save Cromer” campaign, being a campaign opposing the
proposed boarding house development.
As well as being accessible on the school website, the newsletters have presumably
been distributed in hard copy by providing them to children for the children to take
home to their parents/guardians.
The newsletter dated 20th August 2015 includes a “Principal’s Report” authored by Ms
Gray. That newsletter is reproduced in Annexure B, and I therefore won’t quote the
full text. From that Principal’s Report, we can see that:


Ms Gray authorises the inclusion of an “information bulletin” from Grover
Avenue residents. That bulletin encourages residents to make a submission
asking Council to reject the development.



The grounds upon which the newsletter encourages residents to make a
submission include that it is a type of development “which we do not want in
our community”. This is consistent with the stigmatisation of boarding houses.



Ms Gray advises parents that a letterbox drop is being done that will contain a
format for submissions to Council. The form letters that have been

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subsequently submitted to Council include the imputation that boarders pose a
risk to children.


Ms Gray gives information about how residents may make a submission.

The newsletter dated 27th August 2015 sets out a greater level of commitment by Ms
Gray to the objector’s cause. The Principal’s Report therein includes:


A statement that resident’s concerns about the boarding house are genuine;



A statement that the placement of a boarding house in Cromer would “change
the character of the suburb which has a strong family focus”;



A statement that there would be impacts on surrounding residents, with a flow
on effect to other residents of Cromer;



A reference to resident presentations to Warringah Council and a statement
that Ms Gray has been incredibly impressed with the efforts of certain residents
in rallying support for their cause on an issue that Ms Gray states to be “very
important”.



Ms Gray urges residents to view the website www.savecromer.com and states
that it would be wonderful if more submissions were made to Council;



Ms Gray goes on to state views that are sympathetic to opponents of the
proposed boarding house.

The “Save Cromer” website includes, on its front page, the statement (amongst other
statements):
Walking to school – This is a route that children take to and from school each
day. They will have to walk past this place full of unknown, transient people.
The website also states that residents will be holding a meeting “to discuss their
concerns, update you on their actions, explain the next steps and how the Warringah
Development Advisory Panel will work”. The website states that that meeting will be
held at the Cromer Public School Hall.
From that material, it is clear that Ms Gray is facilitating and publicly supporting the
campaign opposing the proposed boarding house. Ms Gray has allowed the school
newsletter, which is published using public resources, to be used to promote the
campaign opposing the proposed boarding house. Ms Gray has allowed the school
website, which is hosted by the NSW Government, to be used for those same
purposes. Ms Gray is also allowing the school’s hall to be used for a meeting by
people who are campaigning against the proposed boarding house. That campaign is
a political campaign.
There have been more recent newsletters which I cannot presently access due to
Department of Education and Communities website maintenance. I will provide you
with information regarding more recent newsletters when I am able to access that
information.
Breaches in the code
The Code is breached in the following respects:


The Statement of Ethics includes
The values that underpin our work include fairness, respect, integrity and
responsibility.
We demonstrate these values in our daily work by:
!

…(etc)

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!

being courteous and responsive in dealing with others

!

being committed to social justice by opposing prejudice, injustice
and dishonesty

!

promoting dignity and respect by avoiding behaviour which is, or
might reasonably be perceived as, harassing, bullying or
intimidating

!

…(etc)

!

behaving in ways that advance vibrant, sustainable, inclusive and
responsible communities across NSW

Ms Gray has promoted, on behalf of the Department, the view that the safety of
children will be placed at risk from the boarding house residents. That is
obviously insulting to boarding house residents generally and to prospective
residents should the boarding house be approved and commence use.
The promotion of that view is (to say the least) rude and discourteous towards
the prospective boarding house residents.
The promotion of that view is contrary to being committed to social justice by
opposing prejudice. Ms Gray has clearly read the views in some submissions
that express fear and prejudice about prospective boarding house residents
(such as in the many form letters). Ms Gray is called upon by the Statement of
Ethics to oppose those views, but instead she has reflected and reinforced
them.
Ms Gray’s stigmatisation of prospective boarders of the proposed boarding
house amounts to harassing, bullying and intimidating behaviour directed at
those prospective boarders and at residents of boarding houses in general.
Furthermore, the climate of fear that Ms Gray has contributed to makes me feel
afraid that when I attend the meeting to represent the applicant, at which
objectors will also be present, I will be attacked and made to feel humiliated
because I will be seen to be supportive of a development that is alleged by Ms
Gray to endanger children.
Ms Gray’s comments are directly contrary to behaving in ways that advance
inclusive communities. Ms Gray is supporting a position that seeks for the
boarders to be excluded from the community of Cromer and that seeks to
stigmatise boarders as being dangerous to children.
Additionally to those concerns is that Ms Gray’s actions in promoting the “Save
Cromer” campaign, which represents one side of a political argument, are
clearly unfair to those who are seeking that the development is approved. Ms
Gray is using public resources to promote a one-sided political position and to
reduce the prospects of the proposed development being approved to be benefit
of the proponents.


Section 4 of the Code relates to “Respect for people”. Part 4.4 states:
You must not use information and communication technologies, such as
email, mobile phones, text or instant messaging and websites that could
be considered to have a negative impact on another person, cause them
harm, or make them feel unsafe.
Ms Gray’s emailed submission characterises future boarding house residents as
being unsafe to children and will have a negative impact on those residents.
When those residents are stigmatised and in the likely event that they are

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verbally abused it is likely that they will feel unsafe. The material that Ms Gray
has included on the school’s website also has those effects.


Part 4.7 states:
Managers and principals must lead by example and must take all
necessary steps to ensure that workplaces and classrooms are free from
all forms of harassment, bullying and unlawful discrimination, and that
their staff are informed of the principles of equal opportunity and antidiscrimination.
If the proposed boarding house is approved and proceeds, one or some of the
proposed boarding rooms may potentially be occupied by a teacher or teachers
employed at the school and by single parents that may have a child that goes
to the school.
Aside from single parents that might have their child sharing their boarding
room, there may also be divorced or separated parents that have a child living
with that child’s other parents, and that child may visit that parent in that
parent’s boarding room.
Children that attend the school may have a grandparent, auntie, uncle or close
family friend that may reside in the boarding house. They may even have an
older sibling or cousin living there.
As a consequence of the stigmatisation of boarding house residents with which
Ms Gray has been instrumental, the children who might reside in or, more
likely, have a relative or friend living at the boarding house are likely to be
stigmatised and humiliated by other children or parents. Such stigmatisation
and/or humiliation may have profound effects on the social and psychological
development of such a child.
If a teacher at the school lives at the boarding house – or, for that matter, in
another boarding house – the actions of Ms Gray may lead to the stigmatisation
of that teacher and that may have profound impacts upon that teacher’s wellbeing and professional development.



Section 13 of the Code relates to “Managing your political, community and
personal activities”.



Part 13.1 states that employees of the Department are (amongst other things)
to provide responsive service to the community in line with government policy.
Government policy concerning boarding houses allows boarding houses such as
the one that is proposed to be located within low density residential areas. Ms
Gray has, in her support of the Save Cromer campaign and in her newsletter
statements, opposed the proposed boarding house on the basis that it is
located within a low density residential area. In so doing, Ms Gray has provided
a service to the community that is based upon opposition to established policies
of the NSW Government concerning affordable rental housing. Those actions
are contrary to clause 13.1.



Clause 13.5 states (amongst other things) that, in participating in any political,
community and personal activity, the employee of the Department must not
claim to represent a school and make public comments that are critical of
Government policy. State Environmental Planning Policy (Affordable Rental
Housing) 2009 allows boarding houses to be located in R2 Low Density
residential areas, like the proposed boarding house. In representing the school,
Ms Gray is opposing that government policy. Ms Gray is therefore in breach of

MB Town Planning Pty Ltd ACN 161 704 927 as Trustee for the Durney Benson Family Trust trading as MB Town Planning

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MB Town Planning | Suite 10, 895 Pacific Hwy, PYMBLE NSW 2073 | PO Box 415, GORDON NSW 2072
www.mbtownplanning.com | [email protected] | (02) 9144 7968

clause 13.5 and is using school resources to oppose a policy of the NSW
Government.


Clause 13.5 also states (amongst other things) that in participating in any
political or community activity, the employee of the Department must not use
the Department’s resources to assist in those political or community activities.
The campaign against the proposed boarding house is a political or community
activity and is not a legitimate school activity. Ms Gray is not authorised to
misuse the Department’s resources in that manner.
Should Ms Gray assert that opposing the proposed development is a legitimate
school activity because the boarding house may impact upon the school, I
would assert that Ms Gray could equally use school resources to support the
proposed boarding house because it will provide accommodation that would be
suitable for some teachers and because it would promote the availability of
affordable housing in the community. Clearly, the question of whether the
development should be supported or opposed is a political consideration and it
is not the legitimate business of the school to take sides in a two-sided (or
multi-sided) political matter. There are circumstances in which the Department
does have a legitimate interest in development outcomes – however there are
areas within the Department (the Department’s property team or similar) that
are both authorised and equipped to properly represent the Department. Ms
Gray is not so authorised or equipped.



As clearly stated in Part 13, it is inappropriate for a Department employee to
make public comment about their own political beliefs while purporting to
represent the Department. Ms Gray’s opposition to the proposed boarding
house represents her own personal political beief – yet Ms Gray is identifying
herself as the principal of Cromer Public School in making those comments.



Section 23 relates to inappropriate use of electronic communication and social
networking sites. Clause 23.2 states (amongst other things) that employees
must never use the Department’s networks to circulate violent or hate-related
messages or material. Clause 23.2 also states that employees must never use
the Department’s networks to circulate malicious or slanderous messages or
material. Ms Gray has circulated the school council submission by email. That
submission promotes hatred of people who live in boarding houses by
stigmatising such residents as presenting a risk to children. As set out
elsewhere in this letter, the only sense in which residents could be interpreted
as posing such a risk is in the sense of them being paedophiles or as people
that would otherwise assault or inappropriately interfere with children. As set
out elsewhere in this letter, to accuse someone of being such a person is the
worst thing, or at least amongst the worst things, that can be said about a
person. To say that about a person or about a class of people promotes hatred
of, and constitutes a slander towards, such people. Ms Gray is therefore clearly
in breach of clause 23.2.

Conclusion
I ask that you take the actions that the Department would normally take in response
to breaches of its Code of Conduct. This letter demonstrates that the breaches in this
instance are very severe.
I also ask that you immediately take action to:


Remove offending material from the school website;

MB Town Planning Pty Ltd ACN 161 704 927 as Trustee for the Durney Benson Family Trust trading as MB Town Planning

11

MB Town Planning | Suite 10, 895 Pacific Hwy, PYMBLE NSW 2073 | PO Box 415, GORDON NSW 2072
www.mbtownplanning.com | [email protected] | (02) 9144 7968



Prevent the use of the school hall for a meeting of opponents to the proposed
boarding house; and



Provide a statement in the school newsletter correcting the statements that
have been made and apologising for the offense that has been caused to
boarding house residents. That statement should confirm that neither the
school nor the Department have a position in relation to whether the proposed
boarding house at 18 Grover Avenue, Cromer, should be approved;



Write to Warringah Council withdrawing the submission that has been made by
the school Council and confirming that neither Cromer Public School, nor the
NSW Department of Education and Communities, have a position regarding
whether the proposed boarding house at 18 Grover Avenue, Cromer should be
approved;



Instruct the Department of Education and Communities media unit to advise
media outlets of the above.

Please let me know as soon as possible what actions you intend to take.
Yours faithfully,

Matthew Benson
Principal - MB Town Planning

MB Town Planning Pty Ltd ACN 161 704 927 as Trustee for the Durney Benson Family Trust trading as MB Town Planning

12

Sent:
Subject:

31/08/2015 8:28:07 PM
Online Submission

31/08/2015
MRS Maureen Gray
106 / 25 Goodwin ST
Narrabeen NSW 2101
RE: DA2015/0740 - 18 Grover Avenue CROMER NSW 2099
Attention: Mr Tony Collier
Planning & Development
Warringah Council
School Council is the governance body of Cromer Public School. It has elected parent and
staff representatives, an appointed community member and the Principal acts as the
Executive Member. School Council addresses broader issues relating to the community
(students, staff and parents) in which the school is located, endorses school policy and helps
set the strategic directions for the school’s future development.
At the last School Council meeting it was tabled that a Development Application (DA
2015/0740) had been submitted to Warringah Council by a private developer for additions
and alterations to an existing dwelling at 18 Grover Avenue Cromer and the construction at
the rear of a new building to form an eight room boarding house that could possibly cater for
up to 16 residents. School Council was informed that the immediate neighbours had been
advised of the development application and of their right to raise any concerns in relation to
the DA by 2nd September.
School Council strongly believes that Cromer Public School should have received
notification from Warringah Council of the DA as the proposed boarding house is within 300
metres of the school. The boarding house’s location is on pedestrian and driver routes to
Cromer Public School which is congested especially at the beginning (8.00am - 9.30am) and
the end (2.30pm - 4.00pm) of the school day. The school has an enrolment of approximately
800 students from Kindergarten to Year 6. The safety and wellbeing of its students is
considered to be of paramount importance.
Grover Avenue has bus stops located either side of the road near and opposite 20 Grover
Avenue with the 178 bus service available for residents. Grover Avenue turns on a bend into
Carcoola Road leading to Cromer Public School. The rest of the street is narrow and is a no
through road from 20 Grover Avenue to 2 Grover Avenue.
Carcoola Road is the major entry point to the school. The school is bounded by Carcoola
Road, Dorothy Street, Waroon Road and Meehan Road. The residents in each of these four
streets experience difficulty with traffic and parking congestion on these roads with parents
dropping off and collecting their children during school days. Unfortunately some drivers
lack consideration of neighbours’ properties causing distress and angst amongst the school’s
neighbours. School Council has advised Warringah Council’s Traffic Committee of our
concerns with regard to the safety of the roads in the vicinity of the school.

The DA plans for 18 Grover Avenue, Cromer detail only two designated car spaces on the
property. It is unrealistic to think only two of the possible 13 -16 residents of the boarding
house will have a car. The bus service is supposed to run every hour though this is
questionable as a regular service. There are no grocery shops or social amenities close to this
address. Carrying home shopping via bus would not be ideal for boarding house residents.
As you know there are road rules about how far you can park a vehicle leading up to and
beyond bus stops. It is highly likely that Grover Avenue and Carcoola Road will have to take
the additional overflow parking from the boarding house. Any potential resident would
quickly realise the necessity of acquiring vehicular transport if he/she is not to become
isolated from essential facilities and services that make life far more efficient and effective.
Most boarding houses are located on or close to major roads to allow residents ease of access
to work, shops, transport, learning, medical and social facilities. The existing character of the
Cromer suburb is single dwellings with some lots having dual occupancy. Establishing a
boarding house in a very family oriented suburb would set a precedent for future applications
of this kind and would definitely bring significant change to the suburb’s character.
This DA has galvanised the suburb as a whole with residents not wanting their way of life
affected by the possible transient nature of some boarding house residents. It would appear as
of 28th August only one submission out of over 200+ was in favour of a boarding house
being provided for people who needed affordable accommodation in the suburb of Cromer. A
number of parents who have children enrolled at Cromer Public School have raised concern
that they would no longer feel comfortable in allowing their children to walk past the
boarding house to and from school on a daily basis. For the parents this boils down to a
matter of safety and the possibility of children being placed at risk from unknown persons.
The privacy of neighbours will definitely be affected with the potential of varied arrival and
departure times of boarding house residents and there will an increase in noise levels for
neighbours with the increase in the number of residents living on this site. The plans show
Building 1 is accessed from the rear and that Building 2 sits on neighbours’ fence lines. The
distance between both buildings is also minimal. Safety, privacy and noise levels would also
be issues for residents of the boarding house and the immediate neighbours.
School Council does understand the need to improve rental affordability in Sydney and is
aware of the Boarding Houses Act 2012. However, it appears the private developer has set
out to build and lease ‘micro apartments’ or ‘studio units’ on a larger scale than otherwise
permitted in low density (R2) areas and is determined to challenge the interpretation of R2
zoning.
The private developer has no real understanding of the character of the suburb or the very real
fear that properties will be devalued with the addition of a boarding house within the suburb.
If Warringah Council approves the DA it would not be in the best interest of its rate payers as
it will change the residential mix of the area. Many residents of the suburb have previously
made the decision to move from high and medium density settings to make a better life for
themselves and their children in a low density area. Many residents have high mortgages but
want the safety and security found in low density R2 residential setting.
It is also of grave concern that the developer has not included on-site management 24/7 in the

DA2015/0740. There is the potential for a continual turnover of residents especially in light
of the lack of amenities in close proximity to the boarding house. The Operation Management
Plan is flawed and lacking in essential detail.
The following questions need to be addressed. How will boarding house residents be vetted?
If conflict arises between boarding house residents, who do neighbours turn to for assistance?
If noise levels are excessive who will resolve the matter, will neighbours have to resort to
contacting Police? Supposedly there will be ‘rules’ such as ‘No Smoking’ and ‘No Alcohol’
again who will ensure that these are enforced by all residents? Will letters of agreement be
terminated if these rules are broken? How will waste management be handled for the
boarding house residents? If there is a constant turnover of residents, say every three months,
will the standard of accommodation be maintained at a satisfactory level to not impact upon
property values? When will the cleaning of communal areas and grounds maintenance take
place? How accessible will the owner be to address Cromer residents’ concerns that arise in
relation to the boarding house? So many questions arise that do not have satisfactory answers.
School Council asks Warringah Councillors to put themselves in the shoes of Cromer
residents. Imagine how you would react if this proposed development was to be sited next to
your own homes. Would you be happy? Would you have the same concerns as a large
number of Cromer residents?
Cromer Public School Council requests that Warringah Council give serious consideration to
the very real concerns of so many Cromer residents and rate payers that have been raised with
regard to DA 2015/0740. Please maintain Cromer community’s current zoning in the best
interest of children, young families, residents who have purchased their first homes for the
lifestyle they have been led to believe Cromer has to offer and existing residents of long
standing. Please keep the suburb of Cromer as a low density (R2) residential area that is a
haven of family life on the Northern Beaches.

Executive Member
Cromer Public School Council
Carcoola Rd
Cromer
NSW 2099

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