February 19 - 25, 2017: Issue 301

Pursuit Of Forced Council Amalgamations Confirms To Some A Developer’s Dream May Become A Community's Nightmare

Outside Rob Stokes Electorate Office at Mona Vale - 18 Feb 2017. - SOCC / Pittwater Community - message to Rob Stokes and Gladys Berejiklian 
Photo : Sue Young former Pittwater councillor, Phil Jenkyn Save Our Councils Coalition, Lynne Czinner former Pittwater Mayor.
The Vision of the NSW State Government to meet the needs of Sydney during the coming two decades has been lost in the furore created by the way councils and elected representatives have been eliminated, by the large-scale plans announced to develop areas while no elected representatives are in place, the broad-scale excising of former council areas into 'wards', the pursuit of which is coupled with reducing the number councillors, and thereby reducing the representation of consequently larger populations within these newly formulated wards. 

The anger is real, and it is not abating. This week's announcement to not amalgamate some pending rural council proposals but pursue those based in metropolitan Sydney and to maintain those already forcibly amalgamated .

In the 2013 REVITALISING LOCAL GOVERNMENT Final Report of the NSW Independent Local Government Review Panel, page 78 notes;

'Opponents of amalgamation rely heavily on the argument that local identity will be lost in bigger local government units; that larger councils will pay less attention to specific needs of different suburbs or neighbourhoods and will fail to take steps to maintain their character. However, the Panel can find no evidence that loss of local identity is an inevitable consequence of creating larger local government areas. What does seem clear is that very rarely communities are so different, or so fiercely independent, that forcing them to share a local council is probably unwise.'

As the new NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian stated this week the government has established a cross-government working group to explore all options to make housing more affordable for NSW residents, while the Urban Task Force is states in its Media Release of February 15th that,
"The continuation of the merger process needs to be accompanied by a fast track approach to large housing projects during the transition process. The Minister for Housing, Anthony Roberts, should establish an action team under a Commissioner for Housing Supply for a two year period to lift housing approvals." 

Those who have long stated the forced amalgamations, the targeting and disempowerment of communities and sacking of councils that may scrutinise unwanted developments so they may be rushed through, begins to gather credence through such statements. That this state government is working hand in glove with developer groups like the Property Council and Urban Development Institute of Australia has also been restated this week.

Premier Berejiklian's Media Release making the announcement that the merged councils are staying put reiterated;
“In addition to maintaining all existing mergers, we will push ahead with those councils in Sydney that are before the courts.

“Local government reform is particularly important in Sydney if we are to deliver on our commitments to increase housing supply, improve planning and deliver local infrastructure and amenity to communities. These are strong justifications for proceeding with mergers.

“Before the mergers last year, Sydney had 41 councils compared to 1 in Brisbane.

“We have also listened to concerns about local character in Sydney and will continue to ensure individual wards of merged councils will have a say in strategic planning processes so that local residents get an even stronger say in the planning of their neighbourhoods.”

“Whilst there have been a number of significant improvements in merged regional councils, we accept that a one size fits all model does not always apply outside Sydney,” 

The spin doctors have already begun on selling their next best option post Mr. Baird's stepping down to look after his family first, while a North Shore by-election is also slated to rise over the horizon should former Health Minister Jillian Skinner formally resign, and Duncan Gray also indicated he would prefer to retire 'sooner, rather than later', although an MLC incumbent until 2019.

Gosford MP Kathleen "Kathy" Smith announced her retirement this week (February 13) meaning a third or fourth by-election may take place this year, although no dates have been set for any as yet.

During the Fifty-fifth Legislative Assembly 2011–2015 there were seven by-elections and three Liberal seats were lost to Labour, two of these due to MP's resigning due to ICAC investigations - which some critics attest is the reason behind the November 2016 introduction of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Amendment (Disclosure of Information) Bill 2016 and led to the resignation of the Commissioner, the Hon Megan Latham. 

On November 12th, 2016 Philip Donato (Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party) narrowly won the Orange by-election, a seat formerly held by the Nationals for almost seven decades. Locals angry about plans for the councils of Cabonne and Blayney to amalgamate with Orange as well as critics of the plan to kill off greyhounds being raced were attributed with the shift away from the Nationals. The November 2016 by-elections of Canterbury and Wollongong, held on the same day, bring the tally of by-elections for the Fifty-sixth Legislative Assembly 2015–2019 to five, with eight possible by the end of the year, and certainly redefining the political landscape so soon after the 2015 state election and likely to exceed the Fifty-fifth in a much shorter time span. 

Opponents of forced council amalgamations remain adamant they should be reversed and have stated they will be 'on the hustings' at all by-elections to be contested. 

As polls continue to deliver statistics of people still against amalgamations ranging from 72% (in 2015) to 80% (in 2016), while Pittwater's was 89% when originally asked, all the great ideas that could have been implemented through following community feedback rather than having a 'one size fits all' foisted upon local communities, are not what everyone is looking at or seeing. 

Making it clear that ‘no change is not an option' has not, as yet, produced changes that will be accepted by most nor the support by minds and hearts. Will dialogue that encompasses listening bring nearer to fruition a Vision for New South Wales, that will keep this a garden city where everyone may have a home, where culture, heritage and local voices are heard, prior to the next state election?
Time is running out. 
And for some, perhaps many, 'no' still means no.

Media Releases on this matter published this week run below


All NSW merged councils to remain in place

Media Release: 14th February, 2017 - NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian
All merged councils across NSW will remain in place as communities continue to enjoy the benefits of savings and improvements to services, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton announced today.

“Since becoming Premier, the Deputy Premier and I have been travelling across NSW, listening to the views and considering the evidence,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“In addition to maintaining all existing mergers, we will push ahead with those councils in Sydney that are before the courts.

“Local government reform is particularly important in Sydney if we are to deliver on our commitments to increase housing supply, improve planning and deliver local infrastructure and amenity to communities. These are strong justifications for proceeding with mergers.

“Before the mergers last year, Sydney had 41 councils compared to 1 in Brisbane.

“We have also listened to concerns about local character in Sydney and will continue to ensure individual wards of merged councils will have a say in strategic planning processes so that local residents get an even stronger say in the planning of their neighbourhoods.”

Ms Berejiklian and Mr Barilaro also announced that the NSW Government would not be proceeding with regional councils that have yet to be merged.
“Whilst there have been a number of significant improvements in merged regional councils, we accept that a one size fits all model does not always apply outside Sydney,” Ms Berejiklian said. “The financial benefits over the next 20 years will be 6 times greater in the Sydney councils than those in regional areas.”

Mr Barilaro said the NSW Liberals & Nationals Government is committed to listening, and delivering, for the communities across regional NSW.
“Local councils in the bush have done their fair share to contribute to stronger local government in NSW, and today we draw a line under local government amalgamations in the regions,” Mr Barilaro said.

“This decision has been made to ensure that we put an end to the confusion and uncertainty for those councils locked in drawn-out legal battles. I am looking forward to the local government elections in September to restore local decision-making to our regions.”

Ms Upton said three rounds of mergers in regional NSW over recent decades had seen significant consolidation of councils, while metropolitan council numbers had remained largely unchanged since the 1940s, with some boundaries unchanged for more than 100 years.

“The reform process was particularly designed to weed out the duplication, mismanagement and waste of Sydney’s councils, an issue far less prevalent in regional NSW,” Ms Upton said.

“With more than 1.74 million people set to make Sydney home over the next 20 years, metropolitan councils need to keep up with housing and local infrastructure demands.

“The five remaining metropolitan mergers are expected to generate $530 million in benefits over 20 years. Communities deserve to see these benefits.”
The Premier said new councils created last year will continue to serve their communities.

“New councils across NSW have been working hard to deliver better services for their communities,” Ms Berejiklian said. “Residents and ratepayers would be worse off if this was undone.”

Political Compromise A Lost Opportunity

Media Release: 14th February, 2017 – LGNSW
LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said today's announcement about the future of forced council amalgamations was clearly a political compromise - and like most compromises, was likely to leave a great many people dissatisfied.

"The diametrically opposed positions staked out by National Party leader John Barilaro and Liberal Party backbenchers left the Premier in a very difficult position," Clr Rhoades said.

"People are asking why the Government has made a distinction between metropolitan and regional councils, and why the city councils don't deserve the same treatment as their country cousins.

"The only people really able to answer that question are the Premier and the Minister for Local Government.

"Meanwhile, regional communities in areas like Cabonne and Oberon will be celebrating the news that their voice has finally been heard in Macquarie Street.

"Their tireless efforts to deliver an unequivocal message offered a very clear illustration that political support cannot be taken for granted.

"We've seen it in the Orange by-election too, and we know there are three more by-elections in the wings."

Clr Rhoades said today's compromise announcement failed to deliver certainty for any metropolitan communities opposed to forced amalgamation.

"The Government has said it won't change its approach in the city, leaving the decision up to the courts," he said. 

"I doubt that will satisfy communities such as Woollahra, Hunters Hill, Mosman and North Sydney - all traditional Liberal Party heartlands, and all strongholds of opposition to forced amalgamation with their neighbours.

"And for the sector as a whole, today's decision will simply create further bitterness.

"It's a lost opportunity to further draw a line under the disruption and upheaval of the past two years.

"But most importantly, it will delay progress on the real issues facing all councils - amalgamated or otherwise - financial sustainability, stronger governance and greater capability in local government."

NSW Government tackling housing affordability

15th February, 2017: Media Release – NSW Government
The NSW Government has taken an important step towards the development of a comprehensive housing affordability strategy aimed at helping first-time homeowners enter the property market.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has established a cross-government working group to explore all options to make housing more affordable for NSW residents.
Ms Berejiklian told NSW Parliament today that former Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens had accepted a personal invitation to provide input into the strategy.
“The NSW Government understands that housing affordability is top of mind for many people across the State – that is why we have made it a key priority and why we have asked Glenn Stevens to lend his expertise to tackling this issue,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“I am delighted that Mr Stevens, as an economist and long-serving leader of the Reserve Bank, will help us address this important issue,” she said.
“His advice will be invaluable in assessing measures that can have a real impact while avoiding any unforeseen consequences.”
Mr Stevens, who last year retired after 10 years as RBA governor, will review and provide advice on the options being considered by the Government to tackle housing affordability issues in the State, and in Sydney in particular.
“Housing affordability is a growing challenge for many residents of NSW and I look forward to working with the Government on measures that might help address it,” Mr Stevens said.
“I am pleased that the Government has indicated it has an open mind when it comes to reviewing existing and new avenues of dealing with the issue.”

Positive Planning Progress

Media Release – February 16, 2017: LGNSW
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed the appointment of former Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens as an advisor to the NSW Government on housing affordability.

"This appointment heralds a welcome step away from unquestioning reliance on the planning myths promoted by the development lobby," LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said.

"Up until now these myths - including claims that the number of councils alone plays a role in housing affordability - have gone completely untested.

"Experts have repeatedly debunked claims that housing supply is the magic solution to our housing affordability problems.

"Planning Minister Anthony Roberts has confirmed on Parliament today that Sydney is experiencing record approval and construction levels, and councils are justifiably proud of their work in this regard.

"Mr Roberts told the Parliament Sydney is in the middle of an approval 'boom' - and yet housing prices remain at an all-time high.

"The appointment of Glenn Stevens to advise on housing affordability is a welcome step away from the rhetoric of the development lobby and towards a more rational debate on this important issue."

Clr Rhoades said the local government sector was keen to work with Minister Roberts and Premier Berejiklian to make the planning process more accessible and transparent.

"For example, LGNSW welcomes today's public release of proposals to introduce e-Lodgement for development applications (DAs)," he said.

"The local government sector has supported e-Planning for a long time, and it's something we believe will genuinely help people understand the planning system in Sydney and NSW.

"Not only will the system be more accessible, it will be more transparent, with everyone now able to see for themselves how the DA system works and where the sticking points of the system might be.

"For example, far too many DAs sitting with councils are delayed in the wait for clearances from key state agencies.

"Transparency means accountability, and the source of delays will now become visible to everyone involved in the DA process.

"The onus will be on everyone - councils as well as state government agencies - to work efficiently and effectively."


Pittwater - To Be Or Not To Be?

Hands Off Pittwater !! - Media Releases on the Dee Why Community Consultation on the Future Directions for Local Government proposals 

Transcription of Speakers at Independent Local Government Review - Dee Why, 4th of June, 2013

Front Page Issue 115 - Amalgamation and Transcription of Community Consultation by ILG

NSW Government's White Paper - Issue 116

Hon Rob Stokes Hosts Roundtable Discussion On Council Mergers from Hon. Rob Stokes and People for Pittwater

Pittwater Council submissions on the White Paper – A new planning system for NSW and the Draft Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney and Future Directions for NSW Local Government – Twenty Essential Steps 

Presentation by Better Planning Network at Mona Vale Memorial Hall on the NSW Government's White Paper

Bigger is Better Theory on Council Amalgamations De-bunked by Mayors Townsend and Hay of Pittwater and Manly (New Report: AN ASSESSMENT OF SGS REPORT LOCAL GOVERNMENT STRUCTURAL CHANGE: OPTIONS ANALYSIS) - published 6 September 2013 - Professor Brian Dollery

ONE NORTHERN BEACHES COUNCIL OUT OF THE QUESTION: At its 13 October, 2014 meeting, Pittwater’s councillors reviewed the NSW Government’s local government reform package ‘Fit for the Future’ (FFTF), which was released in September 2014.  The proposal, reconfirming the Independent Local Government Review Panel’s recommendations that Pittwater be merged with Manly and Warringah to form one council, was rejected. 

Front Page Issue 185

One ‘mega council’ Would Be A Disaster for Pittwater - Pittwater residents are satisfied with Council - NSW government's Fit for the Future package includes amendments that make it harder for councils to prove they are financially viable, write Professor Brian Dollery and Joseph Drew - Front Page Issue 189

Artspot 2015 Opened with Aplomb

Pittwater Council to Purchase Avalon Beach Bowling & Recreation Club’s Green 3 - Keeping our Community’s Future 'Fitting' + Front Page Issue 211

Pittwater Uprising Again by ‘Pittwater Scout’ + Front Page Issue 212

Community News Issue 212  - May 2015: Local Government Reform - Have your say

NSW Government's "Fit For The Future" process erodes democracy and local lifestyle by 'Pittwater Scout'

Public Meeting on Proposed Local Government Reforms Indicates Forthcoming Backlash Against NSW State Government - Community Votes 'No' Amalgamation Again

SHOROC Shenanigans - Amalgamation Ploy to Undermine 'Scale and Capacity'? + Community News Issue 216

New Data Proves Overwhelming Support for Pittwater to Stay As We Are + Fit for the Future timeline makes mockery of fair process from Pittwater Council and LGNSW

Save Our Councils Coalition Launched – State MP’s Join their the Ranks Against Forced Amalgamations from SOCC 

Front Page Issue 218 

Community News Archives - June 2015

Pittwater Declares Autonomy: FFTF IPART Required Documents Lodged

NO Amalgamation Chant Becomes Louder in Pittwater: Rally at Local MP's Office + Front Page Issue 234

Pittwater Residents attend NO Amalgamation Rally in Hunters Hill Front Page Issue 235

Front Page Issue 236: Pittwater Residents Maintain NO Amalgamation Stance at Rosehill...

Keeping Pittwater Independent Stance Persists:  Media Releases Monday 12th October to Friday 16th October, 2015 relating to FFTF Reforms by LGNSW, IPART, State and Pittwater Council

Front Page Issue 237:  NO FORCED AMALGAMATION RALLY at Winnererremy Bay Park Thursday 29 October 5pm 

FFTF Facilitators Found Faulty: 'No Amalgamation' Chant Continues: + Front Page Issue 238  

A Greater Pittwater Option Discussed at Public Meeting on Proposed Council Amalgamations: Some Attendees Suggest A Statewide Referendum  

Two Council Model Option Preferred to Mega Council Pittwater and Manly Mayors Announce: Mosman Stands Firm

Pittwater Prefers to Remain Pittwater: Greater Pittwater Option Forwarded as Second Preference: Cr. Hegarty's Address at Council Meeting of November 16, 2015

NSW Government Announces Amalgamation Proposal Plans: Reactions and What's Next in Process - 2016

Having Your Say on Local Government and Council Proposals: Written Submissions and Public Inquiry at Mona Vale Feb. 2nd, 2016  

Community News February 2016VOICES of PITTWATER - community leaders on amalgamation

Pittwater Residents Urged to Have Their Say on Proposed Council Changes - Passionate residents speak out at Public Inquiry Meetings

Pittwater's Future Down to A Numbers Game? Warringah Council's Bid to Have it ALL Revives New/Old One Council Proposal -Community News March 2016  

Pittwater Asked to Have Its Say On Council Amalgamations AGAIN 

Pittwater Residents Reject Mega Council Proposal at Public Inquiry Meetings - Written Submissions To Close on April 8th

Front Page Issue 257  Community Have Their Say on Proposed Amalgamation

Front Page Issue 258Community Have Their Say on Proposed Amalgamation

Front Page Issue 259: Community Voices on Amalgamation

Front Page Issue 260 - Pittwater Councillors Passed Motion to Commence Legal Proceedings Against Forced Amalgamation Overturned Due to 'No Substance' to Grounds Raised

Pittwater is STILL Pittwater: Residents - Sacked Councillors Discuss Options: Legal action and second Secession to begin discussed

Mona Vale Place Plan: Have You Say By November 13, 2016 - community dismayed at draft slating six storey buildings for Mona Vale

Mona Vale Place Plan Meeting Discloses Salient Points And Communitys' Objections

Administrator's Message: draft Mona Vale Place Plan

Community News Issue 291 - Administrators Minute November 22nd, 2016

Mona Vale Rally on Mona Vale Place Plan Reopens Recent Wounds - Pittwater Council's MVPP List echoes Greater Sydney Commissions List for Mona Vale

Renewed Calls To Return Pittwater Council To Pittwater By Pittwater People in Wake of Recent Retirement Announcements: Issue 298

Community News Issue 299 :  Council Amalgamations Windback: Community Feedback This Week: Issue 299

Calls To Restore Pittwater Council Persist: Issue 300

A J Guesdon, 2017.