Taking the fight to the Baird government

There is a rumour doing the rounds at the moment. That the NSW Government has been out to take revenge on Strathfield for its strident opposition to council amalgamation.
Last year, our well-run and debt-free council was served with a “performance order” claiming various procedures were
not being followed.
It has cost the council a lot of money and resources to fight this. The state government forced us to pay consultants more than $50,000 of ratepayers’ money to help.
Strathfield has come through with flying colours so far. I personally hold the current state government accountable for wasting ratepayers’ good money on defending this government’s ill-conceived and badly run plans. I also believe Strathfield Council was being punished for its firm stand against forced amalgamation.
The most important matter before Strathfield Council today is the threat of forced amalgamation. The most undemocratic risk hanging over the residents of the 152 councils of NSW is the threat of forced amalgamation. More than 80 per cent of Strathfield residents and almost all councils in NSW have spoken against forced amalgamation.
This state government is changing the fundamental law of democratic rights and stripping residents of their rights.
Upon amalgamation, residents will lose control to prevent over-development of Strathfield. NSW will become a developers Mecca. More than 16,800 dwellings have been proposed for the Parramatta Road precinct of Strathfield. With the WestConnex being built, the number will grow significantly.
I have not seen any associated proposals for building parks, schools and other amenities to service the additional
50,000 or more residents who would be added to the current population of approximately 40,000.
This is all designed to destroy the character and cultural fabric of Strathfield.
Let us remember that there is absolutely no proof that a bigger council will reduce the cost of service. There is plenty of proof suggesting that exactly the opposite
will happen.
Amalgamation of the councils in Auckland, New Zealand was promoted by this government as a success two years ago. But the Auckland mega-council is currently facing moves for de-amalgamation because Auckland’s debt has risen to NZ$6.7 billion in 2013/14, and is estimated to reach NZ$12.9 billion by 2022. That’s a debt of NZ$1,200 per rate payer.
We all know a parliamentary inquiry is currently running on the amalgamation issue. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) will be reporting on Fit for the Future later this month.
It was appalling to see that while these processes are yet to be exhausted, the Office of Local Government started a $700,000 scare campaign promoting amalgamation, depicting councils as “rusty wheels”.
This is a total waste.
If the government has decided to force councils to amalgamate, it should not have established all these inquiries and created all these fancy, misleading reports and wasted tax payers’ money.
I moved the first Notice of Motion in the council against forced amalgamation in November 2012: “That Strathfield Council does not support attempts by the state government to strip residents of any of their democratic rights (and force Strathfield to amalgamate).” Since then I and other councillors have moved many other notices against forced amalgamation and Council created a $100,000 fund to fight it.
At last month’s council meeting, I moved a Notice of Motion: “That Strathfield Council explore the holding of a ‘day of community action’ anti-amalgamation rally.”
Strathfield Council has been at the forefront of the anti-amalgamation campaign. With IPART currently assessing the submission by all 152 councils, it is time for Strathfield Council to start its own action.
We have seen the direct change that communities can force on government by sending strong messages. In February, the Western Australian Government scrapped its reform agenda due to community polling, which clearly stated that communities rejected outright the amalgamations proposed.

In Auckland, there is currently an application before the Local Government Commission from residents to de-amalgamate from the “super city”.
Auckland residents have been petitioning for more than a year for de-amalgamation, sighting lack of services, failing infrastructure and the high cost of rates that have been a direct result of amalgamation.
We have seen multiple examples in Queensland where residents have unanimously voted to de-amalgamate following the forced amalgamation of councils in 2008.
Our own community has overwhelmingly stated it does not support the amalgamation of Strathfield Council, with more than
80 per cent recently indicating support for Strathfield Council to stand alone.
The rally being held in Strathfield Square on Saturday (October 10) is an opportunity to engage with our community regarding amalgamation. This is probably the last opportunity for the residents of Strathfield to send a decisive message to this unresponsive and dictatorial state government.

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