A full-scale merger between South Sydney and the City of Sydney is one dramatic proposal being floated at South Sydney Council following a report by the Local Government Boundaries Commission on inner city council reform.
The report delivered last week to Harry Woods, the NSW Minister for Local Government, gave Frank Sartor a green light on his plans for an expanded City of Sydney but would see South Sydney lose 39 percent of its population and some $12 million in revenue. The Commission recommended that Kings Cross, Potts Point, Glebe, Woolloomooloo and parts of Surry Hills and Darlinghurst be ceded to the City of Sydney.
The report concluded that residents would be on balance better off with lower rates as well as the maintenance of access to high-quality services under the new expanded city council.
However, the report was slammed this week by South Sydney mayor John Fowler.
This report, if it were presented as a uni submission at an undergraduate level, would not be accepted because it has no clear thesis to it, Fowler said.
ALP councillor Christine Harcourt said that City of Sydney had been clearly favoured over the needs of the residual areas of South Sydney and Leichhardt.
The current proposal may possibly deliver some benefits to the City of Sydney because it is a kind of monochrome place at the moment, it’s just all CBD, but under the terms of the Local Government Act these changes should also deliver benefits to the residual areas.
Last week’s Boundaries Commission report endorses the minimalist compromise option suggested by the inquiry into the structures of eight inner city councils conducted by Professor Kevin Sproats last year and rubber-stamps the proposed boundaries announced by Woods last November. But the Commission’s report also makes clear that the proposed boundary changes would not limit or prevent future structural reform such as Sproats’s favoured model of collapsing the eight councils into four.
This boundary alteration proposal -¦ could be a consistent step toward implementation of Professor Sproats’s main recommendation that the eight inner city councils be amalgamated into four councils, the Commission concluded.
In their submissions to the Commission both South Sydney and Leichhardt indicated that they see merit in a larger structural reform such as that proposed by Sproats.
Liberal councillor Shayne Mallard told the Star broader local government reform was the real issue but that agenda would not be served by opposing the Commission’s proposal.
We should accept the boundary because otherwise we are just staving off the inevitable and wasting money and we should get in there in good faith and negotiate the [retention of certain] commercial assets which would mean at least initially that the South Sydney which survives will be viable. Then we start courting with a nice little dowry to find a partner [Randwick, Botany or Marrickville] to form a basis for a southern regional council of a density of about 150,000 people around Green Square. I personally think Randwick is the best option.
He dismissed Fowler’s idea of a merger with the City of Sydney as a political folly and said he doubted it would get majority support from council.
Fowler said that he had floated the idea of a wholesale merger as a possible alternative as a way of ensuring the needs of current South Sydney residents are taken seriously in an expanded city.
I have no problem with amalgamations but I do have a problem with one that is run by the Lord Mayor. The reason I have suggested this as a potential alternate proposal is because under the Act if we do [propose an amalgamation] the Minister must respond to the proposal, he said.
Secondly if we do amalgamate, the Minister would then accept the amalgamation of all councillors into the new body as was done in 1981 and that would then mean the councillors with their opinions -“ that they have already identified with the community -“ would be better able to maintain the interests of the community.
The affected councils have until 12 April to respond to the Commission’s report. Fowler said that other options such as seeking a court injunction to prevent the boundary changes and a community education campaign on the proposals would also be considered by the council. It is also likely that the council will seek an urgent meeting with the Premier to discuss the boundary changes. The council was meeting last night as the Star went to press.