BY OUR CIVIC ROUNDSMAN
Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she will continue the Baird dictatorship’s forced merger of Hunters Hill, Lane Cove and Ryde Councils despite the political cost to herself and her government.
Premier Berejiklian announced the Valentine’s Day massacre of our local democracy at a stormy press conference at NSW Parliament shortly after 1pm yesterday, although forced mergers in regional New South Wales have been called off.
She conceded the decision will have grave consequences for the Liberals in the upcoming North Shore by election due to anger at the mergers across Northern Sydney but rejected media comments that councils like Hunters Hill and Lane Cove are as unique and as independent as their counterparts in the bush.
“I don’t buy that argument and I want to make sure that every community in Sydney is treated the same, even if its a personal expense to me or to my Members,” she said.
Gladys Valentines Day Massacre Warning
‘She’s gone like Baird before her’
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has admitted that her decision to go ahead with all suburban Council mergers will be unpopular in many areas.
And she realises that it will be difficult to win all three by-elections that will be coming up soon following the resignation of North Shore MP Jillian Skinner, Premier Mike Baird in Manly and now a Labor seat on the Central Coast due to ill health.
In her speech at Monday’s announcement she said:
“I appreciate that there are pockets of angst, you never make a decision with 100 per cent support but if we were worried about political considerations we wouldn’t proceed.
“I know it’s not in my personal best interest but it is in the best interest of Sydney.”
Save Hunters Hill Municipality Coalition spokesman Phil Jenkyn was at Parliament House and agreed this is not in Gladys Berejiklian’s best interest.
“She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s just gone like Baird before her,” he said.
“I’ve said today’s speech will make or break her and she’s broken.”
He said he is angry the new Premier will not concede that Hunters Hill and Lane Cove are unique and their independence should be respected and protected.
“She doesn’t understand heritage, she doesn’t understand identity and she doesn’t understand community,” he said.
“She’s just a clone of Mike Baird but with an appalling lack of leadership skills.”
The Premier’s speech repeatedly stressed that the government is building infrastructure “the like of which the nation has never seen” but Mr Jenkyn reads this as a willingness to put property developers before communities.
“The Property Council of New South Wales has told her what to do and this is an absolute disgrace,” he said.
The coming North Shore by election looms as the Liberals first political cost.
“There will be angst in some communities,” the Premier said
“Obviously I face a by election in North Shore which is against forced mergers and there is no doubt this makes it difficult for us to win North Shore.
“But this is not about elected officials, it is about making communities stronger.”
Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton said Councils court cases against forced mergers – including Hunters Hill, Lane Cove and Strathfield – will go ahead as scheduled.
Ms Upton refused to be drawn on the forced merger of her own local council of Woollahra, which has a High Court Appeal against is forced merger with Randwick and Waverley.
“The Premier has made it clear that the five (outstanding) council mergers will proceed,” she said.
Council elections are scheduled for September 9 this year.