12 May 2016
LOCAL COMMUNITY, LOCAL DEMOCRACY THE KEY
The democratically- elected councillors unceremoniously sacked by Local Government Minister Paul Toole today have every reason to feel betrayed but the whole sector should focus on ensuring the speedy return of genuine grassroots representation, Local Government NSW said.
The peak body’s President Keith Rhoades said he was unsurprised at the number and nature of the sackings, given the highly politicised process to date.
"The process itself has been one long litany of mistakes and miscalculations and dubious dealings by the Government, and it’s telling that both IPART and now the Boundaries Commission have felt compelled to disassociate themselves from the political decisions being made," Clr Rhoades said.
"If it wasn’t for a range of vehement campaigns by grassroots communities and the local government sector, the Baird Government would have bulldozed through an even more extensive and undemocratic reform process long ago.
"You can’t pretend it’s not inherently political when the only councils to escape amalgamation are those that happen to fall into marginal federal electorates in the middle of an election campaign."
Clr Rhoades said the Government had clearly ignored the clearly stated wishes of communities, and had broken their own pledge that there would be no forced amalgamations.
"It’s now a matter for voters, many of whom may well choose to express their anger and sense of betrayal at the ballot box at the first opportunity," he said.
"Meanwhile, our most important goal now is to restore ‘business as usual’ as quickly as possible, so the complex and costly task of merging two or more councils into one entity does not disrupt communities any further.
"I would urge any former councillor or former Mayor who was democratically elected by their residents and ratepayers to keep the interests of those people to the forefront, and to work towards the re-establishment of local democracy and representation."
Clr Rhoades said the sector would continue to hold the Baird Government accountable.
"We’re in a new landscape, and this needs a new and improved approach from the State Government," he said.
"Despite the long trail of broken promises this Government must at the very least deliver the full funding support it pledged to amalgamating councils at various points during the rocky reform process.
"There will be a lot of concern and uncertainty in the sector, particularly in regional towns where local government is not only the heart of the community but often one of the major employers.
"That’s why it is important to ensure communities represented by smaller councils being subsumed into larger ones do not lose their representation or their voice.
"I’m confident that the transitional committees, Government-appointed administrators and interim general managers will do their absolute best to make the change as smooth as possible, and I urge them never to forget the importance of local democracy and representation in their roles."
The proclamations, which can be found here, here and here, identify 19 amalgamations or boundary changes determined by the Government and announced today.
Armidale Dumaresq, Guyra
Ashfield, Leichhardt, Marrickville
Bombala, Cooma-Monaro, Snowy Rover
Boorowa, Harden, Young
Gloucester, Great Lakes, Greater Taree
Manly, Pittwater, Warringah
Parramatta and parts of The Hills, Auburn, Holroyd, Hornsby
Hawkesbury, The Hills.
On Hold Due To Legal Action, but amalgamation given "in principle support" by Minister:
Woollahra, Randwick, Waverley
Mosman, North Sydney, Willoughby
Blayney, Cabonne, Orange
Hunters Hill, Ryde, Lane Cove
Canada Bay, Strathfield, Burwood
On Hold while alternative proposals are considered:
Port Stephens, Newcastle