The Lord Mayor, Councillor Frank Sartor, broke his silence yesterday to discuss how the proposed expansion of city council boundaries will impact on Sydney’s lesbian and gay community.

Although detailed discussions over service and support levels will have to wait until proposed boundary changes are finalised, Cr Sartor yesterday committed his council to consulting with the lesbian and gay community -“ a result which Pride co-convenor Lou-Anne Lind termed as good an outcome as we could have hoped for.

The 90-minute meeting, which took place at Sydney Town Hall, was an opportunity for Cr Sartor to meet some of the leaders of the gay and lesbian community organisations -“ Alex Sosnov from the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, Adrian Lovney from ACON, Michael Bracken from Mardi Gras, Lou-Anne Lind from Pride and Bev Lange from Sydney 2002 Gay Games. City of Sydney employees Damian Furlong and Gillian Minervini were also present.

We have had a wide-ranging discussion over interests we share. The GLBT member organisations outlined their general needs and concerns -¦ I look forward to forming productive associations with the rest of the GLBT community, Cr Sartor said in a statement released to Sydney Star Observer after the meeting.

The City has had cooperative associations with GLBT groups over a number of years, as we do with all our constituent groups, said Cr Sartor. We have partnerships already with Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Gay Games, the AIDS Trust and the City recently assisted Out FM. In fact, City support over the last four years alone has been in excess of $1.13m.

Cr Sartor agreed to meet with representatives of community groups after intervention from the Minister for Local Government, Harry Woods. At a meeting with community groups last month, Woods said the state government would take a dim view if new council boundary arrangements resulted in a reduction of services to the lesbian and gay community.

In a summary of outcomes statement prepared at the meeting, the Lord Mayor acknowledged that extensive services and support are currently provided to the GLBT community by South Sydney Council as well as the City of Sydney.

The City believes continuity of this support is important, the statement read. Subject to resolution of the division of assets and liabilities between the City and South Sydney, the City will endeavour to maintain or at least maximise this total level of support, pending budgetary constraints and appropriate negotiations.

The Lord Mayor also made specific reference to South Sydney City Council’s sex industry policy, stating that the City had no intention of changing [such] planning controls without completing the proper statutory review processes, which would include GLBT consultation.

Sosnov and Lind told the Star they felt confident that the gay and lesbian community would be able to work constructively with Cr Sartor.

We’re pretty happy with what he said. At the end of the day he said he would consult, Sosnov said.

It’s the start of a process, Lind said. [Sartor] doesn’t know us very well and we don’t know him. But at least the talking has begun.

I am so pleased at the partnership work that has gone on between Pride, the Lobby, Mardi Gras and ACON, Lind continued. The fact that the four of us were able to work together so closely I think gave us some leverage and helped make sure we got some outcomes. It has been an excellent partnership that worked really well.

All parties agreed to further meetings once the minister proclaims new boundaries.

Although South Sydney and Leichhardt Councils have until 12 April to respond to the latest Local Government Boundaries Commission proposals, it is possible that the finalisation of the boundaries issue may drag on even further.

If a proposal (suggested by the mayor of South Sydney, Cr John Fowler) to merge South Sydney and the City of Sydney gains political momentum, a final boundary adjustment could again be delayed. If Cr Fowler’s proposal is accepted by a majority of South Sydney councillors, the Local Government Boundaries Com-mission will be compelled to investigate -“ extending the current limbo status yet again.

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