Yesterday community groups from all over Sydney joined forces to stand up against the the NSW government’s “fit for the future” process. The group sees the process as undemocratic, expensive, flawed and not making councils fitter at all.
“If there is legislation and it comes up to the upper house at the moment, you would have to say from today they’re in real deep doo-doo,” the opposition’s local government spokesman Peter Primrose said.
Representatives from the NSW upper house joined Mr Primrose at the launch of the “Save Our Councils Coalition”, or SOCC, comprising councillors and community groups opposed to the state government’s push to reduce the number of NSW councils.
“Forced amalgamations are so unpopular, so anti-democratic, that everyone from the Christian Democrats to Labor to the Shooters and the Greens are standing together to oppose them in Parliament,” Greens MP David Shoebridge said.
Shooters and Fishers MP and Ashfield resident Robert Borsak said the state government’s Fit for the Future process, which requires councils to either put forward a merger proposal or justify to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) why one is not necessary by June 30, “was a flawed process from the start”.
“The whole thing’s only ever been set up as a con to get around their failed planning bill that we knocked over,” Mr Borsak said.
Independent MP Alex Greenwich said “it’s not clear” whether the state government could force councils to merge without requiring new legislation.
Mr Primrose said the government should hit the “pause button” on the reforms until a parliamentary inquiry considered this and other issues.
“There’s a whole range of really good ideas which have been overlooked in this whole debate,” Mr Primrose said.
SOCC is calling for mergers only to proceed if they first win the backing of their communities through a referendum.
“My challenge to Minister Toole, who always seems very quiet and we have a difficulty arranging any meetings with him at all, is if you reckon this is on, then put it to a referendum and let’s settle it once and for all,” Holroyd mayor Greg Cummings said.
The SOCC’s call was backed by Christian Democrats MP Fred Nile, a ratepayer of Warringah, which is seeking to merge with Manly and Pittwater.
“Any amalgamations will take away the local emphasis, it will just get bigger and bigger,” Mr Nile said.
“Local councils would become controlled then by the Labor Party or Liberal Party.”
See more at SMH.