Premier Mike Baird, flanked by Deputy Premier Troy Grant and Local Government Minister Paul Toole today announced that the number of councils in New South Wales would be reduced from 152 to 114, a reduction of 40 councils. Sydney will lose 18 councils while the remainder of NSW will lose 22.
Premier Mike Baird said that the changes were needed to make the state sustainable and that his government would not be taking a one size fits all approach to amalgamations. Mr Baird said “There are nuances that we need to understand — community characteristics, amenity, individual council and stakeholders’ views.”
The Premier admitted that amalgamations were unpopular and would face significant opposition.
The government will target a population of between 150,000 and 325,000 (the number of residents in Blacktown City) for Sydney councils.
The amalgamations follow a report by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) in October which found that there was a potential for $2 billion in savings over 20 years and that two-thirds of councils in the state were not “fit for the future.”
The amalgamations will be carried out under the existing provisions of the Local Government Act, which requires that public consultation take place and for the final council boundaries to be determined by the boundaries commission.
Local Government Minister Paul Toole said today that there were a number of local government reforms being considered by the government, including an increase in mayoral terms and changes to rating structures. Mr Toole said “It’s about making wider changes to the system to strengthen and improve the ability of councils to deliver the services and infrastructure the community deserves.”
The government is already facing criticism from within, with National MP for the seat of Orange Andrew Gee claiming that individual MPs were not consulted and that the process was flawed.
“The whole process has been riddled with embarrassing inconsistencies from the very beginning,” he said.
“There were inconsistencies about who was declared fit and who wasn’t and now there are inconsistencies about who is being referred to the Boundaries Commission and who isn’t.”
Councillors affected by the proposals have equally been critical. Woollahra Mayor Toni Zeltzer who is facing an amalgamation with Randwick and Waverley said that Wollahra would not be going anywhere without a fight, saying “I don’t think people in Woollahra are going to roll over,”
“If we are forced, that just reinforces the view that democracy is dead in New South Wales.”
Sydney region councils which the government proposes to merge are:
- Ashfield, Leichardt and Marrickville
- Auburn and Holroyd
- Bankstown and Canterbury
- Botany Bay and Rockdale
- Burwood, Canada Bay and Strathfield
- Gosford and Wyong
- Hawkesbury and The Hills
- Hornsby and Ku-ring gai
- Hunters Hill, Lane Cove and Ryde
- Hurstville and Kogarah
- Manly, Mosman and part of Warringah
- North Sydney and Willoughby
- Parramatta expanding to take in parts of The Hills, Hornsby and Auburn
- Pittwater and part of Warringah
- Randwick, Waverley and Wollahra
Regional councils proposed for merger are:
- Armidale-Dumaresq and Guyra
- Bathurst and Oberon
- Berrigan and part of Jerilderie
- Blayney, Cabonne and Orange
- Bombala, Cooma-Monaro and Snowy River
- Boorowra, Harden and Young
- Conargo and Deniliquin
- Cootamundra and Gundagai
- Corowa, Lockhart and Urana
- Dubbo and Wellington
- Dungog and Gloucester
- Goulburn Mulwaree and part of Palerang
- Part of Jerliderie and Murrumbidgee
- Kiama and Shoalhaven
- Murray and Wakool
- Newcastle and Port Stephens
- Part of Palerang and Queanbeyan
- Shellharbour and Wollongong
- Tamworth and Walcha
- Tumbarumba and Tumut