NSW Labor lobbied to keep councils local

October 17, 2022
Residents from across NSW talked to Labor delegates about supporting local democracy. Photo: Peter Boyle

A gathering of about 50 residents from around New South Wales, including members of the state-wide Demerge NSW Alliance (DNA) from as far afield as Bombala and the Central Coast as well as Pittwater asked Labor delegates heading into their conference on October 15 to follow through on supporting residents in councils that want to demerge.

A big contingent from Sydney’s Inner West, whose population voted for a demerger in a poll at the December council elections, also joined the gathering.

DNA spokesperson Grantley Ingram said it was important to reinforce to Labor just how angry and let-down communities are about the Liberal-National government’s forced mergers of their councils.

“Bombala faces huge rate hikes, while council is bleeding thousands of dollars a week. This is nothing like we were told the Fit for Future policy would deliver,” he said.

“We are calling on Labor to keep its policy to allow independent binding local plebiscites for local residents wishing to demerge and to legislate to enable this to occur.

“By our reckoning more than 50% of the Liberal-National forcibly amalgamated councils in 2016 want to demerge.

“They should be polled as the earliest opportunity to allow residents a say in the forcible mergers and where the community wants the demerger it must happen.

“If there is a single issue the NSW crossbench is united on, it is to allow residents to make the call on council demergers,” Save Our Councils Coalition spokesperson Sue Young said.

“Labor opposed the forcible amalgamation of councils. With massive rate hikes and downgraded services impacting residents, we expect Labor to now stand by its commitment and restore democracy to those councils forcibly merged by the Liberal National Coalition government in 2016.”

The recent Cootamundra-Gundagai demerger approval has reignited the debate across NSW about the future of every merged council.

“The Gundagai demerger approval now hangs like an axe over the head of every council worker,” Ingram said. “We must act quickly to end the uncertainty around their futures.”

While Labor delegates, many wearing red T-shirts, shirts or even suits, climbed the Town Hall steps, they were handed flyers by residents displaying signs from multiple demerger campaigns.

They spoke about the loss of democracy in the council amalgamations and other significant rate rises as some of the problems.

“Labor members could not have missed the message and we hope they take it to heart,” Young said.

DNA representatives will meet a number of MPs this week to present a log of claims in the lead up to the March 2023 election.

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