February 12 - 18, 2017: Issue 300
Calls to Restore Pittwater Council Persist
Last Sunday, February 5th, Pittwater residents joined other communities and their residents at a Save Our Council's Coalition (SOCC) organised rally to reinstate an ongoing determination to have councils restored. The rally was held outside the North Shore Electorate Office at Neutral Bay of Mrs Jillian Skinner, MP, the former Minister for Health, who recently announced she will retire from politics. On the same day a 'news'- 'paper' published an 'Editorial' advising the newly elected Premier Berejiklian to 'hold your ground' on council amalgamations - addressing the lady as 'Madam' - that's not good French!
This was 'backed up' by a Media Release on Monday 6th by the "Property Council of Australia" who 'urged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to hold the line on council amalgamations in NSW against the forces of political self-interest ...' - words and 'advice' so similar they may have fallen from the same pen.
The Property Council of Australia went on to state that 'the Property Council has been a long term, strong supporter of the local government reform agenda because it will provide better outcomes for local communities, transparency for business and industry and a stronger future for NSW.'
Members from the Save Our Councils Coalition,met new Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton on Monday.:
SOCC Representatives meet with the Premier and reinforced the position
MEETING NOTES – 6 FEBRUARY 2017
1. SOCC who we are
a) Members and supporters are community groups, residents and councillors from across NSW.
b) The aims are to keep councils local, no forced amalgamations and properly conducted plebiscites.
c) Non-party political and transparent.
2. What we want
ALL MERGER PROPOSALS MUST BE WITHDRAWN NOW
There are 10 councils in court, 11 councils affected by court decisions and others being considered for mergers. All must remain as local councils.
FOR LOCAL COUNCILS FORCIBLY MERGE and in administration since May 2016 with no elected councillors.
a) The Greens, Labor, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party and the Christian Democrats are offering a legislative route for the de-merging of these councils which is both effective and quick.
b) This commitment was made at a public Rally called by SOCC on 5 February 2017 and has strong community support – see videos on https://www.facebook.com/saveourcouncils.
c) This has a number of advantages over conducting plebiscites. If the Government decides to go the way of plebiscite it must take place in every original council area and be determinative of the issue of de-merger and take place as soon as it can be properly arranged.
d) If the Government does not move quickly to resolve this matter as outlined, local communities will continue and indeed increase the battle to keep their local democracy.
3. What the situation is at the moment
LOCAL COMMUNITIES ARE ANGRY AND DISMAYED
There is considerable anger and dismay in local communities across NSW at the way the Government has attacked local communities and their elected councils. There is only one way that may abate to some degree, and that is to withdraw all forced mergers now.
Rallies and protests continued through the week, one sparked by a reported comment from the Cabinet Meeting of Tuesday the 7th by Coogee MP Bruce Notley-Smith who said, in speaking against a retreat from amlagamations: "Turkeys don't vote for Christmas".
Wednesday the 8th brought the protest to the Honourable Member for Coogee's office where placards displaying the word 'vote' but with a different context decorated the exterior of his rooms, replete with one who had donned a turkey costume.
Wednesday was also a day when the new Premier's Office attracted some placards as added response to the 'turkey comment'.
On Thursday the 9th the "Free Canturbury - Demerge now" launch of the Save Canterbury Petition by the Hands Off Canterbury Community Group demanding the reinstatement of Canterbury Council as a stand alone entity was held in ANZAC Mall, Campsie. This one was called on the afternoon of February 8th.
SOCC reported "This afternoon in Campsie Sophie Costas ex councillors and SOCC reps and residents have started their demerge petitition. A special thanks to Brian Halstead for joining us all the way from the Northern Beaches. What a champion."
The last for this week was on Friday at Queanbeyan where hundreds gathered,. travelling from Dubbo, Delgate and Tumbarumba, despite oppressive 45 degrees heat, to make sure deputy premier John Barilaro's electorate office could hear the opposition to forced amalgamations is not going away.
Meanwhile, the opposition shadow minister for local government Peter Primrose, along with local government spokesperson and Greens minister David Shoebridge, have stated this week their parties will put forward legislation when parliament resumes this week to work with the government to end the controversial policy. That may be an interesting Valentines Day!
In a Sydney Morning Herald article, 'Taxpayers fund council merger surveys as government searches for a resolution' (Lisa Visentin, Thursday February 9th) it was reported that telephone surveys are being conducted by researchers from National Field Services asking specifically about council mergers, among other matters. Mosman residents as well as at least one Strathfield resident have been contacted and all expressed absolute opposition to council mergers in their areas - one is currently part of a legal action to stop it occurring, in Mosman, while the other is part of a pending merger with Burwood and Canada Bay.
Here in Pittwater the protest isn't using bullying words or stooping to rudeness and condescension but the emphatic message remains the same:
RESTORE PITTWATER COUNCIL
February 6, 2017: Media Release
Community umbrella group Pittwater Forever, representing 18 community groups and their members, today urged Premier Gladys Berejiklian to restore local democracy to Pittwater.
Pittwater Forever chairman Craig Boaden made the call, saying “The Premier has identified forced Council amalgamations as the top liability for her government. The merger of Pittwater with two other Councils continues to be intensely opposed by a large majority of Pittwater residents, with 89% surveyed favouring retaining Pittwater Council.”
“Under the new arrangements Pittwater is once again being submerged by the interests of others from outside the area. Pittwater residents feel they have lost their representation and independence.”
“If the Premier is fair dinkum about really listening to the community and acting on their clearly expressed wishes, she should immediately reverse the ill-considered merger of Pittwater with other areas and re-establish Pittwater Council on the boundaries as they were pre May 2016.”
The Pittwater area includes suburbs at the northern end of Sydney’s coastline, stretching from Narrabeen up to Palm Beach. Until the forced mergers in 2016, it was the last new LGA, seceding from Warringah in 1992. The Pittwater community fought hard to leave the much larger Council and was deeply angered by the government’s unilateral decision to force a merger with Manly and Warringah Councils
As the Office of Local Government's annual report states the NSW government has spent $357, 750, 000 million on council reform last financial year, people are beginning to wonder how and where the continually touted 'savings' are occurring in commonly accepted definitions of such. The NSW Government's tax payer funded costs for court cases of those councils still fighting amalgamations cannot be tallied yet due to these being unresolved and ongoing.
John Illingsworth has published videos of Pittwater residents at last Sunday's rally - these run below.
The NSW Branch of the Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA) is urging Premier Gladys Berejiklian to put a stop to council amalgamations.
Febuary 7, 2017: Media release - Australian Local Government Women’s Association, NSW Branch
State President of ALGWA, former Gosford Councillor, Ms Vicki Scott, said the Association had urged Ms Berejiklian to cease current legal actions with those affected councils who are fighting forced amalgamations, immediately halt any further action on amalgamated councils, hold plebiscites as soon as possible, prior to an election, to determine the community’s preferences regarding all of those amalgamated councils, regardless of their location, which have already been formed.
Finally, ALGWA has called on the Premier to ensure that residents in affected areas can go to election as soon as possible to elect their democratic representatives.
“Our organisation has serious concerns about the numbers of women in Local Government being further impacted by the amalgamations (both elected representatives and senior employees),” Ms Scott said.
“No consideration or plan was ever made by the Baird Government to address that in this amalgamation process,” she said.
“Women in communities around the State are concerned about the effect amalgamation will have on their families.
“It has already had a dramatic effect on: elected representation for residents; council staff and their families; and the availability of local jobs.
“ALGWA understands that a number, if not all, of the new amalgamated councils: are still operating under separate budgets; are still operating separate workloads (ie, under the old LGA areas); and, will not be ready for the proposed local government elections in September this year.
“With separate council budgets and working procedures still in place for amalgamated councils, and an apparent delay in elections, the merger process needs to cease immediately.
“Services for local areas would not be impacted, local government would remain local and community engagement returned with elected Councillors.
“A huge democratic issue in this process is the continued lack of elected representatives in 19 Local Government areas across the State.
“Inadequate planning and public consultation has meant that the whole amalgamation process has been a shambles and has only succeeded in upsetting a large portion of NSW’s residents.
“This needs to be addressed quickly and smartly.”
Pittwater Online News - Issue 299 - for the record
Council Amalgamations Windback: Community Feedback This Week
Community Members have asked us to communicate that Save Our Councils Coalition, SOCC, has organised a rally for today, Sunday 5 February at the North Shore Electorate Office, 40 Yeo Street, Neutral Bay at 10.00am.
“It is imperative that as many people from Pittwater attend to send the clearest message that Pittwater's and ALL forced amalgamations should be undone. This could be our last chance before the government announces a decision.
The theme of the rally is: The Time is Now - Community Rally to end Forced Mergers.”
Further discussions this week on reports of supposed plebiscites have some residents expressing being astounded that anything other than a vote for residents in pre-amalgamation boundaries should take place, as anything other than that would clearly have numbers ‘stacked’ in the case of Pittwater – Warringah - Manly. If any pelbisicite should take place then it should occur prior to the Local Government Elections scheduled for Saturday 9 September 2017 so that people know What and Who they’re voting for.
As so many have expressed a wish to be part of Pittwater; very similar to the boundary suggestions first put forward by Pittwater MP Rob Stokes, should ‘How do you want this to be’ be part of any such vote, has also been proposed by some readers.
The NSW Cabinet held its first meeting under the new NSW Premier, Hon. Gladys Berejiklian on Thursday but no resounding statement on this matter has been announced.
In the meantime, please be polite and respectful to all interim serving staff on council – these too are residents just trying to get on with their work.
Further Media Releases received this week on this matter run below.
Editor, Pittwater Online News
Withdraw Every Forced Council Merger Now
Thursday 2 February 2017: MEDIA RELEASE - SAVE OUR COUNCILS COALITION
Save our Councils Coalition welcomes the news that forced council amalgamations will be on the Cabinet’s agenda today and says it is time to put an end to what has been a fatally flawed forced council amalgamation process.
“Communities across NSW have had a gutful of Baird’s damaging forced amalgamations campaign against local communities and local democracy.” said Phil Jenkyn, spokesperson for Save Our Councils Coalition.
“The process has not been fair dinkum in fact the Government has treated communities with contempt.”
“Save Our Councils Coalition wants to see an immediate withdrawal of the Government from all forced council amalgamations whether in court or not.” said Phil Jenkyn
The Government should immediately withdraw from all legal proceedings with councils. The councils which have been forcibly amalgamated should, by way of proclamation, be reinstated; the administrators should be removed and the legitimate elected Councils should be re-appointed.
“The new Premier wants us to know that she is listening to communities. Here is her first big test.”
“The forced council amalgamation process has been shown for what it is –a sham and a deeply dishonest process. Not one of these forced council amalgamations has legitimacy in the eyes of the community nor have they had a mandate.”
“Local democracy is just as precious to the people of Leichhardt as it is to the people in Cabonne and the way this Government has trashed local democracy and ignored the community has made many, many people very angry.”
“If this Government seriously wants to address this then they need to withdraw- right now- from all forced council amalgamations right across NSW.” Phil Jenkyn.
Good News For NSW Councils?
February 2nd, 2017: Media Release - LGNSW
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed reports about the Berejiklian/Barilaro Government ceasing forced council amalgamations - and restoring local democracy by giving the residents of already merged councils a vote on whether to de-amalgamate.
The reports said the Government was preparing to announced that councils for which forced mergers were still pending would be allowed to stand alone, while ratepayers of already merged councils would be given an opportunity to vote on whether they wanted to de-amalgamate.
LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said the reports, if confirmed by Cabinet, would be very welcome news for the local government sector and local communities.
"LGNSW has spent a lot of today in meetings with Deputy Premier John Barilaro and the newly installed Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton," Clr Rhoades said.
"It would be inappropriate to reveal the content of those discussions, but I can certainly say they were both constructive and productive.
"I have said all along that I was confident the Berejiklian/Bailaro Government and the new Local Government Minister would listen to the people, and these reports appear to confirm that confidence."
Clr Rhoades said the next important thing was the timing of the plebiscites for already merged councils.
"I would urge the Government to undertake these plebiscites this coming September when the residents and ratepayers of amalgamated councils go to the polls in local government elections," Clr Rhoades said, "and indeed to send all councils who missed out on elections last year to the polls at the same time."
"It saves ratepayers money and it ensures that local democracy will truly be returned as quickly as possible."
PITTWATER: JUST PEOPLE WHO LOVE WHERE THEY LIVE - Sue Martin
Published on 6 Feb 2017 by Pittwater Pathways
Northern Beaches Council services are already failing Pittwater residents e.g. funding for Bush-care is increasingly tight and insufficient. We demand we have our own Pittwater council back.
PITTWATER: JUST PEOPLE WHO LOVE WHERE THEY LIVE: Lorrie Morgan, Peter Mayman and Sue Martin
Published on 6 Feb 2017 by Pittwater Pathways