The NSW Government’s ‘Fit for the Future’ local government reform process has handed down its report, demonstrating that this process is a mere fig leaf over the Coalitions agenda to close down large numbers of Councils across the state. Despite exceeding the ‘Fit for the Future’ criteria as a stand-alone Council in every way, the City of Sydney has been marked as a Council that must merge.
To classify the City of Sydney, a wealthy, well managed Council, as not ‘Fit for the Future’ demonstrates how these ‘reforms’ are a political exercise. The Baird Government is not satisfied after last year’s gerrymandering of the City of Sydney’s electoral system, where they introduced double voting for businesses.
Baird’s accusation that the City of Sydney does not fulfil its criteria as a ‘global city’ is staggering considering the careful planning and considerable financial contribution that Council has made to critical infrastructure projects such as the CBD Light Rail and the Wynyard walk. The City remains a key driver in the cultural sector through engagement and financial assistance and provides services to our residents and an additional 1.2 million people who access the City every day.
The IPART report found that although 93% of Sydney metro Councils were found to be financially sustainable and efficient, 75% were still declared ‘unfit’. My Greens colleague, David Shoebridge MLC, has called on IPART to make public their assessment criteria. Without a transparent process the people of New South Wales are forced to accept changes that may have significant impacts on their communities without any sound evidence to support the reforms.
After seven years as a Councillor I am really proud of the work that I and my Greens colleagues have achieved. I have used my position on Council to act as a voice for parts of the community that would not otherwise be heard and to champion projects that support inclusion, diversity and our local environment. Under an expanded Council many of these achievements simply wouldn’t be possible. With a vastly bigger population to represent the voices of local communities would be lost. Our strength is our ability to tailor local services to meet specific needs through our relationships with the community.
Mega-Councils will also mean there will be less independents and representatives of minor parties elected. The cost of campaigning for election in a larger Council area will be prohibitive for many independents and minor parties, such as The Greens who reject corporate donations in NSW, that do not have the financial backing of businesses or wealthy individuals.
I am joining with my Greens colleagues and others across the state to oppose this attack on local governments, local communities and local representation.