Merger He Wrote

A backgrounder on council amalgamations

NSW Premier Mike Baird announced the creation of 19 new councils on Thursday, whittling 43 metropolitan councils down to 25. Ashfield Council, Leichhardt Council and Marrickville Council are all subject to the immediate changes outlined in the announcement, and will be merged into one ‘Inner West’ Council as of the May 14th weekend. The elected councillors and mayors of the three councils, Clr Lucille McKenna OAM, Clr Sam Iskandar, Clr Darcy Byrne, will be replaced by an administrator chosen by the State Government and are to serve until local elections in September 2017.

“Winter has come to the Inner West and like Ned Stark the heads of democratically elected representatives have been chopped off,” said Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne.

“I can announce that myself and the Mayors of Ashfield and Marrickville will form an elected Mayors Council to stand up for and protect our communities for as long as this dictatorship lasts,” he said.

Baird invited outgoing councillors and mayors to be involved in the merger process through ‘Implementation Advisory Groups’ to be appointed by the new council administrators, however the role and powers of the group has not been defined. The ‘Fit for the Future’ plans state that new council will receive up to $25 million to aid the amalgamation process and build new community infrastructure.

Local Government Minister Paul Tool said that administrators of the new councils and interim general managers would be inducted over this weekend.

Meanwhile, Canada Bay Council has been left with a pending plan of merging with Burwood and Strathfield Councils. This is despite Canada Bay’s preferred option of merging with Auburn Council and Burwood Council.  The Canada Bay, Burwood and Auburn amalgamation (which was floated as ‘Sydney Olympic Park City Council’) was deemed ‘Fit for the Future’ by IPART in October last year.

In spite of this declaration, the State Government has instead announced that Auburn City Council will be split between two new ‘Cumberland’ and ‘City of Parramatta’ councils. Baird stated that he supported the creation of a further nine councils “in principle”. Baird has proposed Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield amalgamate subject to court decision. A Public Inquiry into the amalgamation of Canada Bay, Burwood and Strathfield Councils was held at the Canada Bay Club in February of this year.