A Message from Mayor Steve Christou

A weekly insight into what's happening around our local community.

12 February 2021

Business cash grants should extend to Berala

As businesses in Berala are dealing with the economic impact from the recent COVID-19 outbreak in our community, it was disappointing to see that Western Sydney and specifically Berala had been excluded from the State’s hardship grants being handed out to small businesses in the Northern Beaches.

Berala was the subject of one of the state’s latest outbreaks but were left out of business recovery measures with NSW Finance and Small Business Minister, Damien Tudehope describing the area as a non “tourist destination.”

It’s true that Berala isn’t a beachside community that attracts backpackers or international tourists, but it’s a community that was hit hard financially by the recent outbreak and many businesses were forced to close during the Christmas period.

We are people too. Grant assistance should not be determined by dollar status. The fact that Cumberland City Council, went above and beyond to assist the State Government and NSW Health to reach Berala residents with important COVID messaging around mask-wearing and testing during the recent outbreak, makes Mr Tudehope’s comments particularly disappointing.

Berala residents already experience chronic social economic disadvantage. Our region deserves the same support to assist an economic recovery from COVID-19.

I will advocate on behalf of our businesses who must be included in the NSW Government COVID-19 Business Grants Assistance Package.

Audit into Councillors’ expenses referred to ICAC

As Councillors and elected representatives, we are accountable to ratepayers. Last year, Cumberland City Council was made aware of serious allegations concerning inappropriate childcare expenses claims made by Councillor Ola Hamed. These claims warranted a full, independent audit of all Councillor expenses reimbursement claims.

The independent external audit found that for approximately 25 hours claimed for childcare reimbursement by Councillor Hamed in the first half of 2018 no ‘official business’ could be identified. Limited records and justification were provided by Councillor Hamed during the investigation process to substantiate reimbursement claims.

Councillor Hamed’s telephone plan and associated costs were also included in the investigation and following the investigation, I understand that Councillor Hamed has been asked to repay more than $2,500 in bills, which do not comply with the Councillor’s expenditure policy.

Findings from this independent investigation have now been referred to ICAC by Council’s General Manager.

Lunar New Year: The facts

Despite recent claims from representatives in our community that I cancelled Cumberland City’s Lunar New Year Festival, I’d like to clarify that this could not be further from the truth.

It was actually a Council decision to cancel this year’s Lunar New Year festival, which is typically held in Auburn. The decision to not proceed was the result of a Council resolution in July 2020, which included a range of budget savings measures to return Council’s budget to long-term financial sustainability.

At the time this decision was made the COVID-19 pandemic was in full flight. The decision applied not only to Lunar New Year but to a range of events and services.

In light of these facts, the comments made by the local Member for Auburn, Lynda Voltz in particular about my role in cancelling the event, are misleading.

We are still celebrating Lunar New Year with the display of street flag banners across the suburbs of our local government area from 27 January until 16 February.

The cost of this is around $16,000. Previous Lunar New Year Celebrations have cost Council approximately $60,000.

Council staff are working to ensure our full calendar of events will resume when Council is in a better financial position, post COVID-19 recovery and ideally these events, including the Lunar New Year festival will be restored in next year’s budget.

DAs available online

Anyone lodging a planning application is required to upload their application electronically through the Planning Portal that is managed by the NSW Government.

As a result of these changes, applications can no longer be submitted to Council over the counter or by email.

Further information on how to lodge applications on the portal is available on

For submissions on current development applications visit

If you have any issues you’d like me to help you with, please contact me by: