NSW Premier Mike Baird has announced a plan for council amalgamations that would see the number of local councils across NSW shrink from 152 to 112.
Significantly, the City of Sydney is not earmarked for amalgamation with other councils despite some talk of creating a “mega-council” by combining it with Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra. The suggestion drew harsh criticism from the council, with Lord Mayor Clover Moore warning that such a change could “impact negatively on Sydney’s future prosperity and the NSW economy.”
Thirty-five proposals for new amalgamated councils have been put forward in both metropolitan and regional areas, with 15 of those in the city and 20 in other parts of the state.
Under the plan, the number of councils in greater Sydney would shrink from 43 to 25. An earlier recommendation that resulted from a three-year review by the Independent Local Government Review Panel said that the number of metropolitan councils should be reduced to between 15 and 18.
The proposed mergers in regional NSW would result in a reduction from 109 councils to 87.
According to the state government, none of the new councils will have fewer than 150,000 ratepayers, and none will exceed the population of 473,000 expected for the large Blacktown City Council area by 2031.
“There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, and we have recognized that each community area in NSW is unique,” said Minister for Local Government Paul Toole.
“Our process will provide an objective assessment of the merger benefits and impacts, and give the community a chance to have a say before a final decision is made.”
Analysis conducted by KPMG consultants found that the merger plan could save up to $2 billion across the state over a period of twenty years. Each new council created under the plan would receive up to $15 million for community infrastructure.
Local Government NSW president Keith Rhoades described the proposals as “a bully-boy farce” focused on “removing genuine local representation, and completely ignoring the expressed wishes of local communities.” However, he also noted that the number of proposed amalgamations was significantly fewer than the original suggestion from the Independent Local Government Review Panel.
In an earlier ArchitectureAU article, the NSW Australian Institute of Architects chapter president Shaun Carter said that reducing the number of councils would make it easier to plan a cohesive future for Sydney.
The proposals will now be referred to the Office of Local Government for examination, and delegates will be appointed to conduct public consultation on each proposed merger. The consultation process will include public hearings, and is scheduled to begin in January once more details are released.
More information about each of the proposed mergers is available here.