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Monday, 8 February 2016

Fit for the Future - State Government Propose Voluntary Council Amalgamations

In September 2014 the State Government released ‘Revitalising Local Government’, which was the final report of the NSW Independent Local Government Review Panel. In essence this report recommended sweeping reforms to the local government sector, including reducing the number of Metropolitan Sydney councils from 40 to 15 via voluntary mergers or amalgamations of councils.

Update on Merger Proposal

The latest information on the proposed merger and how to have your say has now been moved to the merger proposal for Hunter's Hill, Lane Cove and Ryde Councils page.

Results Of Community Forum Held 6 May 2015

Live polling was conducted to ensure that residents left the meeting aware of the results. The results for each option were:

Option 1 How supportive are you of Council being merged into a new super council?

17.8% SUPPORTIVE of an amalgamation with Ryde, Lane Cove, Willoughby, North Sydney and Mosman
82.2% NOT SUPPORTIVE of an amalgamation with Ryde, Lane Cove, Willoughby, North Sydney and Mosman

Option 2 How supportive are you of Hunter’s Hill Council standing alone?

73.4% SUPPORTIVE of Hunter’s Hill Council standing alone
26.6% NOT SUPPORTIVE of Hunter’s Hill Council standing alone

Option 3 How supportive are you of Council exploring the possibility of a Joint Regional Authority (JRA) with a number of other councils within the northern Sydney region?

86% SUPPORTIVE of Hunter’s Hill Council exploring a Joint Regional Authority
14% NOT SUPPORTIVE of Hunter’s Hill Council exploring a Joint Regional Authority

Summary of Options for the Community

State Government's proposed boundaries

The NSW State Government has released its ‘Fit for the Future’ program that will impact the way all NSW councils operate. The program proposes to merge 41 Sydney metropolitan councils into 18 and was created as a response to the findings in the Independent Local Government Review Report, October 2013.

The Independent Local Government Review Panel presented a Report to the State Government that recommends amalgamating Hunter’s Hill, Lane Cove, Mosman, North Sydney, Willoughby Councils and two-thirds of eastern Ryde’s area based on:

  • Projected 2031 population 365,400.
  • Close functional interaction and economic/social links between these councils.
  • Need for integrated planning for major centres, Sydney Harbour foreshores, etc.
  • 3 of these councils projected to have fewer than 50,000 people in 2031.

Hunter’s Hill, the City of Ryde and Lane Cove Councils endorsed the exploration of an alternative proposal to form a Joint Regional Authority of neighbouring councils. It must be noted that the original recommendations from the Independent Local Government Review Panel included the option to combine as a strong Joint Regional Organisation, however in the Fit for Future Program this was only earmarked for rural/regional councils. Now, the State Government are endorsing that councils can investigate a ‘superior’ alternative to the original amalgamation groups (cited in the Independent Review Panel’s Report) in metro Sydney.

The Independent Local Government Review Panel has made it clear that Hunters Hill, Lane Cove and Ryde Councils need to address the scale and capacity targets set out in the Fit for the Future program.

In addition to the option of supporting the State government’s proposed merger into one
mega-council, the Councils have worked together to provide an alternate option that addresses the issues raised by the community.

Each Council is now seeking feedback from the community on each of the three options available to them. This will form part of the Council’s Fit for the Future response to the State Government.

Option 1 Option 2 Option 3
State Government Proposed Merger Reject Merger Proposal Provide A Superior Alternative
Outcome: One mega-council made up of Hunter’s Hill, Lane Cove, Mosman, North Sydney, Willoughby and two-thirds of Ryde Councils 14,139 Outcome: Stand alone as individual Council and demonstrate it meets strategic capacity set out by State Government Outcome: Form a Joint Regional Authority of individual councils that strategically plan and deliver services on a regional basis.
Summary:
• Meets State Government targets of scale and capacity
• Population of 290,000 shared amongst 15 Councillors
• Regional collaboration on services, advocacy and resources
• Upfront costs to merge
• Some initial funding provided for Councils that merge – additional costs to be borne by Councils
• Merged entities to be in place by March 2016.
Summary:
• Does not meet State Government targets of scale
• Population and Councillor representation remains
• Retains local services and existing financial sustainability
• Triggers the need to demonstrate strategic capacity under the Fit for the Future framework
• May still result in mergers based on the assessment of the response by October 2015.
Summary:
• Meets the State Government targets of capacity and alternate framework to achieve scalability
• Population and Councillor representation remains with added benefit of wider regional representation
• Retains local services while providing benefits of regional collaboration at strategic level
• Existing financial sustainability strengthened where shared services are available
• Funding only initially earmarked for rural/regional councils

Joint Submission

As of 30 June 2015 Lane Cove, Ryde and Hunter's Hill have submitted their proposal to the NSW government. Their submission can be found in the Downloads at the bottom of this page in three parts, Cover letter, Joint Submission and Attachments. Note that the attachments are very large, and may take some time to download.

#YES2JRA Signing of Memorandum Of Understanding

On Tuesday 21 July 2015, in an historic show of unity, Hunter’s Hill Council, Lane Cove Council and the City of Ryde, celebrated the culmination of a collaborative process between the three Councils, through the official signing of their Joint Regional Authority (JRA), Memorandum of Understanding.

The process undertaken by the three Councils in the lead up to the Joint Response Submission to the State Government’s Fit for the Future reform program, has included the rejection of forced amalgamations and details the formation of a Joint Regional Authority.

The submission outlined the robust community engagement process that was undertaken and the details of the extensive research and assessment process, demonstrating that the JRA proposal is a superior alternative to amalgamation and one that meets the State Government’s scale and capacity criteria.

Hunter’s Hill Mayor, Clr Richard Quinn, said: “The Joint Regional Authority model is a way for local councils to stay local, retain their close community representation and autonomy over local character and development. It will band us together as we work co-operatively on areas of common interest such as sharing services to gain efficiencies and working together on regional priorities and advocacy.”

Ryde Mayor Clr Bill Pickering said our Councils are committed to working proactively with the State Government and were never opposed to local government reform: “This MOU sends a strong signal to the State Government that our three councils are working together for the benefit of our communities. We can immediately get a better, more efficient and financially beneficial result through co-operation rather than through any disruptive process of forced amalgamation, or in the case of Ryde the destructive splitting of our city.

“Our residents want proper local representation and to keep local government ‘local’. We can preserve this important framework, but this memorandum also provides a stated and signed commitment by Ryde, Hunters Hill and Lane Cove councils to deliver planning at a sub-regional level and greater efficiencies through joint service provision where appropriate.

“This MOU further strengthens our determination for a Joint Regional Authority model as being the best way forward as part of the State Government’s Fit for the Future agenda.”

The signing the Joint Regional Authority Memorandum of Understanding in July 2015

Lane Cove Mayor, Clr David Brooks-Horn, said: “As a lifelong resident of Lane Cove, I understand the connection that the community has to Council. Each resident knows that they can contact their Councillor about issues that they have and that they can also contact key staff at Council and have their concerns addressed. The discussion about amalgamations has raised within the Lane Cove community concerns about the loss of local democracy and access to local Councillors and to staff. They also have concerns about how their assets will be treated ranging from parks and bushland to the Library services. Lane Cove residents truly value the local in local government.”

The JRA is a superior proposal to the Independent Local Government Review Panel’s proposals and a JRA in Metropolitan Sydney is a more viable and advantageous model to that of amalgamation.

Core benefits of the JRA include:

  • Subregional land use and infrastructure planning (Single approach to subregional planning priorities and policy, Central management, Single set of State/Major local infrastructure priorities and Subregional Section 94 Plan)
  • Single point of contact for State and Federal Government
  • Subregional advocacy
  • Subregional procurement
  • Shared service centre for economies of scale

Parliamentary Inquiry-Joint Submission

Lane Cove, Hunter's Hill and City of Ryde representatives attend the Fit For The Future Parliamentary Inquiry on 23 August 2015

An inquiry into the NSW State Government’s Fit for the Future proposals will be held by the Upper House (NSW Legislative Council). The purpose of the inquiry is to examine the proposed impact of forced council mergers on rates, local infrastructure, investment and maintenance.

Attached is our joint submission by the City of Ryde, Hunter’s Hill and Lane Cove Councils for the consideration of the Committee to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Local Government in NSW and the State Government’s Fit For the Future Reform agenda.

On Monday 24 August 2015, representatives from Hunter’s Hill, Ryde and Lane Cove Councils appeared at the Upper House Inquiry into local Government in NSW Parliament House to present the Joint Regional Submission.

Mayor Richard Quinn was accompanied by Ryde General Manager Gail Connolly and Lane Cove General Manager Craig Wrightson who demonstrated that the JRA proposal is a superior alternative to amalgamation and one that meets the State Government’s scale and capacity criteria.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was also presented, which highlighted the strength and determination for a Joint Regional Authority model as being the best way forward as part of the State Government’s Fit for the Future agenda.

Council has now made its submission to the NSW Government, however follows with interest the details of the Upper House Inquiry into the Fit for the Future Reform Agenda. The Inquiry will examine:

  • the Fit for the Future criteria
  • The right size for local councils in NSW
  • Costs and benefits of council amalgamations for local residents and businesses
  • How amalgamations could affect rates and investment in local infrastructure
  • The role of partnership models where councils work together and with the State Government cooperatively to deliver results.

The State Government is committed to releasing their decision on all Council submissions by October 2015.

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