NSW Government reform to reignite local council demergers
By JUSTIN COOPER
New amendments to the Local Government Act are expected to be handed to the NSW Government, aiming to support community calls for de-amalgamation across multiple local councils.
Greens NSW Legislative Council member Dr Amanda Cohn is to table a new bill which will hold ministers accountable when residents support council demergers.
Residents across multiple amalgamated LGA’s, including the Inner West and Canterbury-Bankstown Councils, have consistently shown support towards reinstating former council boundaries.
Speaking with City Hub, Dr Cohn recalls community requests towards demerging.
“There are communities right across NSW who have been sounding the alarm for years about the challenges created by the merging of their councils,” said Cohn.
Whilst details regarding the bill’s specific amendments have not been revealed, it is expected to address cost-shifting concerns and ensuring that demerging processes are adequately instated.
“Councils who are moving towards demerging must be supported by the NSW Government. When local councils must foot the bill, their residents are the ones who pay the price,” explains Dr Cohn.
“The Local Government Act as it currently stands has not allowed councils to de-amalgamate even when there is clear community support to do so. That’s why it needs to be amended so that plebiscites bind the Minister to support those councils to demerge.”
Dr Cohn will be attending an upcoming Residents for De-amalgamation community meeting in Leichhardt, to reassure communities are “being heard and [that] their future needs are going to be met by their council.”
In 2021, a majority (62.49%) of Inner West Council residents voted towards the demerging of the council and reinstate the Marrickville, Ashfield and Leichhardt Councils.
“It doesn’t matter how you look at the results of the community poll, [all] of our 5 wards voted to demerge and [all] of the 21 suburbs across the Inner West voted to demerge,” said Cr Stamolis.
Stamolis expressed that both Council and Inner West residents have continued to face difficulties from the merging, noting “weak” financial performance and overall responsiveness to council services.
Additionally, Cr Stamolis said the merge has led to “entrenched political-party control” with “party-political interests” casting over “community interests.”
“Council’s demerger submission is an example of this, where Labor Councillors forced through (by a vote of 8 vs 7) a highly contentious demerger submission which [fails] to respect the resounding community vote to demerge Inner West Council,” Cr Stamolis explained.
Cr Stamolis is expected to attend the Leichhardt Residents for De-amalgamation community meeting, along with other Inner West and Canterbury-Bankstown councillors and Demerge NSW Alliance (DNA), on Tuesday night (October 31).
Since the council’s merge in 2016, action groups including the DNA and Residents for De-Amalgamation have pushed for its reversal in the Inner West and other NSW LGA’s.
However, concerns of how the demerging will be funded still remain, with State Government suggesting Local Governments would need to foot-the-bill.
DNA considered the policy “a huge backflip,” considering the Labor Governments support towards demerging processes in October 2022.
Green’s spokesperson had previously spoke to City Hub, noting that the bill should be “the responsibility of the state government to fund.”