Hunters Hill ups stakes in big northern gamble

BY OUR CIVIC ROUNDSMAN

Hunters Hill Council has 22 days to convince the Baird Government to accept a super-sized Northern Sydney version of its already disregarded Joint Regional Authority proposal.

The Baird State Government last week ruled that Hunters Hill, Lane Cove and Ryde are ‘unfit for the future’ which prompted outraged Hunters Hill councillors on Monday night to vote to explore options to form a northern Joint Regional Authority with councils expected to include Willoughby and Hornsby.

Councillors’ 22 day gamble specifically responds to the three local councils’ failure to meet the government so-called ‘bigger is better’ criteria of scale and capacity and comes only seven days after the government snubbed their first Joint Regional Authority proposal.

Hunters Hill, Ryde and Lane Cove will now consider a united fight back in the 22 days left of the Baird government’s ‘thirty days only’ response period.

Hunters Hill Councillors also debated possible legal action against to the government as they blasted its actions and rhetoric as insulting, offensive and wrong.

“The State Government’s approach has been a complete breach of trust,” Deputy Mayor Justine McLaughlin said.

“It is just appalling that we have been treated in this way and there was never any intention to consider our JRA proposal.

Councillor Meredith Sheil agreed.

“I’m offended, completely and utterly, to be called unfit for the future and I feel very strongly we require a legal opinion on these claims being made against our council.

“The gloves are off.”

Councillor Peter Astridge said the community should debate whether or not State governments are fit for the future and Clr Mark Bennett expressed concern about the future of Hunters Hill staff who could be sacked under a distant, unresponsive mega council regime.

“We’re a small council doing it tough with only 50 or so people providing every type of service to our community and I think they do a great job,” he said.

“We won’t need all this staff on a mega council and we need to fight and we need to fight for our staff.”

Save Hunters Hill Municipality Coalition spokesman Phil Jenkyn told the meeting that more than 80 per cent of local residents support The Weekly Times’ campaign to Save Our Councils and he compared the Baird Government’s action to the actions of a repressive South American junta.

“This is Sydney, not a dictatorship in South America .. although I shouldn’t say that because South America is doing well in comparison,” he said.

“There they know what they’re doing; this government has no idea what it is doing !

“In fact it is still going around saying councils are losing a million dollars a day, which is an outrageous claim, totally wrong.”

Mr Jenkyn this week further attacked the government for not having the procedural fair play to wait for the outcome of a Legislative Council inquiry into forced council mergers before it announced the mega council plan and subsequently ruled smaller councils ‘unfit’ for the future.

“You’ve now got The Shooters Party, The Greens, Fred Nile and the Christian Democrats as well as Labor all walking together and only the Liberals walking the other way, it is the first time this has ever happened.”