Baird’s merger plan ‘bewildering’
By Murray Trembath, January 6, 2016.
Merge: Rockdale Mayor Bill Saravinovski and Kogarah Mayor Stephen Agius sign a memorandum of understanding on council amalgamations. Pictured with Nick Vavaris. Picture: Jane Dyson
LIBERAL mayor of Kogarah Stephen Agius says the Baird government’s decision to merge Rockdale and Botany Bay councils is “bewildering”.
Cr Agius said it appeared to be a predetermined move, based on political expediency at the cost of dislocation of the St George region.
His attack echoes claims by Labor MP for Kogarah Chris Minns that the proposed changes were politically motivated.
Cr Agius and the Labor mayor of Rockdale, Bill Saravinovski, indicated they doubted the decision would be overturned.
The two mayors signed an agreement in November last year to put two merger preferences to the state government.
The first was to combine with Hurstville to form a St George council. The second was for a merged Kogarah-Rockdale council.
The government ignored their submission, as well as a 2013 recommendation by an independent inquiry, conducted by Professor Graham Sansom, for an amalgamation of the three St George councils and possibly Canterbury.
Instead, Hurstville-Kogarah and Rockdale-Botany Bay council mergers were announced a week before Christmas.
Merger map: The proposed new councils.
The Local Government Boundaries Commission will conduct a public inquiry before plans are finalised.
Cr Agius said that for much of the previous four years the government had repeatedly encouraged councils to consider amalgamation options that would provide the best result for their communities.
‘‘In the spirit of these desires and expectations, Kogarah Council determined that a proposed amalgamation of Kogarah, Rockdale and Hurstville councils would provide the optimum outcome in addition to, most critically, preserving the identity of the St George region and the associated values, sense of community and place that has endured over the past 150 years,’’ he said.
‘‘As this view is also shared by Rockdale Council it’s bewildering that the state government would ignore the outcomes of its own consultation process which was undertaken at significant expense and the views of most local elected representatives. It appears this proposal may have been predetermined and focused on political expediency at the cost of the dislocation of the St George region.’’
Cr Saravinovski said if Rockdale Council could not stand alone, its preference was to be part of a St George council.
‘‘I’m a realist,’’ he said. ‘‘This is all political and the Baird government is doing what its Liberal mates want.
‘‘Baird should take it to the next election. I won’t waste taxpayers’ money challenging it in court.’’
He said Botany Bay Council planned a plebiscite of ratepayers in February.
A STATEMENT on Rockdale Council’s website on December 23 was positive about the proposed merger with Botany Bay Council.
It stated the move would consolidate airport land under one council, ensuring the communities benefited from rate-equivalent revenue.
‘‘A merger would also improve our capacity to regionally represent residents and businesses on decision-making in relation to the airport and other key transport infrastructure, such as Port Botany and the Botany Bay foreshore,’’ it read.
It stated communities of interest included the airport, which was the area’s largest regional employer, and Wolli Creek and Cooks Cove developments.
‘‘These communities will share many characteristics with other parts of inner and southern Sydney, as multi-unit residential development emerges in areas previously occupied by industrial and commercial activities.’’
What are your thoughts on the merger?