Strathfield - and many other Sydney suburbs - send Mike Baird a message load and clear: Hands off our councils!

Protestors line up to tell the state government:  no mergers!
Peter Lynch

Strathfield residents, supported by councils from all over Sydney, sent Mike Baird and the state government a clear message today: hands off our council.

Chanting slogans like "Bigger isn't better" and "Back off Baird", scores of protesters listened as Strahfield councillors, Stae MP Jodi McKay, trades unionists and Upper House MLCs attacked foced amagamation as anti-democratic and unnecessary.

The meeting's MC was Cr Helen McLucas. Crs Raj Datta and Daniel Bott spoke, and Crs Gulian Vacarri and Andrew Soulos were spotted in the crowd.

Mayor Sang Ok and Cr Stephanie Kokkolis are currently in South Korean on a sister city visit. 

Save Our Strathfield’s co-chair Karen Pensabene thanked all the visiting councils like Hunters Hill, Leichhardt, Mosman, Holroyd, Pittwater, Bathurst, Randwick, Burwood, Ashfield, Marrickville, North Sydney, Woollahra amongst others for their voluminous support.

Many queued to sign the letters addressed to Mike Baird and cast them in a ballot box.

Councillor Helen McLucas was cheered by all when she said, “Our Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently said at a Federal Leadership Meeting ‘We should respect the intelligence of Australian people and be consultative with wider public and community’.

"Forced amalgamation makes a joke of local democracy. Mr. Baird I call you to learn from your Liberal colleague Malcolm Turnbull and learn about open and transparent government. This is a democracy and our voice counts.”

The list of speakers included Shadow Minister for Local Government Peter Primrose, Member of Strathfield Jodi McKay, Greens MP David Shoebridge, Mayor of Holroyd Greg Cummins, United Services Union General Secretary Graeme Kelly, NSW Labor President Mark Lennon, councillors Daniel Bott and Raj Datta.

Peter Primrose spoke about the universal sentiment towards amalgamation in New South Wales. “I don’t know of any meeting being held anywhere that feels that forced amalgamations are a good thing. We all know that senior people in the office of Local Government have been leaving. No one in NSW thinks that fit for the future has been anything but a chaotic mess.”

“Isn’t it amazing that many people are publicly running away from this toxic policy that Mike Baird is pushing onto the people of NSW. There’s no academic evidence that bigger is better. Even members of Mike Baird’s own cabinet are now coming out and condemning threats of forced amalgamations and slamming the nonsense about bigger being better,”said Mr Primrose.

It was also a family day out for many Strathfield residents like Caroline Cox who came with her daughters Stella and Rose to cheer their local council.

“The issue of anti-amalgamation is important to me because I would hate to see the standards drop by merging with other councils. I am not convinced that those in the power are listening, they are deciding about the community over tea parties and not thinking what’s good for the community. Strathfield council has worked hard to maintain its standard of services, look at this area in town centre its immaculate and well kept by the workers,”said Ms Cox. 

Member for Strathfield Jodi McKay was cheered on for talking about enormous developments around Homebush and Parramatta, “This (amalgamation) is a bad idea for any local area. There are two big upcoming projects here the West Connex and Parramatta road renewal development; there’s no coincidence that at the same time this government is going to take local representation, because if you don’t have local voices you have no one opposing those developments. That’s why as your state member I support local councils.”

‘Back off Baird’was definitely the slogan loved by supporters including Greens MP David Shoebridge. “Mike Baird wants you to join a council with 500,000 other residents, that’s not a local council that’s a small state. Your voices will be drowned out, the developers and the big end of town will run your local area. Congrats to Jodi, Peter but most especially to your local council for their effort. Local government should stay local,”said Mr Shoebridge.

Summing up the rally was Strathfield’s resident activist Nella Gaughan. “The state government doesn't have a mandate for forced amalgamation. Save Our Strathfield and Save Our Councils is calling on the government’s promise of no forced amalgamation in 2014 elections. Mr Baird and Mr Toole we have done our research and the numbers don’t stack up. Bigger is not better.”


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