January 29 - February 4, 2017: Issue 298
Reverse Council Amalgamations call Renewed after Retirement Announcements by Manly and North Shore MPs
The retirement from politics of former NSW Premier Mike Baird and the announcement this week of Health Minister Jillian Skinner’s retirement have renewed calls for local councils to be reinstated along their original boundaries, opponents citing these two seats, which will now go to by-elections, are in areas where the amalgamations have proved to be very unpopular. Those who want their councils back state a loss of these seats of Manly and North Shore by the incumbent government will reduce their majority and would be an indication of what the next state election may bring.
Pittwater residents have been vocal in their opposition to Pittwater being amalgamated throughout the process that led to mergers being announced and many have continued after these began.
At a rally called by Save Our Councils Coalition on Sunday 22 January 2017, representatives from NSW communities affected by forced council amalgamations, including Pittwater residents, sent a clear message to the new Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, that they wanted these reversed.
The NSW Minister for Local Government, The Hon Paul Toole MP, in a statement released on Friday said: "Any future policy changes on local government reform will be a matter for Cabinet".
Following Nationals leader John Barilaro declaring his party wants to prevent the amalgamations involving 10 regional councils on Friday January 20th, calls for the same being extended to metropolitan councils – even those already merged – have been swift.
On Monday, the new Premier, Ms Berejiklian, did not rule out further changes to the state government’s policy. Asked at a press conference if she would change mergers in Sydney, Ms Berejiklian said:
"I'm willing to sit down with my colleagues about that issue, I've not said one way or another what I will do about it.
"There's no doubt that some communities would prefer they didn't go through that process."
In Pittwater there are at least five people who reaffirmed this week they are still passionately for being ruled from Dee Why – a larger number is still very vocal about a Pittwater Council being reinstated and for those areas excised from Pittwater to be returned. Residents remain angry legal action alike that pursued by Mosman and Woollahra Councils wasn’t followed through on and anger remains in regard to the way that was despatched in the days prior to the decrees of May 12th, 2016.
“If they think we’ll forget any of it, the way it was done, who was responsible, they’re wrong - we won’t!” was one comment to Pittwater Online this week.
A sample of others:
“Pittwater was a great Council serving a great community well. It was efficient, responsive and enjoyed great community involvement and pride. Mike Baird’s complete disregard for democracy and the wishes of 89% of the people of Pittwater in what he did was disgraceful and is far from forgotten. Gladys Berejiklian has an opportunity to address this terrible wrong and rectify the Liberal Party’s broken promise of “no forced amalgamations” before it becomes an election issue.”
“I was dismayed at the loss of Pittwater Council. It was a real hands on council concerned with local issues and was financially viable. Already Northern Beaches Council candidates are organising a new political party to take control. Let's see if you have the courage to give the people what they truly want: the return of Pittwater council.”
“I don't support 20th century solutions to 21st century issues. About time the State got with the times and realised that what is needed is smaller adaptive organisations, not bigger bureaucracies, the electronic age provides the platform for council to move into the future, sad to see the State is still engaged in dinosaur thinking, why not get with the times: smaller, flexible, adaptable councils contracting out to service providers.”
It’s not just in Pittwater though, all over the state those who when asked ‘what do you want?’ stated they wished to keep local government local and were ignored are hoping Premier Berejiklian will prove her ‘here to govern for everybody’ and listen to them.
With Council elections slated for September this year the call for a plebiscite, should those councils whose residents opposed amalgamations not be de-amalgamated, is being discussed. Clearly this would need to take place prior to the mega-council elections for anyone to know what and who they’re voting for and may result in further delays for the reinstatement of local representatives for local residents.
As some councils are still fighting amalgamations through the courts, Woollahra and Hunters Hill have appealed to the Supreme Court, councils that were partly successful in their challenges such as North Sydney, Mosman and Strathfield, where the people employed to asses the amalgamations would have to redo sections of a public inquiry or those reports that formed the basis of the mergers, elections may be delayed even further – possibly even beyond the next state election.
For many in Pittwater the determination that saw a 20 year campaign result in the formation of Pittwater Council is already rising to do the same again. Will Pittwater being ruled by unelected officials last less than a year? Will those who decree they are the 'kings of Pittwater' be ousted and banished, permanently - will the sackers be sacked...?
The Save Our Councils Coalition, sent through the following and a MR from LGNSW also arrived this week - both addressing the imposed amalgamations:
SOCC CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL OF FORCED AMALGAMATIONS AFTER SKINNER RESIGNATION
MEDIA RELEASE. Immediate release 27.1.17
Save our Councils Coalition (SOCC) has called on the Berejiklian State Government to withdraw all forced council amalgamations following the resignation of yet another Government MP, Health Minister Jillian Skinner.
SOCC spokesman Phil Jenkyn says the State Government now faces two sensitive by-elections in Manly (Mike Baird) and North Shore (Jillian Skinner).
“These seats are at two ends of the spectrum: Manly has been forcibly amalgamated, and the North Shore electorate contains two major Councils, Mosman and North Sydney, that are still fighting mergers in the courts, where they have been successful against the State Government,” Jenkyn said.
“Premier Berejiklian now faces a backlash over the forced amalgamation issue and a damaging anti-merger campaign before voters go to the polls. The Premier must call a halt to this policy now.
The Orange by-election showed the impossible can be achieved. Anger is deep seated in Mosman, North Sydney and Manly where Baird refused to listen to people.
SOCC has called for an urgent meeting with the Premier.
Fresh Premier, Fresh Start In NSW
23 January 2017: Media Release - LGNSW
The local government sector has welcomed NSW’s new Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and described her commitment to listen to communities as a “fresh new start” for the state.
In a media conference held immediately after her elevation to the premiership, Premier Berejiklian said she would run a more inclusive government, which would take more time to listen the community.
The new Premier also pledged to consult with National Party leader John Barilaro and the community on the issue of forced council amalgamations.
“This is a fresh new start for the NSW Government, and I commend the new Premier on her proposed approach to leadership,” Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Keith Rhoades said.
“Recent history has shown that ‘consultation’ can mean a lot of things: from tick-a-box public forums at one end of the spectrum, to genuine efforts to achieve constructive outcomes all parties can support.
“The second way takes longer, but it delivers outcomes that last.”
Clr Rhoades said given LGNSW’s experience with the former Treasurer, now Premier, he was confident that she would keep her promise to listen to the wishes of the community.
“We worked closely with Ms Berejiklian in our ongoing advocacy work to protect councils and communities as the Government implements its Emergency Services Property Levy,” Clr Rhoades said.
“As a result of those discussions we were able to achieve a number of wins, which will benefit ratepayers.
“For example, Ms Berejiklian listened to LGNSW’s arguments and agreed to full cost recovery for councils, as well as clear indication on rates notices that the ESPL is a State Government levy and not a council one.
“Make no mistake – there is still a lot of work to be done on the ESPL – but such wins for the sector are a clear demonstration that the new Premier is prepared to listen and respond.”
Clr Rhoades said National Party leader John Barilaro had already demonstrated his commitment to community consultation in regard to forced council amalgamations.
A video by Pittwater’s John Illingsworth after the Sunday 22nd 2017 rally runs below.
The following Petition has also been forwarded – which may not be applicable to Pittwater as Cr. Jacqueline Townsend retired from her Mayoral position when the imposed amalgamations took place:
Petition: REVERSE FORCED NSW COUNCIL AMALGAMATIONS
One of Mike Baird's most unpopular & unfair decisions was the forced undemocratic amalgamation of NSW councils. We did not elect the Liberal party on a platform or policy of amalgamating our councils nor did we have any say in the matter. Now we have a new Premier & we call on Gladys Berejiklian to reverse this policy & let the people of NSW decide.
OPTION ONE - Call on all the previous mayors & council members to meet & make a decision based on their knowledge of what is best for & the desire of their constituents & decide if they wish to go it alone or amalgamate.
OPTION TWO - Put it to a referendum or plebiscite so that we the people of NSW can decide this important matter that affects us all as individuals.
Let democracy reign not dictatorship!
One of the many communities across NSW fighting to retain true local government.
Published on 24 Jan 2017