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Baird’s BETRAYAL

Published:
16/09/2016
Author:
Think Local

When Mike Baird sacked mayors and councillors from 42 local government areas on 'Black Friday, May 13’, outrage, shock, disappointment and anger seeped through the corridors of local government and in communities throughout NSW.

   Although Mr Baird had said he would “never force councils to amalgamate” residents and local bureaucrats seethed with indignation at the audacious actions of a state premier sacking democratically elected local governments.

  The North Shore councils of Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby were spared the initial axing, having embarked on legal action in the Land and Environment Court„ which called into Question the government's processes and the two separate proposals affecting Mosman Council's merger.

   They are fighting the government on the grounds that it has not observed procedural fairness and the failure to release documents and financial analysis by KPMG, which purportedly detail the financial benefits of each of the merger proposals.

   It's a last minute gamble that the courts will uphold the council's fight to be independent. Sources indicate Mr Baird Is ready to sack the North Shore Councils immediately if the legal challenge is not successful.

  Mosman's deputy mayor, Councillor Carolyn Corrigan said it appears the "moment of truth for Premier Baird has finally arrived alter months of cynical lies and repetitive misinformation campaigns.

   "These forced amalgamations were never about protecting communities or maintaining local democracy,” she tells North Show Living.

  “They were always about blatant, grubby political grabs. This is evidenced in the cynical and bizarre situation of Shoalhaven and Klama being spared from forced amalgamations, and neighbouring Wollongong and Shellharbour being forced to merge.

    “No prizes for which councils are in a marginal Federal Liberal seat and which are In a Labor electorate."

Tensions are also running high in North Sydney and Willoughby where councillors and mayors have been jockeying for new positions on a restructured council.

   North Sydney deputy mayor Jeff Morris has slammed Premier Baird for denying the community a voice at either a state election or through plebiscites.

   “He has pursued his forced merger through the Boundaries Commission and this is going to lead to a backlash in the federal election and beyond," he comments.

   He warns that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull may have to pick up the tab for Mike Baird's "unilateral approach to democracy."Recent anti-amalgamation tensions boiled over at the newly administered Inner West Council after protests shut down the meeting and former public servant Richard Pearson was spat on.

Local Government Minister Paul Toole was forced again to defend his decision to sack 42 councils and appoint unelected administrators while holding off on elections until 2017.

   The government is under pressure to move the date forward.

   The Save Our Councils Coalition, which has been lobbying against the forced amalgamations, asked all candidates for the recent Federal election to sign a pledge to "support local democracy".

   SOC has also sent official letters to the Queen objecting to Mr Baird's sackings. Broadcaster Alan Jones, a vocal opponent to the council sackings, says Mr Baird needs to re-think the issue. “The Liberal Party needs to wake up to itself," he warns.

   In a submission critical of the government's policy, North Sydney Council quoted Mr Baird's maiden speech in the NSW Parliament in 2007 when he said, "I expect the Liberal Party to lead the restoration of a community-based party in this place.

  “We should never be ashamed of listening to our conscience, nor to our community - in essence this is why we are here."

   Mr Baird's decision has split communities and the Liberal Party on the North Shore, with North Sydney Federal MP Trent Zimmerman stating his strong objections to the move.

  North Shore Living approached Mr Zimmerman for a further statement on the issue but a media spokesman said he would not be commenting again as it was a "state issue”.

The spokesman said Mr Zimmerman was opposed to amalgamations. In April, at a community meeting in Lane Cove, Mr Zimmerman reportedly blamed Mr Baird's amalgamation push for a 13.4 per cent swing against him and the Liberal Party in December for his North Sydney seat.

   The three council areas in Mr Zimmerman's seat are challenging the State Government in the courts.

   Councillor Corrigan says Mr Baird will always be known throughout the North Shore and NSW as a “community wrecker”.

  "The festering sores of devastated communities all over the state will leave a stench that will stick to Mr Baird and the remainder of his premiership," she says.

JUNE AND ELEANOR, MOSMAN COUNCIL VOLUNTEERS

 "We are not at all happy with the forced amalgamations and what will probably happen to Mosman Council. As volunteers we can see services will be greatly affected and we are not prepared to go to other areas like North Sydney or Willoughby to volunteer."

 June says she feels, "very upset about Mr Baird in general and what he has done to get rid of the elected councils. Services will definitely suffer if the councils get larger. We like to volunteer close to home."

PETA FROM CREMORNE

 "I'm all for efficiencies but it seems the council amalgamations will result in job losses - and that's a great shame. As new parents, we certainly do not want any losses to Early Childcare Centres, which I'm afraid could happen and I don't support the move if it affects young families. It could be a flow-on effect from these amalgamations and that's not good."

JON IN NEUTRAL BAY

 "I'm totally against it - Jon criticised former QLD premier Peter Beattie when he amalgamated councils, and now the Liberal Party in NSW is doing the same thing.

 "North Sydney is dysfunctional and so I'm unclear as to what the benefits will be. Many councils have disamalgamated in QLD. It seems like a Liberal trick to disregard local democracy when it suits them. To Mr Baird, it's all about dollars and not about people."

SARAH AND BABY DYLAN, MOSMAN

 Sarah says as a family that has a DA in the pipeline for a heritage property, having a new amalgamated council could be advantageous.

"We live in a heritage v building and we are having lots of issues with renovations," she says.

"Things are very expensive and we seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place."

 

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