How we’ve beaten amalgamation for over 50 years

Strathfield was formed in 1885 after local residents petitioned the NSW Governor to form their own local council. By 1906, all unincorporated areas of NSW were required to form local government and a large number of councils were formed.

But by 1912, there was action to amalgamate councils in the Sydney Metropolitan area, often under the banner of the Greater Sydney Plan. Despite Parliamentary Bills and Royal Commissions, most of Sydney’s councils remained intact until World War II, when many smaller councils were merged by the NSW Government – including Enfield and Homebush Councils, which were partly or entirely subsumed into Strathfield Council between 1947 and 1949.

Proposals to amalgamate Strathfield have been raised continually since World War II. Strathfield’s community has fought hard to preserve its council, through meetings, surveys, petitions, banners, delegations to public inquiries and Royal Commissions – and even public attendance at a rally in a circus tent in Strathfield Park one night in 1983.

Since the 1970s, the community response to amalgamations involving Strathfield Council has been consistent, with more than 70 per cent of the community bitterly opposed.  At the last survey, held in June 2015, opposition had risen to over 80 per cent.

In 1974, the NSW Government recommended that Strathfield be amalgamated with neighbouring councils. A poll was held at the Council election on 17 September 1977 asking: “Do you approve of the amalgamation of the Municipality of Strathfield with any combination of the Municipalities of Auburn, Bankstown, Canterbury, Burwood, Concord, Drummoyne and Ashfield?”

A resounding 77.7 per cent of Strathfield electors voted against.

In 1983 the NSW Local Government Boundaries Commission requested that Strathfield Council make a submission on the feasibility of an amalgamation of Ashfield, Burwood, Concord, Drummoyne and Strathfield Councils.

The Strathfield community was incensed by this proposal. A circus tent was erected in Strathfield Park for a town meeting. Some 2,000 residents attended from the then population of 26,000.

Alderman Clarrie Edwards, the then mayor, spoke at the meeting and, after seeing the tremendous opposition to the merger, the New South Wales Premier Neville Wran decided that a merger would not be in anyone’s best interest.

In 1999, the NSW Government sought proposals from councils in Sydney to amalgamate. It was proposed that Strathfield and Burwood Councils should merge. Two rounds of community surveys were held, with one conducted by the then Department of Local Government

The Strathfield community voted 74.5 per cent against the proposed merger. Strathfield Council withdrew from discussions, based on the strong opposition of the community to the amalgamation proposal. In April 2000, the Mayor of Strathfield Laurel O’Toole said: “Representative democracy places a responsibility on elected members at all levels of government to take heed of the majority of the people who elected them. Strathfield electors have now voted in two surveys, resulting in a 75 per cent vote against amalgamation.”

In 2003, the NSW Government requested that all Councils consider amalgamation and provide reasons why they should not merge. In response, Auburn Council proposed a takeover of Strathfield Council and the suburb of Rhodes from Canada Bay to form the City of Homebush Bay. 

The so-called ‘Boundary Adjustment’ involved taking over the entire Strathfield Council. The report stated that the Council would have wards which were not based on Council boundaries, but an east-west split across Auburn and Strathfield. This would have left candidates from the Strathfield area with minimal chance of being elected, as the majority of wards were in the Auburn area. 

Strathfield Council received hundreds of petitions and letters against the proposal. Council argued against the plan saying that Strathfield had no community of interest with Auburn, and nor was it supported by Strathfield’s residents. The then Minister for Local Government issued letters in 2004 to Strathfield Council stating that this proposal would not be supported. 

In 2014, the State Government recommended the merger of Strathfield Council with Ashfield, Burwood, Canada Bay, Leichhardt and Marrickville to form an Inner West Council, and required Council to lodge a submission by 30 June 2015 on its future. 

Strathfield Council has lodged its proposal to stand alone. Surveys from the Strathfield community indicate over 80 per cent support for Council’s position.  

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