I categorically oppose the Baird Government’s forced amalgamation of local councils.
Marrickville Council should be allowed to stand alone.
Over the last few years, I have had the honour to serve as a Marrickville Councillor and since March 2015, I have represented a large number of residents of the proposed merged council as the State Member for Summer Hill. In both roles, I have gained a first-hand perspective of the value, effectiveness and vital importance of local government.
What is clear is that we must not sacrifice the important democratic principle that local decisions are best made by local people.
The proof is in the pudding.
Marrickville Council gets the basics right.
It remains committed to verge mowing.
It runs six – soon to be seven – outstanding child care centres in a region where there is a critical shortage of child care places.
It runs the exceptional Magic Yellow Bus for local kids and families.
It offers uniquely local solutions to local problems: The Perfect Match program, which I initiated as Mayor, successfully curbs graffiti and engages artists and beautify our streets and public spaces.
The trial of dog parks, including at Weekes Park, brings people together and encourages new ways to share our public spaces. Similarly, Ashfield and Leichhardt Councils offer unique services that are not easily replicated.
What is clear is that an amalgamated council will not be able to expand or sustain these services at their current levels. Rather than each of us gaining, the reality is that we will all miss out.
The Government has botched its numbers and the $10 million incentive for Councils to merge will cover only a fraction of the costs of amalgamation. People will lose their jobs. Facilities will be run down or sold off and services will deplete.
This is a politically motivated attack on local government designed to strengthen the hand of developers and the Liberal Party. The Councils should be left to stand alone.
If the Baird Government determines to push ahead despite the strong opposition of local residents and the Labor Opposition, I believe these three councils represent the best partners for merger.
We share a geography and common values. Each is a progressive council that values diversity and inclusion, fiscal responsibility, and supporting a harmonious community in a healthy environment.
In the event of a merger of these three councils, I also strongly support local residents’ calls for Ashbury and Hurlstone Park to be included.
I would urge the Delegate to consider the work of the Hurlstone Park Association and Ashbury Community Group, who make clear and persuasive arguments on account of geography, amenity and culture, that they be included in an Inner West Council.
The Inner West deserves better amalgamations. I assure members of the public that I stand firmly opposed to forced mergers.