The NSW Government has released the final report of the Independent Local Government Review Panel.
This is an important report and more time is needed to carefully consider all its implications for the community. However, it does provide positive options that could strengthen local government without the need for amalgamations.
Any reform process must begin with a clear understanding of the role councils should play in our three-tiered system of government - ensuring they remain local, democratic, accountable and transparent.
Local government is the level of government closest to the community and I believe it best serves the community when it is truly "local" in character. It is then that we most effectively engage with our communities; lead debate on important issues; develop a vision for the future; and work to deliver on it.
I am disappointed to see the Review Panel's recommendation of creating a mega-Sydney council. This proposal puts at risk the City's sound financial position and our extensive, publicly-endorsed program for the global city.
The report itself clearly shows the best way to strengthen local government is through improving the financial sustainability of councils, improving cooperation between state and local government, and providing for democratically elected local government in the NSW Constitution. Creating a mega-Sydney council will not achieve this
The City went through an amalgamation in 2004, the latest in a long history of political manipulation of our boundaries. Amalgamations are expensive and disruptiveâ€”it took more than five years to bring together our staffing, planning controls, rating categories, services and IT systems.
The recommendations to give the City greater responsibility for local transport and regional parks would create a more sensible division of responsibilities between the State and Local Government - but they should go further and include other areas excised from the City such as the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and Barangaroo.
Instead of wasting time and money on divisive and counter-productive amalgamations, the State Government should focus on developing a positive reform agenda in partnership with Local Government.