The Hunters Hill Trust is fundamentally opposed to forced council amalgamations.
While we have been critical of Hunters Hill Council’s performance in a number of areas, most recently in its handling of the Gladesville Shopping Village development (no doubt members will have their own lists of Council’s shortcomings) there is no evidence that we will be better off with a bigger council and there is no doubt that our current level of representation and access to council will be severely reduced as a result of amalgamation with other local government areas.
We encourage Trust members to keep the pressure on the government by contacting our local State member, Anthony Roberts, to reinforce the fact that the Liberal Party’s determined push for amalgamation is not supported by the people he represents.
Let Anthony Roberts know what you think:
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Phone 9817 4757 PO Box 524, Gladesville NSW 1675
For updates from Save Hunters Hill: https://www.facebook.com/savehuntershill/
The current state of play
As HHT members well know, the State Government is hell-bent on amalgamating Sydney’s metropolitan councils to reduce the number of councils across the metropolitan area from 41 to 18. They asked all councils to submit plans, which in some cases included amalgamation proposals, to justify whether they were “fit for the future”.
Council submissions were assessed by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to determine whether individual councils, their proposed voluntary amalgamations or arrangements for joint associations were indeed fit.
The IPART report found than around 60% of the state’s councils were not fit according to its particular criteria.
Only 12 metropolitan councils that had submitted proposals were deemed fit. Most of the 29 that were deemed unfit failed because they did not meet the scale and capacity criteria. The list of those considered unfit included, amazingly, the state’s largest council, the City of Sydney, which is clearly another blatant attempt to get rid of Clover Moore. Languishing amongst the rest of those deemed unfit is Hunters Hill Council.
Hunters Hill had submitted that it should remain a stand-alone council but, as an alternative to amalgamation, it proposed forming a Joint Regional Authority (JRA) in asscocialtion with with Ryde and Lane Cove councils.
This JRA is effectively an extension of the existing joint arrangements for the provision of additional services. The stated aim of the JRA is to “strategically plan and deliver services on a regional basis”. Unsurprisingly the JRA was not supported by IPART, whose marching orders are all about amalgamation.
According to the press, Mike Baird wants to lock in council mergers across the state by the end of this year, setting the scene for pitched battles with local governments that do not want to bend. The government at the last election promised “no forced amalgamations” hoping that, with a bit of pressure, councils themselves would come up with their own voluntary amalgamation proposals. Some councils have in fact done this and consequently have been deemed fit for the future.
The unfit councils have been given 30 days from October 20, 2015 to rethink their situations and to come up with their own merger proposals. The government has offered a $15 million carrot to any council that wants to amalgamate, so long as they submit new proposals before the November 2015 deadline.
Clearly, if councils fail to comply with this request, the government will have to renege on their election promise of no forced amalgamations and legislate to make this happen. To achieve this, it will need the legislation to be passed by the State’s Upper House, where the Labor Party, The Greens and key cross-benchers Fred Nile and a couple of Shooters and Fishers have said they will not support it.
To reinforce this lack of support, the Upper House Parliamentary Inquiry of 29 October 2015 made a number of recommendations including:
- That the government commit to a policy of no forced amalgamations
- That it make Joint Organisations for regional co-operation available to all councils
- That it work with local government on a model for Joint Organisations based on the model submitted by Ryde, Hunters Hill and Lane Cove Councils as a consensus model for local council reform.
The inquiry also found that:
- IPART’s labelling of councils as ‘unfit’ was unfair and misleading
- IPART has not demonstrated that it has the skills or capacity to assess the overall ‘fitness’ of councils,
- The ‘scale and capacity’ criterion is flawed.
Another negative factor in the push for amalgamation is the expense of the process. It will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars for no apparent gain. This is not a good look for a supposedly economically responsible Liberal Party government.Members can help keep up the pressure on our representatives with emails, letters and phone calls to help put this whole enterprise into the government’s too-hard basket.
The Hunters Hill Trust