The Pittwater community is frustrated and angered by the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future (FftF) evaluation process which gives weight to the macho view of “big is better” over our democracy and local lifestyle.
The major 18 Pittwater residents groups are so incensed they have rallied to form an umbrella group, Pittwater Forever. Pittwater Forever is lobbying to keep Pittwater on its present boundaries with no merger. It also has its own website, facebook and twitter page. To have your say click here.
At the end of April the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) was appointed as the Expert Panel to asses the FftF submissions. In its April 27 media release, IPART Chairman Dr Peter Boxall says a council’s ‘scale and capacity’ is the threshold issue.
Every major criteria in the IPART document for evaluating a council’s “fitness” seems to erodes the people’s voice in favour of the state bureaucracy’s wants for larger, less independent, less local based councils in NSW.
The Pittwater Forever group believes the people, not just of Pittwater but of the whole NSW, have been betrayed and should be enraged with the appointment of IPART to evaluate councils’ FftF submissions.
The Palm Beach and Whale Beach Association (PBWBA)’s Storm Jacklin says the IPART appointment is a mockery to democracy.
“The appointment of IPART, driven by financial outcomes, instead of the appointment of the promised independent panel, completely undermines and disenfranchises the residents,” Mr Jacklin says.
At the Pittwater Council meeting on May 3, the Mayor Jacqui Townsend questioned how IPART will even asses scale and capacity.
“It’s not clear from the methodology how it will be assessed. It appears to be a discretionary assessment to be conducted by IPART,” she explains.
The problems don’t stop there, she continued. It is not just how IPART will judge a council as ‘Unfit’ but what are the consequences of being deemed ‘Unfit’?
“Will the Government force a merger?” Mayor Townsend asks. “This has not been made clear by the Government.”
IPART’s Dr Boxall dosen’t make it any clearer. “Our methodology proposes that in cases where the Independent Local Government Review Panel (ILGRP) recommended a merger, councils not proposing a merger in their applications would need to provide a sound argument that it is not the best option in their case,” he says.
Pittwater community groups and Council are now writing to IPART to voice their concerns.
Clareville and Bilgola Plateau Resident Associations (CABPRA) President, David Owen says issues which concern the residents – community, environmental, cultural, independent, local and democratic values – seem not be addressed by the IPART process at all.
“The only benchmarks are financial,” he adds. “This makes a real mockery of effective service delivery,”
The IPART process makes no mention or evaluation of the Council’s ability to manage the environment e.g. parks and reserves, coastline, waterways, climate change. A huge concern to Pittwater residents.
Plus there is no mention or evaluation of the Council’s ability to manage other key areas of concern to residents, such as active transport, planning and development, waste management, etc.
See what the SMH has to say RE: the IPART process.