BY MEL SOMERVILLE
The NSW Government’s proposed amalgamations will be a major issue for candidates to address in the lead up to Randwick Council elections, which will be held on Saturday the 9th September.
The proposed merger of Randwick council with Waverley and Woollahra councils has been halted pending Woollahra’s appeal to the High Court, and current Councillors are divided on the issue.
Randwick Mayor, Independent, Noel D’Souza said: “Randwick Council’s position has consistently been that we are financially viable and strong enough to stand alone. With the climate changing it’s prudent that we consider our options.”
Mr D’Souza, who will be running again added “I will be working with the other Independent Cr Anthony Andrews, to get good outcomes for the community.”
Retiring Liberal Cr Kiel Smith believes a merger would benefit residents, he said: “I think it is a great shame that the merger has not yet been able to proceed as it means residents and ratepayers will continue to miss out on the improved infrastructure and better services that could be delivered by leveraging the merger synergies.”
“The process thus far, whilst no doubt unsettling to many in the workforce of the three Councils, has driven greater information sharing and the leveraging of best practice amongst the Councils which will have medium and long-term benefits regardless of whether the end merger happens or not,” he added.
Other Councillors have been clearer on their opposition to mergers with Greens Councillor, Murray Matson and Labor Councillor Tony Bowen moving a motion in mid-May to mount legal a challenge at the local proposed merger.
The motion which passed at the Extraordinary Meeting on May 9 also saw Council resolve “to publicly release its legal advice to establish and enhance the credibility and transparency of Council’s actions”.
Randwick Council is following the precedent of Ku-ring-gai council who won their appeal against a forced merger with Hornsby Council in March by arguing that the process the Minister (at the time Paul Toole) was unfair.
A spokesperson for Randwick Council said: “Randwick Council resolved back in early May to commence our own legal proceedings against the merger. They’ve lodged paperwork with the Land and Environment Court, seeking a junction to stop the merger, we’re also what’s called a Friend of the Court. We’re not a party to Woollahra’s case but we’ve indicated to the High Court that we have an interest in what the outcome is.”
The City of Sydney has been merged and unmerged around a dozen times in the last 100 years, the High Court could find that there is some error in the current merger proposal allowing the Eastern Suburbs Councils to stay unmerged.
If the State Government want to proceed with the merger they can, but they’ll need to present a new merger proposal and begin the process again.
Out of the 15 current Randwick Councillors, two Labor Councillors, Cr Greg Moore and Cr Pat Garcia and two Liberal Councillors, Cr Robert Belleli and Cr Kiel Smith, have indicated they will be retiring from Council.
Cr Tony Bowen, Cr Geoff Stevenson, and Cr Kathy Neilson, all Labor, are running again as are both Greens Councillors, Murray Matson and Lindsay Shurey.
Ms Philipa Veitch will be the new Greens candidate in West Ward, which includes the suburbs of Kensington and Kingsford. None of the remaining Liberal Councillors including Deputy Mayor, Liberal Cr Brendan Roberts, have divulged their decisions.
Candidates will be officially announced once the role closes on July 31st.