John Preston

The Alexandria fire – Where there’s smoke…

Alexandria fire
Image: AAP/Dan Himbrechts

When I wrote to the City of Sydney this year telling them that their fire compliance regime encouraged people to cheat and was deficient, I received a dismissive reply 10 days later.

This reply indicated that they knew best and I should not worry my pretty little head.

It did not take long for them to be proven wrong. The Alexandria fire in Burrows Road this last Wednesday tells you everything that’s wrong with the City of Sydney.

Firstly, they know best and they listen to no one. Criticism is dismissed with a derisive air and management psychobabble, unless it’s their psychobabble or one of their consultants. In that case, it’s Gospel.

Secondly, Town Hall is opaque. This is a complaint I hear frequently. They love confidentiality – despite their stated position, consultation is a means to an end, not an end in itself. They never consult without knowing where they want to wind up.

Ask the folks who live near Reg Bartley oval.

Thirdly… “Computer says no” has been taken to heart at Town Hall. When you deal with Council staff, it seems that they all live on check lists and manuals. Reality comes out of a book. Independent thought appears to have been banned. Following the manual and the check list will keep you safe. If there is a disaster, at least the process was sound.

Fourth, and most importantly, Town Hall has lost the ability or desire to set priorities and ensure that its core functions are performed. All manner of other pie in the sky pursuits are given resources, while something as elementary as dealing with a pretty obvious compliance matter was allowed to go by the wayside – it is more good luck than good management that no one was killed.

A substantial number of people were living in squalor in shipping containers and a towering inferno broke out. All under the Council’s nose. Council failed to investigate when contacted about it. If the NSW Police, Fire or Ambulance Service allowed this to happen, there would be outrage. There is little difference here.

On any version of events this is a serious matter and should prompt Council to take a hard look at itself. Like all organisations this should start at the top.

And where is our Lord Mayor on this matter?

Has she commented or visited the site of the Alexandria fire?

When I last checked, the silence was deafening and she was nowhere to be seen.

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