June 9 - 15, 2013: Issue 114
Hands Off Pittwater!! - Independent Review at Dee Why on Future Directions for Local Government
Hands Off Pittwater!! - Independent Review at Dee Why on Future Directions for Local Government discussion paper
An organised and united Pittwater emphatically said 'No Amalgamation' on Tuesday evening at the Community Consultation of the Independent Review on Tuesday evening at Warringah Council's chambers. Of the 13 people who made presentations only one was a Warringah resident, the rest from Pittwater. Besides articulating how much Pittwater does not want to re-amalgamate with Warringah other salient points in the NSW Government's Future Directions for NSW Local Government Government Consultation paper were discussed. A full transcription of these will form part of Issue 115. Words from our Council, People for Pittwater and Save Pittwater are on this page for the record. More pictures form part of this week's pictorial - A Week in Pittwater.
PITTWATER RESIDENTS PROTEST AT PUBLIC HEARING
Around 100 Pittwater residents attended the Independent Local Government Review Panel public hearing last night at Warringah Council Civic Centre in Dee Why. It followed a protest rally held outside the hearing led by the community group People for Pittwater.
The hearing was intended to give northern beaches residents the opportunity to make their views known to the three-member panel on the proposed reforms to NSW councils.
The panel, led by Professor Graham Samson, published a report in April recommending wide-scale amalgamation of NSW councils. Under their proposal, Pittwater would be amalgamated with Warringah and Manly Councils to form a northern beaches council of 250,000 residents.
The hearing last night was extended beyond the stated two-hour timeframe to allow residents sufficient time to make their views known. Speakers at the hearing were required to pre-register online.
All the speakers at the hearing spoke against the amalgamation proposal and Pittwater Mayor Jacqui Townsend said that community feeling was running high over the issue.
“People spoke at the rally beforehand and at the hearing with great passion,” she said. “The Panel and the O’Farrell government must understand how our residents feel about the prospect of losing the council that they fought so hard to gain.”
Mayor Townsend said the findings of an independent report commissioned by the Council to review the Panel’s recommendations underlined there were no proven economies of scale or cost efficiencies to be gained by amalgamations.
“As well as, there is a growing body of evidence that people feel disenfranchised and powerless in the face of bigger government,” she said. “The recent events in Queensland, where at least four amalgamated councils are now de-amalgamating, are a good example of why bigger is not better.”
INDEPENDENT REPORT ON AMALGAMATION RELEASE
Pittwater Council has released an independent report prepared by local government expert Prof. Brian Dollery from the University of New England. The report was commissioned by the Council in response to the NSW Government’s Independent Local Government Review Panel’s recommendation that Sydney councils be merged into 15 mega-councils.
As a result the Panel had proposed that Pittwater and Manly Councils be amalgamated with Warringah Council to form a northern beaches council of 250,000 residents.
The Panel’s ‘Future Directions’ report was issued in April this year. A final report on council reform in NSW will be presented to the government in September.
Prof. Dollery’s 115 page report examined Pittwater Council’s viability and the case for amalgamation with one or more neighbouring councils. It examined a number of factors affecting any potential amalgamation, including socio-economic profiles of each council area and their respective finances. The report also examined case studies on amalgamation using examples from Queensland, Victoria and South Australia and those councils which had merged and subsequently decided to de-amalgamate.
The report made a number of findings based on the evidence and statistics it examined, including:
A merger would not improve financial sustainability
An absence of economies of scale would not result in cost reductions
Given the diverse socio-economic profiles of the Pittwater, Manly and Warringah Council areas, there was no evidence of a strong joint ‘community of interest’ which was an essential pre-requisite for a successful merger.
The full report was published today on the Council’s website at www.pittwater.nsw.gov.au
Mayor Jacqui Townsend said Prof. Dollery’s report highlighted the lack of detail in the Panel’s recommendations for amalgamations.
“All the evidence suggests that rates do not decrease – quite the reverse – and ratepayers from merged councils are disenfranchised from the decision-making process for their area,” she said.
“Pittwater was created out of a sense of frustration that money was not being spent locally and people not being consulted about what was happening here. If the Panel’s recommendations are adopted by the state government, the danger is there will be a return to this sense of frustration.”
Mayor Townsend urged Pittwater residents to have their say on the local government reforms at www.localgovernmentreview.nsw.gov.au by the closing date of 28 June.
People for Pittwater - Media Release, 06 June 2013
The strength of opposition from Pittwater residents to a recommendation from the Local Government Review Panel to a recommendation for the Local Government Review Panel that Pittwater, Warringah and Manly councils should be amalgamated into one super council, was demonstrated at both the rally outside Warringah Council Chambers and submissions to a hearing by the panel on 4th June 2013.
The rally, organised by People for Pittwater committee was attended by about 150 concerned residents who chanted the themes of “No amalgamation” and “Hands off Pittwater.” The rally was addressed by People for Pittwater executive members Shane Withington (Friends of Currawong) and Eunice Raymond (Chair, Save Mona Vale Hospital Committee) and was MC'd by Co-Convenor of People for Pittwater Harvey Rose.
The rally was attended by many prominent members of community organisations who passionately voiced the opposition to amalgamation proposals. The rally unanimously passed a motion which stated total opposition to amalgamation of Pittwater with Warringah and Manly.
People for Pittwater Co-convenor Harvey Rose stated “The passionate connection of so many residents with Pittwater and their willingness to fight for Pittwater’s independence was demonstrated at the rally.” “People for Pittwater will continue to campaign for as long as it takes to ensure the view of the overwhelming majority of Pittwater residents prevails.” “We must not be steamrolled by the bureaucrats” Mr Rose concluded.
The hearing of community submissions to the Review Panel was held inside the Warringah Council chambers. Around 150 people attended the hearing - 95% of these appeared to be Pittwater residents who were there to support submissions against amalgamation. People for Pittwater Executive members Harvey Rose, Shane Withington and Eunice Raymond presented to the panel as did former Pittwater mayor Robert Dunn. Thirteen people in total made submissions opposed to amalgamation. Nearly all submissions opposed amalgamation - in fact no submission supported amalgamation.
People for Pittwater’s Harvey Rose commented “The quality of the submissions was of the highest level and must have impressed the Panel chair.” “Let us hope the Panel heeds the view of our community.” “People for Pittwater will continue our campaign until this matter of amalgamation is entirely defeated.”
Mr Rose further commented “The panel chair Prof. Graham Sansom admitted all three councils on the Northern Beaches were financially strong and sustainable.” “We must ask then why the panel would suggest amalgamation.” “Amalgamation would disturb our communities and be very costly.” “What would likely follow , as in Queensland, would de-amalgamation with more disturbance and unnecessary financial burdens.” Mr Rose continued “We have the ideal organisation now with agreement on regional issues, cost savings through bulk buying and shared services to come, through the regional organisation SHOROC”. “Significant cost savings have already been made.” “Keeping our local councils means we ensure our communities have access to sufficient councillors.” “The Panel should let us get on with the business of serving our council well and withdraw their baseless recommendation about amalgamation” Mr Rose concluded.
Community groups and residents vow to step up the fight to Save Pittwater - Media Release from Save Pittwater
A community forum at Warringah Council Chambers in Dee Why last night (June 4) was swamped by Pittwater residents who showed fierce opposition to the O’Farrell government’s plans to amalgamate Pittwater Council with Manly and Warringah councils – creating one ‘mega-council.’
A local government report by Professor Brian Dollery, into the viability of such a merger, found that there is no evidence to support a proposal of the Independent Local Government Review for amalgamation.
The public hearing was held by the Independent Local Government Review Panel to discuss the amalgamation of many of the smaller or financially unviable councils, into larger, more viable councils.
Shortly before the hearing, bus loads of Pittwater residents arrived at Warringah Council Chambers in matching t-shirts with the words ‘Hands Off Pittwater” and waving banners, “No to Amalgamation!” before being addressed by People for Pittwater leader Harvey Rose.
Former Pittwater Mayor Rose told the crowd the Council had fought long and hard to deamalgamate from Warringah over 20 years ago because the needs of Pittwater were not being met. “We are doing just fine, we are recognised by the NSW Treasury Corporation as financially sound. So why would we want to re-amalgamate?” said Rose.
Chairman Professor Graham Sansom told the hearing the public consultation phase of their discussion paper 'Future Directions for NSW Local Government' was the third and final stage of their work program, and that they have consulted widely with the community and interest groups in the first two stages.
Community group Save Pittwater is fighting amalgamation plans. Spokesman Bill Rooney doubted the claims the community had been widely consulted.
“Why is this the first we have all heard about it? Only in the last few weeks have we been made aware of the proposed amalgamation of the three northern beaches councils; and we have reacted strongly since then. Nobody knew anything about the Panel's recommendations prior to this latest discussion paper, subtitled 'Twenty Essential Steps', said Rooney.
“And possibly the greatest threat to local councils in NSW is that they have no legal status in legislation. This was pointed out by Professor Sansom and is of great concern to me. Whereas Queensland and Victoria have local government enshrined in their constitution, NSW does not; they can be appointed, amalgamated, or disbanded at the whim of State Government. This is surely something that must be rectified and for my mind, is the most important reform measure that could be recommended by the Review Panel.”
Save Pittwater and People for Pittwater will step up pressure on the State Government, particularly in the lead up to 28 June, when the public submission period closes.
“This includes letters, postcards, and emails to all the relevant government representatives (addresses on savepittwater.com) and talking it up with our fellow residents. But possibly the greatest long-term improvement we could effect would be some action toward legislating for local government to have legal status and the power to regulate itself; this would require a change to our state constitution....so what are we waiting for?” said Rooney.
Cr. Julie Hegarty JP, Cr. Ian White and Cr. Kylie Ferguson.
Pictures by A J Guesdon, 2013.