Strathfield leads the pack against amalgamation with a poll and a squad of speakers

Prof Graham Sansom of the Independent Review Panel

It was a meeting designed to assess the Inner West’s reaction to the local government amalgamation debate. 

And whatever else the message sent back to State Government, there is no doubting where Strathfield stands – foursquare against it.

Of the 23 people who turned out at the Ashfield Civic Centre on a chilly Thursday night, 33 per cent were from Strathfield (and almost all from Save Our Strathfield, the residents’ protest group).

Of the six who spoke, five were from Strathfield. Of the three councillors who stood up to express their views, two were from Strathfield (the other was Ashfield’s mayor Morris Monsour, and he was only there as the host).

None of the participants were in favour of amalgamation.

If you are getting the impression this was an all Strathfield event, then you'd be right.  Strathfield stood up to be counted and, basically, won the night.

Even the chair of the Independent Panel on Local government, Professor Graham Sansom, admitted to the Scene Strathfield was now one of a handful of local government areas that had made it clear they are implacably opposed to mergers.

Does that mean Strathfield is safe? Not quite…

“But we will certainly be taking this into account,” said the Professor.

Earlier, Professor Sansom had met with the mayors of Burwood, Ashfield, Canada Bay and Cr Gulian Vaccari of Strathfield in a three-hour briefing session.

Cr Monsour told the Scene the mayors were left in little doubt that the panel were committed to their course of action. He maintained the mayors were examining a compromise like country councils as a way of co-operating without amalgamating.

At the start of the Ashfield Civic Centre meeting, the explanation for the gathering was, according to panellist Ms Jude Munro,  about "listening".

And listen they had to did, as Strathfield’s team took full advantage of the opportunity to address the panel and state their views.

Ms Patricia Giammarco, a 41 year resident and mother-of -four, said: “Strathfield today is known as the ’Oasis of the West’. It is a unique mixture of incomes, ethnic, religious and age groups all interested in the survival and the maintenance of a quiet, high quality residential district superbly accessible to the many metropolitan facilities.”

She recalled previous attempts to amalgamate the municipality.

“We have rejected proposal after proposal, because it is not in our interests.  In 1983, for example, the government of the day decided that Strathfield should be amalgamated with Burwood.

“A circus tent was set up for a public meeting at Strathfield Park, but by 7.30pm there were only three ladies present.

“The organisers thought that the meeting was going to be a dismal failure, but by 8pm the tent was over flowing with 2000 people against amalgamation. It showed that interest in local politics is not dead.

“Today we have other ways of testing the mood of Strathfield residents. Last month an telephone poll of 800 random residents found 70% were against the amalgamation of Strathfield – versus just 27% in favour. “

­Save Our Strathfield co-chair Nella Gaughan said: “The people of Strathfield are happy managing their community in their own best interests. Their success at doing this is demonstrated by the quality of our community today.

“We are one of the most sought-after addresses in the country. Despite this, our council rates are among the lowest in Sydney. We manage without metered parking and without many of the other levies and fees councils across the state tend to use to stick their hand in resident pockets.

“We run a tight ship and our area reflects that. “

She said of the survey results:  “The people of Strathfield have spoken loud and clear. They do not want to be amalgamated – and who can blame them?

“They don’t want their democratic voices to be ignored either.”

There was a fiery exchange when Ms Munro presented the findings of the NSW State Treasury’s TCorp group. Cr Helen McLucas insisted their conclusions that Strathfield was financially weak in the long term,  was not accepted and was wrong.

Earlier, she made an impassioned plea against amalgamation, saying more politics and executive mayors would not be an improvement.  “More politics gets you more Eddie Obeids”, she said in a reference to the former State minister now facing an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry.

Others who spoke from Strathfield included Deputy Mayor Andrew Soulos, former councillor David Starr and former Mayor Bill Carney.

There is still time to register your protest – the consultation period ends on June 28. Visit the panel's website.

Comments

Well done Strathfield scene. We are working well as a team keep up the good work. If an article is run next week can you add the details as to were to lodge an objection. After reading this article more people may be inclined to voice their opinion.
Thanks again

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