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LOCALS HAVE NO SAY IN MERGER

By Duncan Horscroft on January 5, 2017 in News

Photo: Cole Bennetts

Photo: Cole Bennetts

What’s going on with the so-called ‘Super Council’ and the pending amalgamations and why are they even going ahead?

Since Premier Mike Baird issued the edict that local councils must prove themselves fit to stand alone or merge, neither Randwick nor Waverley Council – which have both agreed to merge – have provided any insight into what it will mean to the residents of these areas.

The question has been asked as to how the new council will deal with local issues, such as surf clubs, park maintenance, sporting venues, and resident and beach parking permits, and who will be responsible for these areas if the amalgamation goes ahead.

The fly in the ointment for the successful merger of the Eastern Beaches councils is Woollahra Council, which has challenged its right to stand alone.

In July last year Woollahra lost its initial court challenge against the state government’s public inquiry into the proposed forced amalgamation. It then launched an appeal that is still ongoing, but now in limbo until February when court resumes.

Given that this process is ongoing and both Randwick and Waverley have agreed to merge, there have been no local council elections – which were due last September – and because of the undecided result with Woollahra, it’s not likely there will be another local election until 2020.

This means that if the amalgamation does take place, all existing councillors will almost certainly be redundant and an administrator appointed to oversee the new council, giving locals no say at all as to how their communities will run.

Some believe the status quo will remain and all existing entitlements and such for the existing areas will stay in place, but it remains to be seen how an independent administrator will deal with issues in three separate council areas.

Waverley Councillor Paula Masselos maintains Waverley Council should not merge and that residents have never been asked for their input.

“I cannot see any overt benefits of amalgamation,” she said “Savings, efficiencies and co-ordination are already being achieved through a range of strategies.

“There will be 15 councillors for a population of over 250,000, whereas in Waverley Council we have 15 councillors for a population of close to 80,000.

“We are waiting to be advised as to how these positions will be distributed. The Boundaries Commission report recommends three wards of five councilors, but I have heard that five wards of three councillors has also been touted.”

She said the mayor will be elected by the newly-elected councillors and it will not be a popular vote as the mayor will not be elected by the community.

“We may not have a democratically elected council for more than two years. For the duration of this time we would be under administration,” Cr Masselos said.

“This means an administrator will be making all the decisions and without any accountability to the community.

“As a democracy, this is unacceptable and anti-democratic. “

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