By Lydia Watson-Moore
The majority of Sydney councils remained defiant against forced amalgamations as the state government’s ‘Fit for the Future’ deadline passed on June 30.
While most councils including Marrickville, City of Sydney and Woollahra positioned themselves as against forced mergers, Waverley, Randwick and Leichhardt stood out as the few willing to propose a submission.
Waverley and Randwick councils submitted a joint merger proposal, amid community and council rift and controversy.
Waverley Council required two rescission meetings, the latest on Sunday June 28, to finally vote in favour of proposing the Waverley-Randwick merge.
Labor, Greens and Independent councillors had been firmly against the move, along with community precinct representatives.
Nor did Randwick vote unanimously, with several councillors pushing for a referendum of Randwick citizens on the issue.Randwick Liberal Councillor Harry Stavrinos said that while he wanted Randwick to stand alone as a single council, the government had given them no other option.
“At the end of the day it was forced upon us and we really didn’t have a choice,” he said.
“The problem that we faced was that if we didn’t put in a submission, the fear that I had, along with my fellow councillors, was that we could in fact become part of the global city.”
Both Waverley and Randwick councils were against the ‘global city’ put forward by the state government as the default merge, which would see the eastern councils merge with City of Sydney.
However Woollahra and Botany Bay councils, who are also part of the proposed ‘global city’, refused Waverley and Randwick’s invitation to join their submission. Woollahra Mayor Toni Zeltzer was adamant that standing alone wouldproduce the best results for their community.
“Our community has told us that they are strongly opposed to amalgamation and I and my fellow councillors voted unanimously to defend Woollahra’s strong case for standing alone,” Clr Zeltzer said in a statement.
Botany Bay Council similarly remains defiant to stand alone, as Mayor Ben Keneally told Randwick and Waverley “thanks but no thanks”.
Leichhardt, took a similar approach to Waverley and Randwick and submitted a proposal in fear of the inner west ‘mega council’ recommendation by the Fit for the Future panel.
In a decision shrouded in controversy, Labor and Liberal Leichhardt councillors united to propose a merge with Ashfield and Canada Bay, should the government ignore their first preference of standing alone.
Marrickville Council was also part of the inner west ‘mega council’ plan but refused to submit a merger proposal.
Marrickville Greens Councillor Sylvie Ellsmore said that Marrickville’s only preference was to stand alone.
“We have not put forward a ‘Plan B’ merger preference, because under every merger option we investigated, council and residents would be financially worse off,” she said.
City of Sydney also remained firm in its preference of no amalgamation. Independent councillor Angela Vithoulkas told City Hub that the government needed to consult the community on their opinion.
“The City has clearly shown it’s fit for the future as a stand alone,” she said.
“I think there should be absolutely more community engagement.”
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) now has until October to assess council submissions against the Fit for the Future criteria.Sydney residents continue to rally against forced amalgamation, with the Save Our Councils Coalition hosting regular rallies.