David Shoebridge speaking on Sunday. Photo: Raffaele Catanzariti (supplied).

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BY CHRISTOPHER HARRIS
Hundreds of concerned citizens rallied at a Save Our Councils Coalition meeting last weekend, pushing for the retention of Woollahra Council.

Support came from an unlikely place, with NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton going against the government grain and showing support for an independent Woollahra Council.

Ms Upton spoke of the need for council to represent the local community.

“Friends, my position is that Woollahra Council should not be merged with other councils if it has the community’s support and the numbers stack up,” she told the large crowd.

“It is that sense of community that binds us & that community of interest we seek to protect.”

“There is no perfect size for a community of interest – what works here may not work down the road. And small can be effective.”

She told the crowd that both herself and the NSW government were listening to the community.

“Timing is everything in politics, and right now is the time for those views to be heard and to be heard again loud and clear,” she said.

“So help me to help us – I need you to collect as many signatures as you can so we can lodge a petition in parliament.”

“Let us do that as soon as we can. Friends, that is the best way right now to protect our community of interest.”

Tension over amalgamations continues to mount in anticipation of the IPART review of local councils due on October 16.

At the annual Local Government Conference on Monday October 11, Premier Mike Baird announced that the findings of the IPART review will be made public.

Save Our Councils Coalition member Raffaele Catanzariti attended the rally and said it was positive that one member of cabinet had taken a stand against the government determination to force councils to merge.

“She [Gabrielle Upton] made that commitment and that’s a break from most of the other cabinet ministers, and they’ve said IPART is going to come with a report, and it will be made public,” he told City Hub.

“From my perspective, population size doesn’t mean anything, and if Woollahra is financially fit, and the community does not want it, then it shouldn’t proceed,” Mr Catanzariti said.
“It shouldn’t rest with cabinet, or the Premier, it should be the decision of the community and no one else.”

One Woollahra resident took to Facebook to comment on the rally.

“Gabrielle, please tell your Cabinet colleagues that forced amalgamation is very unpopular and is also undemocratic,” the local resident wrote.

“Woollahra is fit for the future, sustainable and through careful spending of rates, has no debt. It would be patently WRONG to amalgamate,” the resident continued.

Independent Sydney MP Alex Greenwich also spoke at the rally.