New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, along with Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton, announced today that NSW mergers will go ahead.
The only exception, according to Berejiklian, are councils in regional NSW that are yet to be merged, where she acknowledges that “a one size fits all model does not always apply”.
All merged councils will remain in place across NSW, and, in regards to councils that are currently contesting mergers, Berejiklian confirms that she “will push ahead with those councils in Sydney that are before the courts”.
In response to the announcement, the mayor of Ku-Ring-Gai council, Jennifer Anderson, expressed frustration and disappointment that the “very real concerns of our Council and our residents [have] been disregarded by the Government”- concerns reflected by 80% of Ku-ring-gai residents.
Regarding Berejiklian’s exception for regional councils, Anderson said she was “particularly aggrieved”, in that many of the regional councils “met none of the government’s criteria to stand alone”, whilst Ku-ring-gai Council met all seven. Anderson argues that Berejiklian’s justification maintaining regional councils should have also impacted the Ku-ring-gai/Hornsby merger, as Ku-ring-gai has strong links to the city whilst Hornsby is largely rural.
Responding to the concerns of multiple councils contesting mergers, the Premier insists that the individual wards of merged councils “will have a say in strategic planning processes, so that local residents get an even stronger say”. However, Mayor Anderson has pointed out that as the proposed new council would contain six councillors from the Ku-ring-gai area and nine from Hornsby, there would be “little to no capacity for future decisions over Ku-ring-gai to be made by its own elected representatives”.
As the NSW Government prepares to pursue the Ku-ring-gai/Hornsby merger, Mayor Anderson has indicated that Ku-ring-gai will continue with its action in the Court of Appeal, scheduled for the 16th and 17th of February.