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"No comment": Lords Place investigator appointed by Orange City Council

April 12, 2024

By Peter Holmes

Orange City Council has hired a Sydney lawyer and business owner to run the review into the Lords Place redevelopment, and she is playing her cards close to her chest.

Pendlebury Workplace Law, established by Brooke Pendlebury in 2006, will conduct the investigation.

Her brief is based purely on the motion passed by councillors on February 20, 2024.

The motion, put by councillor Frances Kinghorne - who had voted against the Lords Place redevelopment in late 2022 - and seconded by councillor Glenn Floyd - who had voted for it, stated:

“That Orange City Council arrange, as soon as practicable, an independent review of the planning, approval and construction of the Lords Pl Sth Future Cities development.

“This review should consider the following:

“1. Whether all relevant accurate information was officially given to councillors prior to the approval.

“2. Whether all required/usual planning protocols and procedures were undertaken in relation to this matter.

“3. Whether there were any concerns raised by staff involved in the development, especially in relation to the apparent haste in implementing the project, and, if so, how were these concerns addressed?

“4. Whether the immediate start on the project was consistent with regulations, especially in relation to the effective blocking of any potential rescission motion. 

“5. Whether there was effective consultation/ communication with the business owners during the development. Did the minutes of the meetings held accurately reflect the content of those meetings and were these minutes adopted at subsequent meetings?

“6. Whether the differences between the concept plans and the actual development were necessary, specifically in relation to the arrangement of the double tree pits as perpendicular to the footpath rather than angled to align better with the parking spaces.

“7. What internal reviews have already been conducted to date, and what is the outcome of any such reviews?”

The vote was unanimous, with 11 in favour and one (Jack Evans) absent.

The Orange News Examiner has been contacted by readers to ask how they can provide information that may assist the inquiry.

One Lords Place businessperson has said he wants the investigator to hold a public forum where those affected by the Lords Place redevelopment can have their say.

And community group Orange Residents And Ratepayers - which organised the petition calling for a review into the ill-fated $1.58 million project - says it has prepared a dossier about the redevelopment, but wants to deliver it directly to Pendlebury.

The petition was signed by 20 people from businesses on Lords Place south. The 20 represented almost every tenant on that strip of Lords Place, and most were owners, directors and/or or managers. One (Phil Donato) was state MP, who had moved offices from Byng Street to Lords Place south.

A call was made to Pendlebury on Friday afternoon, but she declined to comment and said all media and general public inquiries should be directed to Orange City Council.

The Orange News Examiner reported at the end of February that, contrary to widespread belief, the Office of Local Government (OLG) would have no involvement in the investigation into Orange City Council’s handling of the Lords Place south redevelopment.

The OLG - the state government agency overseeing NSW councils - told us there appeared to be confusion surrounding its role in any review.

After checking the Orange City Council agenda papers from February 20, 2024, the OLG said the motion voted for by councillors did not require its involvement. 

That caused disquiet among some councillors and other interested parties, who wanted the OLG to conduct its own investigation, and greater involvement from the local government minister Ron Hoenig.

Pendlebury Workplace Law was chosen - and will be paid - by Orange City Council, which selected from an OLG “panel list”. The list is of individuals or businesses approved by the OLG to conduct such reviews.

Council has estimated the cost at $20,000 to $25,000, although the final amount may be determined by what resources are actually required to conduct an investigation that meets the parameters set by the councillors.

Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

According to the company's website Pendlebury "works closely with many Councils in NSW and corporate clients providing assistance by conducting external workplace investigations. Brooke also sits on a number of Code of Conduct Panels for various Councils".

Pendlebury has worked as a senior industrial officer with industrial unions in the local government, and public and private health sectors. She has also worked for employer industrial associations as a solicitor and senior advisor.

She has a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in Finance and Marketing, a Bachelor of Laws, and a Masters of Commerce majoring in Industrial Relations and Organisational Behaviour from the University of New South Wales.

"Brooke is also an adjunct lecturer in law at the University of NSW, the UNSW Business School, the Macquarie Graduate School of Management, and at Charles Sturt University," the website states.

"In addition to industrial and employment law matters, Brooke has a particular interest and expertise in conducting workplace investigations and mediations, and is a member of the Australian Mediation Association."

You can read more from our in-depth coverage of Lords Place here.

Watch our Lords Place Memories video here.


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