State government recommends Strathfield be merged with Canada Bay and Burwood

Premier Mike Baird and Local Government Minister Paul Toole

The State Government has recommended Strathfield, Burwood and Canada Bay should be merged - but only after another consultation exercise.

Premier Mike Baird and Local Government Minister Paul Toole announced their position after months of speculation.

Mr Toole said he will refer the merger proposals to the Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government for examination and he report back under the current Local Government Act.

The community and the local government sector will have a chance to have their say through submissions and public hearings held by the Boundaries Commission.

Special delegates will review the submissions and will report to the Boundary Commission and to the Minister.

The Minister will then consider the reports from the delgates and comments from the Boundaries Commission.

After that process, believed to take around six months, the Minister may or may not recommend to the Governor of NSW that the proposed mergers be implemented.

Mayor Sang Ok told Ourstrathfield: "Reflecting on the state government's proposal which was announced today, I will be putting a mayoral minute forward. Strathfield's worst case scenario of merging with Auburn and Bankstown is over.

"I will discuss with the other councillors about the next step forward but I think it is an appropriate partnership with Canada Bay and Burwood."

Strathfield Council was expected to issue an official comment later.

Today’s announcement appears to put an end to rumours of councillors being sacked and administrators being called in to run those authorities that opposed mergers - at least for now.

It appears the State Government is keen to woo residents to its way of thinking rather than impose reforms.

Mr Baird also announced plans for a new Local Government Act which will include a new power for the minister to appoint a financial controller to a non-performing council that has been deemed at high financial risk.

The process will take around six months and council elections have been delayed to March 2017.

The Baird government announced a $700 million package, an increase from the original $550 million, in incentives to help councils absorb the costs of merging.

Meanwhile, residents rates will be frozen for the next four years and staff will be able to retain their jobs for the next three years under the Local Government Act.

Burwood's mayor John Faker has welcomed the move.

“Our position has always been to stand alone as we believe we are fit for the future under our existing structure, however the NSW Government gave us little choice but to explore merger options or face having no say in the matter,” said Mr Faker.

“We spoke to our community to hear what their desired option would be if we were forced to merge and the majority preferred to be partnered with Canada Bay and Strathfield.”

Other councils were angry.

A spokesman for Woollahra council said it would fight the proposal to merge it with Waverley and Randwick.

Hunters Hill mayor Richard Quinn also criticised the way the briefing process was handled. "Clearly this is still being stage-managed." Opposition local government spokesman Peter Primrose said in a statement: "This process has been a chaotic shambles from the get-go."

Mr Primose said the government had devised boundaries as the result of "trades within cabinet between ministers".


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