May 20 - 26, 2018: Issue 360

Pittwater Demerger Proposal Handed To NSW Govt On Amalgamation Anniversary

Pittwater Demerger Proposal Handed to NSW Govt on Amalgamation Anniversary

It was standing room only when the Pittwater “people’s bus” took a trip to Parliament House on Tuesday for residents to let the NSW government know that they want their council back.

The passengers, wearing turquoise T-shirts printed with the word “Splittwater”, carrying placards, singing and chanting, rallied on Macquarie Street, joined by others who had travelled to the city under their own steam.  

Protect Pittwater Association president Bob Grace said the group had organised the trip and protest outside Parliament House to mark the second anniversary of council amalgamations on May 12.

Mr Grace said the group had also decided to present its proposal to bring back Pittwater Council, initiated under the Local Government Act, to the NSW government after the rally.

Supporters had gathered more than 3,000 signatures to accompany the proposal, which was 10 times greater than the number required, he said.

“We had no problem collecting signatures from the people of Pittwater for the proposal which we took to Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton’s office after the rally,” Mr Grace said.

“The only way forward for the people of Pittwater is to regain our council – and this proposal represents one pathway.

“The proposal should trigger a Boundaries Commission inquiry into the merger and Pittwater will again become a council in it’s own right.”

The group handed over the proposal - with its hundreds of sheets of signatures - in a turquoise box, also containing a map of the former Pittwater Council area and a copy of its original Proclamation describing the boundaries of the local government area.

Protect Pittwater members also presented a statement to one of Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s senior staffers, with a motion, carried unanimously at the Protect Pittwater community forum on May 3, calling on her for a demerger.

Following what's become an established pattern at council merger protests, MPs from all parties except the Coalition came outside the House to support and address the crowd.

NSW Labor Local Government spokesman Peter Primrose said that all political parties except the Liberals and National Coalition had consistently supported binding plebsicites for demergers since the amalgamations.

“I can say on behalf of the Labor Party, if we form government next year, along with our colleagues here from all the other parties, within the first 100 days we will move to introduce legislation to allow communities to voluntarily demerge, if that’s what they wish to do, throughout NSW,” Mr Primrose told the rally.

“That’s a promise to Pittwater and it’s a promise to every other forcibly merged council in NSW.”

Mr Primrose’s NSW Greens counterpart, David Shoebridge, congratulated the crowd on the campaign and promised the Greens support for a binding plebiscite.

“And if this government plays silly buggers with your proposal I reckon you take them to court,” he said.

“If you win in court terrific.

“But either way, come March of next year, we all guarantee if we hold a majority in both houses, between us who don’t normally agree on stuff, you’ll have legislation as first order of business that gives you a … plebiscite and (Pittwater residents) can decide for themselves if they get their council back.”

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Philip Donato emphasised the power of the ballot box, saying he had been elected to parliament due to anger over amalgamations in his electorate of Orange.

“We fought that on the election front back in November 2016 and we succeeded and as a result I was elected,” Mr Donato told the rally.

“The government then cancelled the amalgamation of those councils (Cabonne, Blayney and Orange).

“So keep together, keep fighting and I guarantee we’ll do everything we can.” 

Also at the rally was Christian Democratic MLC Rev Fred Nile who said his party had always been opposed to forced amalgamations.

“We’ve always said that the people should decide what happens to their councils, not big government, not the big parties, but the people,” he said outside Parliament House.

“So we support de-amalgamation, where Pittwater can become again a standalone council.”

Protect Pittwater Association