Wentworth Courier Global City Community Forum

(6.15pm, Monday 27 May 2013, Sydney Boys High School)

The Government is undertaking a series of studies and reviews that together represent assaults on local democracy, local communities and local neighbourhoods.

There's the Local Government (Early Intervention) Bill before Parliament which gives the Minister power to interfere with and suspend councils without even giving a reason; the Tcorp review of council finances; the planning White Paper which radically changes community input to local development and which people fear will degrade the face of our neighbourhoods; the Local Government Acts Review and the Independent Local Government Review Panel.

All the reviews have recognised the City's effective management - so why the proposed change?

The Tcorp review said our financial sustainability is strong and our financial outlook is positive, the Acts review confirms our global city status, yet the Samson Review Panel wants to put all that at risk with their "super Sydney Council" proposal without a compelling, evidence-based case for change.

They point to Auckland as a model - yet Auckland has spent $100 million on its amalgamation and is now struggling with massive debt - currently worth around $6000 per ratepayer, forecast to treble from $2 billion to $12.5 billion over the next decade.

And to deal with the loss of local representation Auckland established 21 local boards. The result is that there are now 170 elected politicians - 149 elected Local Board members (who no power), plus the Mayor and 20 Councillors.

Imagine if this nightmare scenario was imposed on Sydney? - (more bureaucracy and a fourth tier of government.)

With no electoral funding the proposal forever ties us to major political party representation at what should be the community's level of government. Local community people will not be able to afford the costs of running campaigns over such a huge area.

The Panel mistakenly believes that only a super council can engage in significant strategic planning or undertake regional projects such as light rail and cycleways. But, as you know, we're already doing that at the City and we share our work with other councils. Our biggest obstacle is State Government intransigence.

At the City, we've developed a vision in close consultation with our community called Sustainable Sydney 2030. We've done the research and now we're taking the action - for example transforming George Street for light rail creating a new town centre for Green Square, a thriving cultural life for our city, as well as childcare centres and parks.

This is what we want to get on with, without extended disruption and wasted resources of massively expanding our council area - and for what purpose?

Local Government should be answerable to the local community, not to the State, not to major party politics and not to wealthy vested interests who are behind the proposal for amalgamations.