Parents and councillors were unimpressed by the Mayor of Ku-ring-gai, Elaine Malicki’s, behaviour at a recent council meeting.
On May 28 almost 200 people attended a meeting at the Ku-ring-gai Council Chambers to protest against Council’s plans to reclassify the land on which Gordon Community Preschool is located.
Brian Dickinson, whose five-year-old daughter attends the preschool, spoke at the meeting on behalf of parents. However he said he felt intimidated and disappointed by Cr Malicki’s behaviour towards him and other attendees.
“It was an attack from her [Cr Malicki] from the start. Throughout the whole meeting there was a constant tone of sarcasm, patronising and condescension, not just on the Gordon stuff, but also to various councillors,” said Mr Dickinson.
“Throughout the night whenever someone spoke against her or her perspective they were shut down very quickly.”
Roseville ward representative, Councillor David Armstrong agreed with Mr Dickinson’s assessment of Cr Malicki’s behaviour.
“Because it was such an emotional topic I think she didn’t really behave in the most appropriate way, especially towards the parents who were there to speak on behalf of the preschool,” he said.
However Mayor of Ku-ring-gai, Elaine Malicki has defended her actions at Tuesday night’s meeting. She said many of the attendees were either unaware of, or disregarded the council meeting Code of Practice despite her attempts to explain these rules.
“The public simply don’t understand meeting procedure. We are required to follow a code of meeting practice. There are massive restrictions as to what can be said at council meetings,” she said.
Cr Malicki said she had to warn attendees at the beginning of the meeting that no personal threats would be tolerated, after a fellow councillor was threatened over the phone on the way to the meeting.
The preschool behind this conflict is located on the corner of Park Avenue and Pearson Avenue in Gordon. This area is currently classified as ‘community’ land. However, Ku-ring-gai Council has earmarked this block of land as an area that would benefit from being reclassified as ‘operational’.
Reclassifying the land as ‘operational’ would give Council the power to sell the site to developers. Council have told Gordon Community Preschool that if this happens, the preschool will be relocated to a new site.
Gordon Community Preschool is the largest community preschool in Ku-ring-gai and one of the largest in NSW. One hundred and forty-eight children go through the centre each week.
Parents, workers at the childcare centre, and certain councillors have spoken out against relocating the centre because of their connection to the history of the building and its convenient location.
“We have not heard where the magical new building the Council is promising us might be. We have a community that are very connected to this site, so we don’t want to move from here,” said preschool director, Felicity Barclay.
At the meeting on May 28 a motion was put forward to rescind Council’s plans to work towards reclassifying the land. The vote on the matter was tied with five councillors voting for and five against.
Cr Malicki exercised her mayoral vote to make the final decision that Council would continue with the reclassification process.
A spokesperson for Ku-ring-gai Council stressed that the land has not been reclassified yet. The process will instead take about two years, during which an independent review and further community consultation will take place.
Although many of the families concerned will have left the childcare centre by the time a final decision is made, they still think it is a worthwhile cause.
Mr Dickinson said: “We believe in the cause but it’s not even really for us. Our view is very much that this is about the principal of keeping community land.”