BY OUR CIVIC ROUNDSMAN
Our local Mayors, General Managers and Councillors are being ask to betray our communities and serve as pro-government puppets on a non-elected, pro mega council, interim regime.
In a letter from Local Government Minister Paul Toole obtained by The Weekly Times on Easter Thursday, local representatives from ‘former council areas’ are being asked to nominate themselves as administrators backed by a hand picked group of political sympathisers prepared to betray our communities and their own stated opposition, possibly for personal gain.
“The Government is committed to ensuring effective implementation of any merger that goes ahead”, the Toole letter says.
“That is why the Government wants to hear from currently serving councillors who are committed to the success of any new council.
“The NSW Government is considering options for providing currently serving councillors with an opportunity to help shape the future of any new council.
“Options available include the appointment of a single person or group of people (which may include councillors for presently existing council areas) to act as administrators of any new council, or the continuation in office of some or all councillors from the former council areas, as councillors of a new area until the first ordinary election of the new council.
“In addition, new councils may establish committees to advise them on implementation of the merger and/or represent the local community.”
The letter was sent as NSW Boundary Commission is in the process of analysing community feedback on the forced merger of Hunters Hill, Lane Cove and Ryde Councils, where 84 per cent of ratepayers are strongly opposed to it.
Although the letter does not mention “thirty pieces of silver”, The Weekly Times expects that any betraying councillor or general manager will have his or her expenses remunerated.
Save Hunters Hill Municipality Coalition spokesperson Phil Jenkyn said any local councillor who agrees to serve as a pro-government puppet will not only betray their community but will betray their own council’s unanimously agreed official position to oppose forced mergers.
“This is a toxic letter and any councillor who has been fighting to save their democratically elected council will sell out and betray their own community and their own declared position if they sign up to this letter,” he said.
“It is a letter asking them to ditch the people who voted for them, to help destroy local democracy and to join a gang of compliant Liberal Party puppets.”
The Toole letter concedes that ‘no decision has been taken on any merger proposal’ and defends its action as being a response to questions by councillors.
“Many councils have been putting forward suggestions for interim governance arrangements and have been asking for clarity on the next steps”, the letter says.
“To assist in this process, the Government is seeking expressions of interest (EOI’s) from councillors who wish to be considered for a role in shaping the new council.”
“Expressions of Interest will be considered and councillors will be notified of the outcome by mid-2016 to ensure effective local representation is in place to meet the unique needs of any new local government area”.
General Managers are also being invited to betray our communities.
“A process for council General Managers is also being conducted to identify suitably qualified interim General Managers for any newly created council”, the letter says.
Mr Jenkyn said Hunters Hill’s local coalition will campaign on the issue in the upcoming Federal Election, despite North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman’s strong personal opposition to forced mergers and Bennelong MP John Alexander’s reluctance to buy into a State politics.
“We will target the Liberal Party with the same vendetta with which it has targeted our local community”, Mr Jenkyn said.
“We will target the Liberal Party because we are being denied democracy by the Liberal Party, although let me say there are decent Liberal Party people in our community who are working day and night to see Paul Toole and the Baird Government rolled out of office over this.
“These people are, quite frankly, appalled that in Hunters Hill, Lane Cove and Ryde our history, traditions, grassroots democracy, local services and community events are being set up to be sacrificed on a mega council, without one local elected representative from Hunters Hill and probably just one or two from Lane Cove.
“I can assure you there are decent Liberals who believe this shocking action by Mike Baird and Paul Toole should disqualify this government from governing, as we believe it should”.
It is not known if any local councillor or general manager will take up the offer in the Toole letter.
Lane Cove MP Anthony Roberts has previously spoken against forced mergers and sent a letter to local Mayors supporting their Joint Regional Authority model which would preserve each council and elect representatives to an Authority to decide shared interests.
Ryde MP Victor Dominello and Drummoyne MP John Sidoti support local forced mergers.
Mr Dominello has opposed West Ryde being forcibly merged into Parramatta.