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Marrickville the biggest Yes voters in Inner West De-Amalgamation poll

Newly elected Marrickville councillor Justine Langford (centre) with a Victor Macri campaign member (left) and Residents for De-Amalgamation member Andrew Chuter (right). Photo: Residents for De-Amalgamation.

By DANIEL LO SURDO

The inner west’s poll on de-amalgamation showed that voters from the former Marrickville Council were most in support of splitting the current Inner West Council back to its three former councils. 

Results from the NSW Electoral Commission found that 62.5 per cent of inner west voters favoured the return of the former Marrickville, Leichhardt and Ashfield councils, with the largest proportion of Yes voters in Marrickville, whereby 65.2 per cent of voters supported de-amalgamation. Marrickville had the lowest previous rates and faced the highest rate rises under new council management. 

“It just shows you the level of satisfaction with the amalgamation thus far from the people of Marrickville,” former Inner West Deputy Mayor and Marrickville Mayor Victor Macri told the Independent

“They feel like they’re not getting the same type of service that they were getting under the old Marrickville Council, and it comes down to the responsiveness of the council and their ability to engage – a large organisation is struggling to engage with their community, and you’ll find that is pretty common across the whole LGA.” 

Calls for de-amalgamation came after the community felt that Inner West Council, which was formed in 2016 after a forced merger by the NSW Government, was failing in addressing local priorities and had become overwhelmed by party politics. A return to the former Marrickville, Leichhardt and Ashfield councils was proposed as a solution, where a stronger ratio of councillors and council staff per ratepayer would feasibly return the local focus to the inner west. 

“I don’t profess to know all the issues in Balmain or Leichhardt or Ashfield, because I’m not local to that area,” Mr Macri said. 

“It’s about having that corporate knowledge to know something that is integral to that grid or square and you need to have out of the box thinking, and that’s where the place suffers.” 

Labor’s success at the inner west elections has positioned the party to lead the preparation of a de-amalgamation business case to the Local Government Minister, despite a hesitancy to return the area to its three former councils. 

“We would argue to support not [de-amalgamating],” Labor councillor Mark Drury said in November. “If the people vote strongly in favour … obviously then we as elected representatives will prosecute that with the state government.” 

Managing the Majority

With Labor having secured an eight-seat majority in the council chamber, it is all but certain that Cr Darcy Byrne will return as inner west mayor. Cr Byrne has expressed concern with the potential costs of de-amalgamation, with an assessment report filed by independent consultant Morrison Low estimating over $48 million in one-off and ongoing expenses relating to de-amalgamation. The report also predicted that Marrickville rates would be almost $400 less than Ashfield and Leichhardt following a de-amalgamation, despite an overall $297 increase. 

Cr Byrne pledged a commitment to the “whole Inner West community” upon helping secure a Labor majority in the next term of council.

“We will seek to include all councillors from all groups in decision making,” he told the Independent

“Our team will be focused on the future and we want to make sure the Inner West is as good as the people it serves.” 

The Inner West Greens, the only other party represented on council, was supportive of de-amalgamation throughout the election campaign, with candidates imploring a residents first model moving forward.  

“We’ve lost our local, we’ve lost our number of councillors who understand the area that we live in,” newly elected Greens councillor Liz Atkins said in November. 

The Greens retained five seats at the elections, yet failed to capitalise on the Liberal disendorsement of former councillors Vittoria Raciti and Julie Passas to remain in direct competition with Labor, who held the same number of seats as the Greens in the previous council term. Labor won both of the seats previously occupied by Ms Raciti and Passas, while also securing the position previously held by Mr Macri.

Seeking Support

As part of an amendment to the Local Government Act 1993, the cost of any de-amalgamation of a new area resulting from a business case will be “fully funded” by the state government. 

A de-amalgamation business case will be considered by the Local Government Minister, who was recently appointed as Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman after predecessor Shelley Hancock announced she would not be contesting the 2023 state election. 

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