On 18 December 2015, the NSW Government released its plan for Woollahra Council to be merged with Randwick and Waverley Councils to form a new eastern suburbs council.
Despite strong community opposition from Woollahra residents and a lack of evidence to support local benefits from amalgamation, the State Government seem to be pushing ahead with a reform agenda.
Woollahra Council has lodged a written submission on the merger plan with the Government's appointed delegate, Dr Robert Lang, as part of the public inquiry into the merger.
Our submission clearly states there are no benefits for this community in the merger proposal, only significant costs for Woollahra ratepayers.
Woollahra Council is financially viable into the future. We do not want to lose the representation and identity of our local community and we do not support rate increases without discernible benefits.
Waverley and Randwick are attractive and important areas in their own right, but they are very different to Woollahra in their geography and orientation to waterways and open space. Our retail hubs, commercial precincts, planning principles around heritage and design are vastly different.
If Waverley and Randwick Councils have agreed to merger and there are benefits for them in becoming bigger they should proceed. We should not be dragged along with them.
I would like to commend and thank all members of the community who shared their views on this important issue throughout the consultation period and via the public hearings hosted by Dr Lang at Club Rose Bay in early February.
We asked Dr Robert Lang to consider our submission and the views of our community and to reject the Government's proposal to forcibly merger our highly regarded, strongly connected and financially sustainable Council.
Through our legal representatives, Woollahra Council is challenging the way in which the State Government is pursuing its local government reform and we are also arguing the Government failed to conduct a proper public inquiry as required under the Local Government Act.
I am disappointed we have had to spend public money on legal advice and challenges in order to bring the Government's attention to their failure to meet the clear requirements set out in the Local Government Act.
The cost of legal advice and any potential action we take will be far outweighed by the whopping $7m to $17m cost burden in increased rates which our local residents will be left with if the amalgamation is pushed through.
Woollahra Council has recently been granted an application for an appeal against proposed forced amalgamation by the High Court of Australia. A hearing date for the High Court appeal has not yet been set, but it is expected to be during June/July.
For more information about our position on the forced merger, please read the following:
Councillor Toni Zeltzer, Mayor of Woollahra
Regular community updates will be provided through the Mayoral Column in the Wentworth Courier and via this website.