成都夜生活网,成都夜生活论坛

成都楼凤性息论坛

   Apr 13

Premier Gladys Berejiklian prepares for North Shore byelection backlash over mergers

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, flanked by local government minister Gabrielle Upton and deputy premier John Barilaro. Photo: Louise KennerleyPremier Gladys Berejiklian has acknowledged the government risks losing the North Shore byelection as a result of its decision on council mergers, but remains adamant it has prioritised the community’s best interests.
成都夜生活

After weeks of mounting uncertainty, Ms Berejiklian confirmed on Tuesday that all 20 merged councils would remain in place and the government would forge ahead with the five merger proposals for Sydney councils currently pursuing court action.

However, in what amounts to a partial backdown, the six merger proposals for regional councils will be abandoned, including the merger of Wollongong and Shellharbour councils, and Newcastle and Port Stephens councils.

Ms Berejiklian based her justification to proceed with the Sydney mergers as necessary to address the city’s housing affordability crisis and improve development approval times.

“It is really important for us if we care about housing affordability, if we care about planning and infrastructure, to go and proceed with these reforms.”

Describing the decision as “not in my personal best interest”, Ms Berejiklian accepted the decision to differentiate between city and regional councils had set the stage for the North Shore byelection to become a referendum on the policy.

“As a new premier I face a byelection on the North Shore, which is opposing the proposed mergers, but I accept this decision is not about me, personally,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Ms Berejiklian, whose seat of Willoughby is in the neighbouring electorate, said her own council would be affected the merger of Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby councils, which is being challenged in court.

No date has yet been set for the North Shore byelection, which was triggered by the resignation of former health minister Jillian Skinner last month, but anti-merger advocates have already vowed vengeance at the ballot box.

Responding to the government’s decision on Tuesday, Save Our Councils Coalition announced a campaign to “put Liberals last” at the byelection.

“They will be massacred in the North Shore byelection,” spokesman Phill Jenkyn said.

As anti-merger advocates rounded on the government, Ms Berejiklian justified the partial backdown as an acknowledgement the government’s “one size fits all model” was the wrong approach.

She said evidence had shown the benefits in Sydney were “about six times greater than they are outside of Sydney”.

“There is no doubt that the circumstances we have in Sydney, in relation to reforming local government, are very different to the issues outside of Sydney.

“Had we had our time over, we would have naturally dealt with councils in Sydney very differently to councils outside of Sydney.”

The announcement is also set to ease internal tensions within the Coalition, with Tuesday’s decision reflecting the commitment made by Nationals leader John Barilaro last month to end all proposed mergers in the bush.

On Tuesday Mr Barilaro said the decision would “end the confusion and uncertainty” for regional councils currently fighting the proposed mergers in the courts.

Thirteen of the 20 mergers executed last year occurred in regional NSW, but Mr Barilaro rejected the suggestions that those councils which had pursued legal action were being rewarded at the expense of those who had accepted the policy.

Instead, he said any moves to “unscramble those council mergers would bring greater uncertainty”.

Ms Berejiklian said that “overwhelming feedback” from communities which had already been merged was that they wanted to “continue the process”.

But the government’s critics rejected the justifications, accusing it of imposing one rule for the city and one for the bush.

Opposition leader Luke Foley accused the premier of “stubborn inflexibility” by forging ahead with the Sydney mergers, and restated Labor’s position to allow residents to decide if they want to demerge.

“She has done nothing. It is a shambolic policy which is the result of deals and factional fixes to save her own hide.”

Greens MP and local government spokesman David Shoebridge slammed the approach as a “half-baked response” and an “unprincipled compromise”.

“If the Coalition is admitting that it is wrong on forced council amalgamations in places like Oberon and Cabonne, then it can’t pretend it is the right thing for millions of residents in the city”.

Woollahra mayor Toni Zeltzer, whose council is pursuing a High Court challenge to oppose the merger with Randwick and Waverley councils, said she was shell-shocked by the decision.

“This is a disastrous day for local democracy,” Cr Zeltzer said.

“These double standards show the only thing that matters to them is vote grabbing in marginal seats.”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.