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The rally held at Merrylands. The rally held at Merrylands.
08 March 2015 Posted by 

COUNCIL AMALGAMATION DEBATE

Message clear: hands off our Holroyd

By Di Bartok

THE message could not be clearer - residents overwhelmingly support Holroyd Council’s fight against amalgamation, by force or stealth, with any neighbouring council.

If a telephone survey of 71 per cent support for the Hands Off Holroyd campaign did not prove it, a public meeting of about 250 residents in the Holroyd Centre last night brought the message home - “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”.

There was no dissenting voice among the residents, even though there was ample opportunity for both sides to be heard.

But there was only one side evident as residents sought answers from the official guests.

And they were: NSW Shadow Minister for Local Government Sophie Cotsis, Liberal candidate for Fairfield Charbel Saliban, Fairfield Labor MP Guy Zangari, Labor candidate Prospect Hugh McDermott, Smithfield Liberal MP Andrew Rohan, Labor candidate for Granville Julia Finn, Greens candidate Granville James Atanasious and Greens candidate for Prospect Sujan Selven.

Granville Liberal MP Tony Issa could not attend.

Moderator, businessman Dr Jim Taggart asked the speakers straight-up if they supported the amalgamation of Holroyd with Parramatta, Auburn and parts of Ryde and the Hills and the reason.

Ms Cotsis said “no council will be forced to amalgamate” under a Labor NSW government, although she hinted that amalgamations could happen if communities voted for them.

The shadow minister said she was especially impressed with Holroyd Council, singling out its apprenticeship program as an example of how local government helped communities.

Ms Cotsis pointed to the Queensland example of forced amalgamations that did not work and cost the communities when councils were “de-amalgamated.

Fairfield Labor MP Guy Zangari accused the Liberal government of “blackmailing” councils with the $1 billion incentive to voluntarily merge.

Mr Zangari said the concerns of residents “in multi-million dollar homes” in Ryde were “completely different to the needs of people in Holroyd”.

“Local councils understand the needs of locals,” he said.

Granville Labor candidate Julia Finn, a passionate heritage fighter, worried how an amalgamation with Parramatta would affect Holroyd’s historic jewel, Linnwood House, as it would have to compete with Parramatta’s heritage properties for the restoration dollar.

While all speakers said they did not support forced amalgamations, Smithfield Liberal MP Andrew Rohan was put on the spot when a resident asked if he would “cross the floor” if the government put a motion to amalgamate councils, if re-elected on March 28.

“That would be something that we would discuss in the Liberal Party room first,” Mr Rohan said to groans from the audience. Under pressure he said: “If I have to cross the floor, I will.”

Mayor Greg Cummings said mergers were being pushed to suit big businesses that wanted to have an easier way of dealing with local government.

He said he was “disappointed that former state member for Granville David Borger is driving this.” David Borger is western Sydney director of the Sydney Business Chamber.

Merrylands Chamber of Commerce John Perry agreed amalgamations suited big businesses. “There is more to local government than big business,” he said.

At the rally, residents’ concerns over Holroyd amalgamating with other councils centred around lack of service, cutback in services and impersonal telephone service (ie, “talking to a machine or someone overseas”.)

Holroyd facts

•    One of the few debt-free councils.
•    Employs 400 garbage collectors and childcare staff.
•    Has free immunisation - Parramatta doesn’t.
•    Had 250 pc increase of DAs over year.
•    On track with vital infrastructure.
•    Has events tailored to area.
•    Close to the people.

Nothing forced about it, says Government

THE NSW government has been encouraging councils throughout the state to consider merging with neighbouring councils, as suggested in its Revitalising Local Government, released in October 2013.

The review was brought about by concern that some smaller, mostly rural councils, were running at a loss and would benefit from merging with other councils.

While the government says “there will be no forced amalgamations”, it has been offering councils a $1 billion incentive to merge voluntarily.

The suggestion is for Holroyd to merge with Parramatta, Auburn and parts of Ryde and the Hills councils.

As one of the state’s most efficient councils, with no debt and a range of services that make other councils envious, Holroyd has mounted a strong campaign, driven by Labor Mayor Greg Cummings.

Despite the government saying there would be no forced amalgamations, Holroyd Council and residents fear that the government could move to merge councils after the March 28 election.

All councils have to submit a form - of 500 words - to the government to argue why they should not merge, by July.

The Hands Off Holroyd campaign is gathering strength, buoyed by a residents’ survey support of 71 per cent, and culminating in two public meetings - the first drawing more than 250 people on February 26 and another one planned for March 19 at 6.30pm in the Holroyd Centre.



editor

Publisher and editor, Michael Walls.
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