October 3 - 9 , 2021: Issue 512


New group formed to demerge amalgamated councils: the Demerge NSW Alliance

September 26, 2021

Community members from amalgamated councils across NSW have come together to form a new alliance promoting polls to gauge residents’ desires for demergers. Demerge NSW Alliance (DNA) today announced that it has already attracted support from residents of a majority of the state’s 20 merged councils. This covers communities across NSW from Guyra to Bombala, from Central and Mid North Coast and in Sydney from Botany Bay to Pittwater including Canterbury Bankstown, the most populous council in NSW.

DNA coordinator Grantley Ingram, from Bombala, expressed the continuing outrage of communities over the NSW government’s forced amalgamations. 

“After five years of merged councils, communities remain angry about the remoteness of the mega councils, the rate increases, the failure to deliver financially and lack of representation,” Mr Ingram said in a statement. 

“They want their local councils back.” 

Discontent has been brewing since 2016, when the Coalition government merged councils without giving communities a democratic vote on whether they supported the move. NSW Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock’s July rejection of demerger proposals from Tumbarumba (amalgamated into Snowy Valleys Council) and Gundagai (merged into Cootamundra Gundagai Regional Council) has shocked and dismayed their residents. 

In the case of Snowy Valleys, an investigation by the Boundaries Commission led to the recommendation that the demerger should go ahead. Furthermore, NSW Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro and his Nationals colleague, Cootamundra MP Steph Cook, had demanded in June that the state government split the Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council. 

Meanwhile, councillors from the Inner West LGA have voted to hold a demerger poll at their local government election on December 4. 

“This issue will not go away until democracy is restored and polls are held either by Councils voting to hold a poll, as the Inner West has done, or after the next state election by Parliament setting up a legislative process,” DNA supporter Katrina Pearson said. 

DNA has sent a letter to councillors of amalgamated councils calling on them to support motions at their next council meetings for a poll on demerging to be held at local government elections on December 4. 

Voting on this motion will inform their communities of the current councillors’ positions on demerging. 

Should residents vote for a demerger, the newly elected councils must respect that desire and put a proposal for a demerger to the local government minister. 

Legislation already passed has decreed that the cost of any demerger through that process would be funded by the state government. 

Members of the communities of the amalgamated councils who would like to support the Alliance can contact newdemerge@gmail.com to receive updates of actions and activities.

Protect Pittwater Association Statement: Demand for council demergers grows with new state-wide group. 

October 1, 2021

Protect Pittwater has welcomed the formation of a new state-wide council de-amalgamation body, saying it shows the demand for demergers is growing.

Group president Bob Grace said Protect Pittwater supports the Demerger NSW Alliance (DNA) and believes that it will be a fillip to the de-amalgamation movement. 

“With Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s resignation from the NSW government, we call on the incoming leader to reconsider the Coalition’s position on council amalgamations,” Mr Grace told Pittwater Online News. 

“The fact that the DNA has come together from one end of the state to the other, to stick up for the people’s democratic right to determine the future of their local councils, shows that the appetite for demergers is growing.

“The government’s rejection of the Snowy Valleys demerger proposal, despite the Boundary Commission’s recommendation that that council should be de-amalgamated, has shown the contempt this government has shown for the will of the people and sensible administration. 

“We are extremely disappointed that our Pittwater Councillors have also failed to support Protect Pittwater’s request to put up a motion for a demerger poll at the council elections in December. 

“By contrast, Inner West Council has listened to residents and will hold a plebiscite at the December election - and other demerger campaigners around the state will be asking their council to do the same in the next week or so.   

“At the end of the day, this council is too big, too bureaucratic. We want Pittwater back.”

NSW Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock announced in July that the boundaries of Snowy Valleys Council and Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council would remain in place. 

The decision followed assessments by the independently established Boundaries Commission into the proposals from the two separately amalgamated councils, which presented its reports into the mergers to the government in February. 

However, the commission itself in the case of Snowy Valleys recommended the demerger should go ahead - with three commissioners for and one dissenting.