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                    [post_date] => 2017-07-28 12:16:20
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                    [post_content] => 

It has now been a full 24 hours since the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that proposed council mergers before the courts will not proceed, and the original rejoicing and merriment in the streets is being replaced by anger and – well, more uncertainty.

“Due to the protracted nature of current legal challenges and the uncertainty this is causing ratepayers, those council amalgamations currently before the courts will not proceed,” the announcement said.

“We want to see councils focusing on delivering the best possible services and local infrastructure to their residents. That is why we are drawing a line under this issue today and ending the uncertainty,” the Premier said.

The following proposed mergers will not proceed:
  • Burwood, City of Canada Bay and Strathfield Municipal councils
  • Hornsby Shire and Ku-ring-gai councils
  • Hunter’s Hill, Lane Cove and City of Ryde councils
  • Mosman Municipal, North Sydney and Willoughby City councils
  • Randwick City, Waverley and Woollahra Municipal councils
Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton said it was important for local communities to have certainty in the lead up to the September local government elections. “The Government remains committed to reducing duplication, mismanagement and waste by councils so communities benefit from every dollar spent,” Ms Upton said. Naturally, most of the merged councils now want to explore de-merging, and the once who had put up a fight, want to recover their legal costs. And of course the Premier did not, and refuses to, guarantee that the mergers will not be attempted again past the elections. Shadow Minister for Local Government Peter Primrose MLC said: “The justification for forced mergers has been a political fix from day one. The Government must release the KPMG report and stop avoiding scrutiny. “Premier Gladys Berejiklian has failed to rule out forced council amalgamations beyond 2019. As well, the Government must release the secret $400,000 KPMG report used by the former Premier to justify the forced mergers.” NSW Labor is now demanding Premier Berejiklian allow communities in forcibly merged councils to hold referendums to choose whether or not to demerge. Not our fault: developers Whilst developer lobby group Urban Taskforce was keen on the amalgamations, it distanced itself from the NSW Government’s version. “The Urban Taskforce originally proposed a council reform that had a district structure for planning decisions and left local matters to local councils,” said Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson. “The NSW Government’s back down on their version of council reform means the scale of thinking about growth will now be local not regional. The value of larger councils was to move management and planning to a less local and more regional level but it seems the government’s processes were not legally tight and appeals have delayed the process leading to uncertainty for all. “The Urban Taskforce believes that the NSW Government must now play a much stronger role in driving housing supply with councils only focussing on local issues.” “The Urban Taskforce is concerned that today’s back down indicates a less reformist approach by the NSW Government than its previous position. This more cautious approach a year and a half before the next state election could put many important initiatives on hold.” Let’s have some stability The association of Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW welcomed the government’s announcement on council amalgamations, bringing sector stability before September elections. “The uncertainty the amalgamations agenda have brought to the sector have been a huge resource drain on local councils and have distracted the sector from much needed reform to address sector innovation, misconduct in local government, cost shifting, rate pegging and professional development,” said general manager of Hunter’s Hill Council and president of Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW Barry Smith. “We were engaged from the start of the reform process back in late 2011 where the entire local government sector came together to develop real solutions. Regrettably, the focus shifted toward amalgamations, and it is a shame it has taken six years for the State Government to allow all councils to get on with the job of delivering for their community.” The Independent Local Government Review Panel, which first proposed amalgamations, included 64 other recommendations to improve council performance. “Despite sector uncertainty, we have been committed to providing sector wide professional development opportunities, significant council improvement programs and support for councils going through amalgamations. “With this change in policy, we would welcome Minister Upton proactively re-engaging with the sector to ensure that real reform issues raised during the Destination 2036 discussions are dealt with. We must all refocus on supporting innovative council practices and solutions to improve performance, and address critical workforce shortfalls,” chief executive officer Annalisa Haskell said. Back to the courts Without exception, the councils that fought the merger are expected to put in a claim to recover their legal expenses. Additionally, many of the 20 merged councils will seek to de-merge or at least hold plebiscites. And the ones that wanted to merge? Hornsby Shire Council welcomed its proposed merger with Ku-ring-gai, which involved it ceding lucrative rate areas in Epping to Parramatta Council. Parramatta Council happily took these areas while Ku-ring-gai decided to fight, leaving Hornsby in the lurch. [post_title] => Councils: first the clarity, now for the confusion [post_excerpt] => While most councils are rejoicing, the future is still uncertain. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => councils-first-clarity-now-confusion [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-28 12:16:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-28 02:16:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27724 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27402 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-06-16 10:40:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-16 00:40:21 [post_content] => Hilltops Council is one of the NSW councils facing a bill for its merger. Pic: Facebook.   The NSW government has left some councils with hefty bills to pay since their forced amalgamations in May last year. Government News understands that mergers have ended up costing some NSW councils more than the state government merger and transition funding they were given. Rural and regional councils, in particular, are resentful because they received only half of what metropolitan councils were given to cover the process and yet they often receive much less from rates and have lower reserves. Rural and regional councils received $5 million for each merger, while metropolitan councils were handed $10 million for their mergers under the state government’s New Council Implementation Fund (NCIF). But there were caveats. The funding could only be used for certain things, such as getting expert advice and integrating IT systems, but not to pay ongoing staff costs or council administrators, who replace councillors and mayors until the local government elections in September. Councils were also given between $10 to $15 million of Stronger Communities funding to go towards community projects and infrastructure. Despite the funding, some councils are finding there is a reality gap. Hilltops Council, a merger between Boorowa, Harden and Young Councils in the South West Slopes of the state, estimates that it will end up spending $6.5 million on its merger, a shortfall of $1.5 million. Greens MP and Local Government Spokesperson David Shoebridge said residents of the three former council areas would be ‘shaking their heads’ at the figures and wondering where the $1.5 million extra would come from. “Every independent expert said at the start of this process that amalgamations would be more expensive and more disruptive than the government pretended, and now we are seeing this come true,” Mr Shoebridge said. “The incompetence of the Coalition is really staggering, and now they are expecting residents in the local councils they have destroyed to meet the cost of their failure.” Hilltops General Manager Anthony McMahon said he did not understand the logic behind giving rural and regional councils significantly less funding to cover their merger costs than their metro counterparts. “In our case, we’ve been responsible for bringing three councils together that are geographically separated,” Mr McMahon said. “We’re also a water utility and we have additional constraints in relation to having two former councils with populations under 5,000, which means we have to comply with Section 218CA of the Local Government Act.  These factors are not a consideration for metro councils.” The council will finalise its transitional costs and then consider whether to lobby the state government for the money. “We’re focused on ensuring Hilltops Council is adequately resourced to complete the merger process, and will be making representations to Minister Upton accordingly,” Mr McMahon said. “We’ve made clear our determination in ensuring the community does not pay for merger-related costs.” But it is not only regional councils who have been left to pick up the tab for the mergers most of them fought hard against. Sydney’s Northern Beaches Council, an amalgam of Manly, Pittwater and Warringah Councils, received $10 million for its upfront merger costs and has only $105,000 left in the kitty. The council’s biggest outlays were $2.5 million for staff redundancies and $2.8 million for system integration. Northern Beaches Council acknowledges it faces further restructuring costs in the draft of its 2017-2018 Operational Plan. “It is recognised that council will incur further restructuring costs such as the cost of integration, aligning positions within the new organisational structure and new salary system which will exceed the funding provided,” says the plan. “Accordingly the Long Term Financial Plan has been prepared on the basis that once the NCIF has been fully utilised, existing budgets will firstly be used to pay for those merger and transition costs not funded through this mechanism prior to the identification of net savings.” Brian Halstead President of Save Our Councils Coalition, a community group against forced council mergers, said a funding shortfall had always been on the cards. “The amount that the government allowed was based on the KPMG report, which under costed amalgamations and because they’re not allowing councils to book the ongoing staff costs and administrators against the funding,” Mr Halstead said. He said some council staff were spending 25 per cent of their time managing the merger process, including harmonising service delivery and staff pay and conditions, and that NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian should stump up the extra cash. “If I was a ratepayer, I would be thinking that these amalgamations have been forced on them by state government. It’s only reasonable that the state government bear the costs of amalgamation but I doubt any of the administrators will [ask] because they’re paid public servants.” Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President Keith Rhoades said he was not surprised that merger costs had exceeded the funding available. “LGNSW, along with a number of academics and other experts, argued strongly throughout the process that there was a strong potential for additional costs,” Mr Rhoades said. “It was always clear that the cost of individual amalgamations would vary from council to council depending on readiness, systems compatibility, staff skills etc and in fact this is one reason why forced amalgamations can be more difficult than those that are achieved voluntarily, after extensive meaningful consultation.” Roberta Ryan, Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Governance at the University of Technology Sydney, said it was hard to predict the cost of mergers but the state government had given it their best shot at trying to work it out from past experience. She said the cost of mergers would depend partly upon the extent of co-operation between councils before they merged, for example through shared IT systems and services and the level of regulatory harmony in an area. “I understand there has been a shortfall for a number of councils,” Ms Ryan said. “Many regional and rural councils would have found it harder and more expensive because the amount [they were given] was less and some of them may not have been working towards some of these things that some of the metro councils were.” The ability of new councils to absorb any cost blowout was highly variable, she said. “Some councils have good reserves but some of the smaller ones are very strapped financially.” Asked when the true costs and savings from mergers would be known she said: “Not ever - as we don’t have the base line data available - there can be overall benefits and improvements - that may have happened even if the amalgamations didn’t happen.” The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) would not say whether any NSW councils had approached Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton to fund the shortfall or whether the government would act, should this occur. The DPC statement would only say: “The NSW Government has provided an unprecedented level of support to new local councils. “The NSW Government provided new councils with $375 million to implement the mergers and kick start investment in new services and infrastructure for their residents. “New councils in regional areas received $5 million to cover the costs of merging, as well as $10 million for a merger of two councils or $15 million for a merger of three councils, which is to be used for community, services and infrastructure projects.” [post_title] => NSW councils fork out for forced mergers as government funding dries up [post_excerpt] => Councils could petition Berejiklian for shortfall. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-councils-fork-forced-mergers-government-funding-dries [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-16 14:53:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-16 04:53:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27402 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27273 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-31 16:33:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-31 06:33:43 [post_content] => A crowdfunding campaign to restore Pittwater Council and enable it to break away from the Northern Beaches Council reached 75 per cent of its target in a matter of days. The campaign, led by newly-formed community group Protect Pittwater, aims to raise $10,000 through crowdfunding platform Chuffed. So far $7,125 has been raised and 58 people have donated since the campaign went live at 1pm on Tuesday this week. Pittwater, Manly and Warringah Councils were the subject of a forced council merger and became the Northern Beaches Council in May 2016. Ex-Pittwater councillor and retired barrister Bob Grace said the initial goal of $10,000 was enough for legal advice and a statement of claim. “I think it’s really a super response and it shows by the number of people donating that the people out here in Pittwater want to go back, fight the government and get Pittwater back,” Mr Grace said. “It’s really exciting, the way that people have responded. It’s unbelievable.”   The campaign has been partly inspired by the recent success of Ku-ring-gai Council, which won an appeal against a forced merger with part of Hornsby Shire Council after the Court of Appeal found it had been “denied procedural process” and ordered the NSW government to pay the council’s costs in March. Woollahra Council won a victory of sorts earlier in the High Court in May when it was granted special leave to appeal its forced merger with Randwick and Waverley Councils after losing its Land and Environment Court case in December 2016. Another local residents’ group, Local Democracy Matters, has also been formed to fight the merger and is meeting this Saturday at Bondi Pavilion. Both groups are considering their options and legal challenges are likely but NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has said she will press ahead with the mergers.  [post_title] => Crowdfunded council de-merger campaign starts strong [post_excerpt] => Residents fight NSW government on mergers. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => crowdfunding-campaign-break-away-pittwater-northern-beaches-council-starts-strong [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-02 14:54:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-02 04:54:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27273 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27259 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-30 12:38:43 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-30 02:38:43 [post_content] => NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts. Pic: Facebook     The Greens have come out swinging against the NSW government’s proposal to devolve local council’s planning powers on big projects to independent panels. The reforms, which Planning Minister Anthony Roberts will take to Cabinet on Thursday, state that development applications over a certain [as yet unspecified] value will be taken out of the hands of metropolitan councils and given to Independent Hearing and Assessment Panels (IHAPs). Cabinet will also decide on the value of DAs to be decided by IHAPs. However, there is talk that smaller regional councils may be able to choose whether to use IHAPs or not. The IHAPs are currently optional but are used by larger metro councils, such as Canterbury Bankstown. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian will be hoping the move – touted as a probity measure - will allow the government to outwit Opposition Leader Luke Foley, who has been pushing hard for developers and real estate agents to be banned from standing for local council election, sparked by former Auburn Deputy Mayor and property developer Salim Mehajer’s windfall from DA decisions he voted on while on council. Labor banned property developers from standing for pre-selection at any level of government in 2013, precipitated by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s intervention in the NSW branch to stamp out corruption. Last year NSW Premier Mike Baird banned councillors from voting on DAs where they could benefit financially, reverting to how the situation had been before 2012. But Greens MP and Planning spokesperson David Shoebridge said stripping councils of their planning powers would ‘do nothing to restore integrity or accountability to the NSW planning system’ and was ‘a real step backwards’. “Councillors are elected by their local community to make the tough decisions about their local area in a way that is transparent and accountable. This is directly contrary to that,” Mr Shoebridge said.  “This is yet another example of the Coalition government stripping democratically elected councils of their decision-making and authority.” He said that the changes would give the government the chance to handpick people from the property industry to make decisions on DAs. Instead, he said the government should ban property developers and real estate agents from standing for office. Local Government NSW, the peak body for councils in the state, is opposed to IHAPs being mandatory for councils. LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said in January this year that he was concerned they would create another layer of administration and decision-making.  “We’re concerned about the Planning Minister being given powers to impose local planning panels on councils, and about excluding councillors from those panels, because being the voice of the community is what they were elected to do,” Mr Rhoades said.  “We are opposed to any persistent erosion of the rights of communities and councils to have a real say in the future of their neighbourhoods via local planning powers.  “It is not clear what the criteria for replacing councillors with a local planning panel would be, and this needs clarification so there is no risk of arbitrary decisions.” [post_title] => NSW metro councils set to lose planning powers on big DAs [post_excerpt] => Cabinet decides on Thursday. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27259 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-31 11:23:08 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-31 01:23:08 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27259 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27158 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-05-18 13:07:35 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-18 03:07:35 [post_content] =>   Fighting for deamalgamation: former Pittwater councillor Bob Grace. Pic: YouTube.   Residents are gearing up to push NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to deamalgamate NSW councils forcibly merged in May last year, galvanised by recent court successes of two councils opposing their mergers. Ku-ring-gai Council, on Sydney’s upper north shore, scored a victory against the NSW government in March when the Court of Appeal found it had been “denied procedural process” during its merger because delegate Garry West relied on a report from consultants KPMG, which contained financial modelling that the council could not access. The state government was ordered to pay the council’s costs and decided not to appeal the decision but Ms Berejiklian has made it clear she will not back down on the merger and her next move is uncertain. Rebel councils had another opportunity to celebrate after Woollahra Council was granted special leave to appeal against its forced merger with Randwick and Waverley in the High Court last week, reigniting the council’s hopes after a failed attempt to challenge the legality of its amalgamation in the Land and Environment Court in December last year. The Ku-ring-gai and Woollahra cases have helped inspire the recent formation of two residents’ groups, which are hoping to stop some mergers and deamalgamate others. Local Democracy Matters represents people opposed to the merger of Woollahra, Randwick and Waverley Councils, which is still on the cards. Protect Pittwater is pushing for the succession of Pittwater from the Northern Beaches Council, which emerged from the former Manly, Pittwater and Warringah Councils in May last year. Both groups are considering their options and legal challenges are likely. Protect Pittwater is also planning to submit a proposal to the NSW Local Government Minister to redefine council boundaries and reinstate Pittwater Council under the NSW Local Government Act but first the group must gather the signatures of 250 of the enrolled voters for the area; or 10 per cent, whichever is greater. Minister Gabrielle Upton, would then have to refer the proposal for examination and report to the Boundaries Commission or to the Departmental Chief Executive if the action was taken under Section 218E of the act, which deals with boundary alterations. This could kick off the whole delegate, public hearing process all over again. Bob Grace from Protect Pittwater, who served for three years on Warringah Council and 20 years on Pittwater Council, said the action was necessary to protect the area from high rises and dense development, similar to that already visited upon Manly and Dee Why. He said there would only be three councillors out of 15 on the Northern Beaches council after the September local government elections and Warringah would hold sway. “They’ve sold us out and I think everyone agrees with that. We will win this case if we go to court,” Mr Grace, a retired barrister, said. “There is really strong feeling up here. People in Pittwater are different. They don’t want a vibrant atmosphere like Manly and they don’t want high rise.” The group will crowdfund the money needed for legal fees. “Crowdfunding will enable the community to contribute and take action on their [own] behalf. They can get their council back if they want to contribute,” Mr Grace said. “People are realising that this Northern Beaches Council is all spin. Services are going down and staff are leaving.” Local Democracy Matters spokeperson Richard Horniblow said residents wanted to keep councils ‘genuinely local’ but some councils had not put up enough resistance to the government’s merger plans. “While Woollahra [Council] has been working hard to protect its residents from a forced amalgamation, we have seen too little too late from Randwick and dreadful complicity by the Liberal majority in Waverley,” Mr Horniblow said. “Our association has members from across the political spectrum who are coming together with one goal: to protect our right to genuinely local government that meets the needs of local residents.” NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge said other councils where feelings still ran high could follow suit, for example Leichhardt, Gundagai and Tumbarumba.   “It is really heartening to see residents standing up so strongly for their councils and for their local democracy,” Mr Shoebridge said. “Residents in the east aren’t waiting for Waverley and Randwick Councils to come good and oppose the amalgamation but are now taking the state government to court themselves.” He said the Ku-ring-gai decision applied to all the government’s amalgamation proposals ‘on the face of it’ and this included Woollahra, Waverley and Randwick. Randwick Council agreed on Tuesday this week that it would mount a late legal challenge to its merger after two liberal councillors withdrew a rescission motion. Randwick Mayor Noel D’Souza said the council had received legal advice, which the council has said it will publish, which suggested it had grounds for appeal. “Randwick Council’s position has consistently been that we are financially viable and strong enough to stand alone,” Mr D’Souza said. “With the climate changing it’s prudent that we consider our options.” Merger court cases are still in progress for several hold-out councils, including Ku-ring-gai, Hunters Hill, North Sydney, Strathfield, Mosman, and Lane Cove. [post_title] => Residents clamour for NSW council deamalgamation after recent court wins [post_excerpt] => Randwick Council’s late legal challenge. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 27158 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-05-19 10:52:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-05-19 00:52:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=27158 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26847 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-04-07 10:22:17 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-07 00:22:17 [post_content] =>   If the bookies are right, Independent candidate Carolyn Corrigan could cause a huge upset in tomorrow’s (Saturday) North Shore by-election and topple the Liberals right where it hurts: in its leafy Sydney heartland. As the contest hots up in former NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner’s North Shore seat, online bookmaker Sportsbet.com.au has revealed that a flurry of late bets on Ms Corrigan’s chances have made the Libs look wobbly in a seat they hold by a 30.4 per cent margin. Will Byrne from Sportsbet.com.au said there was strong support for Ms Corrigan, whose odds had shortened significantly in the run-up to the election from $4.00 into $2.50, suggesting that Saturday’s state  by-election will be a close run thing. “The Liberals looked safe in North Shore but there’s been some money in the past few days to suggest the race is not run there yet,” Mr Byrne said. The North Shore electorate takes in the local government areas of Mosman and North Sydney and both councils have stridently resisted the state government’s attempts to merge them with their neighbours. Ms Corrigan is a former president of anti-forced council amalgamation community group Save Our Councils and she will be hoping the community’s rebellious sentiment continues to the ballot box. Independent candidate Carolyn Corrigan   But all is not lost for Liberal candidate Felicity Wilson, a former president of the NSW Liberal Women's Council, and she is still odds on to win at $1.50. Ms Wilson came under fire earlier this week when Fairfax published a story rubbishing her claims that she had lived in the lower North Shore electorate – in Neutral Bay, Waverton and Wollstonecraft - for more than a decade. Electoral records showed she had lived in several addresses outside the electorate at various points during five of those twelve years. Ms Wilson later apologised, calling it an ‘unintentional error’. She was also criticised for claiming that the first ever vote she cast was for John Howard in Bennelong in 2001. Fairfax countered her claim by saying she lived in Marrickville, in the Grayndler electorate, at the time and could not have done so. She later admitted she had made a mistake. But whether this controversy is serious enough to cruel Ms Wilson’s chances is another matter. North Shore has been considered a very safe blue ribbon Liberal seat since 1991, although it has fallen to independents in the past, most notably to Independent North Sydney Mayor Ted Mack. Interestingly, it is not a two horse race. In fact, the Greens have outpolled Labor to come second in the last three state elections. However, Sportsbet has Greens candidate Justin Alick at $34, with a Donald Trump-style shock needed for a payout. Liberal candidate Felicity Wilson with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian Sportsbet will be hoping it makes a better fist of predicting the North Shore result than it did when Donald Trump scored a shock victory in the US election in November last year when the company reportedly paid out $11 million to 25,000 punters who picked Trump for POTUS. This weekend also sees two other NSW by-elections, former NSW Premier Mike Baird’s seat of Manly and Gosford, which was vacated by Labor MP Kathy Smith when she retired due to ill health earlier this year. The bookies have both seats as clear wins: one for Labor and one for the Liberals. Manly is tipped to go to the Liberals ($1.10) and Gosford to Labor ($1.05), despite Gosford being the state’s most marginal seat and held by Labor by only 0.2 per cent. Ms Smith narrowly beat Liberal state MP Chris Holstein in 2015 by only 203 votes. Gosford is another seat where council mergers could affect the result and the forced amalgamation between Gosford City and Wyong Shire Councils could tip the balance against the Liberals. Labor’s candidate for Gosford is Liesl Tesch, an Australian wheelchair basketball player and sailor, while the Liberals are fielding organ donation campaigner and office manager Jilly Pilon.   What are the odds? North Shore by-election $1.50   Liberal             $2.50   Independent (Carolyn Corrigan) $16      Independent (Ian Mutton)      $16      Independent (Harry Fine)       $34      Green $51      Animal Justice Party $51      Voluntary Euthanasia $101    Christian Democrats   Gosford by-election $1.05   Labor   $8.50   Liberal $16      Shooters, Fishers and Farmers $51      Animal Justice Party    $51      Christian Democrats $101    Green   Manly by-election $1.10   Liberal   $7.50   Independent (Ron Delezio) $9.00   Independent (Kathryn Ridge) $11      Green $21      Independent (running for One Nation)          $21      Independent (John Cook) $21      Independent (Haris Jackman)             $26      Independent (Brian Clare)      $26      Independent (Victor Waterson) $51      Voluntary Euthanasia (Kerry Bromson)          $51      Animal Justice (Ellie Robertson)         $51      Christian Democrats $51      Independent (James Mathison) [post_title] => Bookies shorten odds for independent to win North Shore by-election [post_excerpt] => Will the Libs topple in leafy la-la land? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => bookies-shorten-odds-independent-win-north-shore-election [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-12 08:41:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-11 22:41:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26847 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26748 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-04-04 10:47:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-04-04 00:47:01 [post_content] =>     NSW largest council has rebranded itself with the help of more than 2,000 ratepayers and hit back at perceptions that it is boring. Canterbury-Bankstown Council, which was created in May last year from a merger between Canterbury City and Bankstown City Councils, launched its new logo and slogan: ‘where interesting happens’ yesterday (Monday) and released a video to accompany it. The south-western Sydney council is the state’s largest council area and has around 350,000 residents. The council’s administrator, Richard Colley, said that residents, community and sports groups and business leaders had all chipped in their thoughts on the rebranding and so had visitors, through workshops, interviews, surveys and roundtables. Mr Colley said the council involved the community from the outset so that they could 'own and be proud of' the rebranding, which reportedly cost $375,000. “It’s not every day you get to stop and think about what defines you as a place and community – we know we are multiculturally diverse, and that’s very important, but what really defines us and sets us apart from other areas and the pack,” Mr Colley said.  “It’s based on the idea “Where Interesting Happens” and will allow us to promote our fascinating stories, unique experiences and much more.” The council’s survey of ratepayers found they wanted the area to become a destination where people stopped, rather than drove through; they were proud of diversity and wanted to project a more confident image. Mr Colley said residents would see the new brand popping up in the area from this week on signs, council vehicles and PR material and that various related events would follow. “Our new city brand is about sharing what makes us special and uniting the two great cities of Canterbury and Bankstown.  It’s much more than just a logo, it’s a whole new destination marketing approach for everyone to join in, including residents, businesses, community groups, cultural institutions, sporting groups and visitors.” But the rebranding was not just about what people who live or work in the area thought.   Mr Colley said: “We also wanted to understand what people outside Canterbury-Bankstown think of us, so we can attract them to our many businesses, places and activities, and help grow our local economy.” Focus groups and online surveys of around 500 Sydneysiders from outside the Canterbury Bankstown area found that some of them had negative perceptions that there was not enough to do there. “The research showed some Sydneysiders don’t visit Canterbury-Bankstown because they think there’s not much to do here.  Well, that’s about to change! “Interestingly, we also heard, some people living in our City believe other Sydneysiders think Canterbury-Bankstown is unsafe.  We found this is not the case at all,” he said.  It’s early days but the reaction on social media have been mostly positive so far, apart from one or two digs at the council’s slogan and social media hashtag. One Facebook wag said the hashtag should be #whereoverdevelopmenthappens or #whereinfrastructureisneeded, while another criticised the slogan: “ ‘Where Interesting Happens’ isn't even a grammatically correct sentence! But then neither is ‘Think Different’ and that worked for Apple. Good luck with the new initiative.” CEO of Chess Engineering Steve Facer, who was involved in the consultation, said the process had “captured an honest and real feel of locals and non-residents”.  “They were unafraid to face whatever realities may present themselves and then have the courage to address them in an open-faced and positive way,” Mr Facer said.  “The new direction seems highly inclusive. It already has, and will continue to generate energy for a ‘can do’ area that may now start to evolve at an ever increasing rate.  I loved the bold simplicity of the package.”   What do you think of the rebranding? Want the latest public sector news delivered straight to your inbox Click here to sign up the Government News newsletter. [post_title] => Merged Sydney council rebrands itself as the place "where interesting happens” [post_excerpt] => Hits back at critics it’s boring. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 26748 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-04 13:15:20 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-04 03:15:20 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26748 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26682 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-03-28 11:15:41 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-28 00:15:41 [post_content] =>     Local government experts are predicting a serious shortfall in skilled staff within ten years as Gen Y’s shun local councils and Baby Boomers clinging on until retirement start to fall off their perches. A four-year benchmarking survey led by Local Government Professional Australia, NSW involving 135 NSW, Western Australian and New Zealand councils, found that while council workforces are ageing they are finding it hard to attract and retain younger people, especially Gen Y’s. Councils analysed their own performance on a range of indicators, including service provision, finance and operations, risk management, assets and leadership but it was the makeup of local council workforces that set alarm bells ringing. Gen Y’s are woefully underrepresented in councils and they are also much more likely to quit within a year when they do get local government jobs. The situation is most acute in NSW. CEO of LG Professionals, NSW Annalisa Haskell predicted a staffing crisis within a decade if the generation gap was not addressed. “You’re looking at a major, major issue. We won’t be able to do the work in the future,” Ms Haskell said. “Due to a uniquely old age profile quite at odds with the Australian working population, NSW local government is failing to significantly attract and retain new staff, especially Gen Y, who are twice as likely to leave a council than other generations,” she said. She said the battle over forced council mergers in NSW had also sapped the sector’s energy and pulled the focus away from what was arguably a much more serious issue: staffing. “We are having the wrong conversation. We need to move from the structure debate of mergers to understanding why local government is not positioned as a vibrant place to work compared to other Australian sectors, nor the place to invest in a career.” In NSW councils, Gen Y’s represent about 40 per cent of the Australian working population in 2016 but they only make up 22 per cent of NSW council workforces. In WA it is 26 per cent and in New Zealand Gen Y’s make up 28 per cent of the council workforce. While Baby Boomers are sticking around for decades and hoarding their leave, particularly in NSW, Gen Y’s that do start working for councils often don’t stay long.   In NSW, 19 per cent of Gen Y left within a year, compared with a 9.9 per cent turnover of all staff. It was higher in WA, where one in five Gen Y’s quit within a year, but the all staff turnover was also higher, at 13.8 per cent so the gap was less.  Meanwhile, Baby Boomers represent 35 per cent of the Australian working age population in 2016 but 44 per cent of NSW council staff. In contrast, New Zealand does not have a problem with staff turnover, attracts more Gen Y’s and does a much better job at attracting women to local government, particularly at supervisory level or above. Women represent 57 per cent of new starters in New Zealand, compared with 50 per cent in WA and 43 per cent in NSW. Why is Gen Y turning away from councils? Ms Haskell says that local government in NSW has a serious image problem and Gen Y’s viewed it as staid, slow and technologically backward. Council jobs also seemed to lack economic prestige. “The sector isn’t appealing to Gen Y. They like the experience to be good,” Ms Haskell said. “Councils are by nature conservative and regulation bound and [generally] not very high tech. They are driven by compliance and the regulatory point of view.” She said Gen Y were likely to ask why things were not instant and people not engaged. They were digital natives too.  “The problems we have are here now and will take time to fix - it is most apparent that we need to better promote local government as a compelling career sector,” she said. The falling numbers of Gen Y girls taking subjects such as maths and sciences had also been felt in certain areas of council work, such as engineering and environmental jobs, which were often quite specialised. Baby Boomers entrenched in their jobs meant there was an older leadership, sometimes at odds with Gen Y’s, and no obvious stepping stones for younger people. “There is a generational split. The leadership is old and it’s not moving. Gen Y’s are likely to ask: ‘where is my career path and is this really me?’ ” Mergers may also have been partly responsible for Baby Boomers staying in their jobs and accruing leave – a real liability for councils – because of the uncertainty of job losses generated by amalgamations. In contrast, New Zealand’s councils had little leave on the balance sheet. No Plan B Worrying, Ms Haskell said that the majority of councils had no succession planning in place. Rather than training Gen X and Gen Y to step up when senior staff retired, corporate memory walked out the door when Boomers left. Only 13 per cent of NSW councils had proper succession planning in place in 2016, a drop from 20 per cent the previous year. “With the Baby Boomers it’s all in their head and they’ve been the [council’s] anchor point. They haven’t got a succession plan ready. I’m surprised,” she said. GMs sometimes had to quit suddenly because of serious health issues or accidents and external managers were parachuted into the role temporarily, rather than moving somebody into the role in-house. Many councils did not have a deputy general manager, for example. Ms Haskell said: “[We’re] dependent as a sector because of the nature of politics: ‘no-one else can do it except the GM’. That’s a real gap and we have to take responsibility.” What can be done? Ms Haskell said that encouraging Gen Y’s to network online and to share their ideas and experiences and to lead on certain issues would help. Councils also needed to change the way they worked, connected and communicated. For example, making customer experience central and working back and supporting staff to deliver on this. “Some councils are trying to get there but they’re in the minority. Gen Y’s have to drive it themselves,” she said. Councils could check in with Gen Y recruits at the three-month stage and ask them about their experiences and perceptions anonymously and exit interviews were useful to find out what had gone wrong and how it could be fixed. She said the sector needed to work together to motive people and share solutions but the threat of council mergers had hampered this spirit over the last three years and pulled councils apart, with many going into lockdown and survival mode. Succession planning had to be faced up to and people mentored and trained to take over. So what is New Zealand doing right? Ms Haskell said the Kiwis were bringing in new people from non-government sectors and attracting management skills externally. “[There are] more women in senior positions all the way up than in Australia.” “In NSW, we appear to attract less [outside] talent to the sector and less from managerial roles that can make a difference culturally.” New Zealand had also mounted a successful advertising campaign to attract young people to the sector. The Australasian LG Performance Excellence Program survey, conducted in partnership with PwC, also involved nine merged NSW councils – previously 22 individual councils – and should help give merged councils a picture of their performance before and after mergers.  PwC Partner Stuart Shinfield praised the participating councils and said CEOs and General Managers ‘have had to lay themselves bare’. “The heroes in this are the managers of the vast number of councils involved,” Mr Shinfield said. “No-one told them they had to drill-down like this – they took the front foot and said ‘Let’s do this’, whereas in the commercial sector this high-level of analytical review usually only happens when someone has been given a directive.” [post_title] => Gen Y’s shun local councils: Massive skill gap predicted in a decade [post_excerpt] => Baby Boomers won't budge. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => gen-ys-shun-local-councils-massive-skill-gap-predicted-decade [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-29 10:22:24 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-28 23:22:24 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26682 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 4 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26676 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-03-27 13:03:16 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-27 02:03:16 [post_content] =>   Ku-ring-gai Council on Sydney’s North Shore has won its appeal against a forced merger and the NSW government has been ordered to pay the council’s cost. The Court of Appeal ruled in favour of Ku-ring-gai Council in a decision handed down today (Monday) and ordered the NSW government to pick up the council’s tab in the Court of Appeal and the bill from earlier cases in the Land and Environment Court.   But despite the panel of three judges ruling that the merger should not proceed in its current form, i.e. merging Ku-ring-gai Council with part of Hornsby Shire Council (the section north of the M2 Motorway); there is no guarantee that Premier Gladys Berejiklian will abandon the idea entirely. The government may appeal the decision or instead opt to restart the Boundary Commission review and release the full KPMG report, a report which the state government has continually argued contained the numbers to back up its financial case for mergers, despite refusing to release the full version while repeatedly insisting it had done so. Delegate Garry West filed a report to the Boundaries Commission recommending the merger go ahead after a public inquiry but the judges concluded that Mr West could not properly assess the financial impact of the merger without access to the full KPMG report, which in turn meant the council had been denied procedural fairness. “The appellant was denied procedural fairness as the delegate chose to rely on the KPMG analysis, rather than conducting his own assessment of the merger, when the appellant was not in possession of the document in which the analysis was contained,” the judgement said. The government had argued that releasing the entire report was contrary to public interest because of concerns over confidentiality but the court disagreed and said public interest was better served by releasing the whole report. The panel said that Mr West had also failed to consider the impact of the merger on the 20,000 Hornsby Shire Council residents south of the M2 Motorway who would not be part of the new council. But the council is not out of the woods yet. The possibility of starting the merger process again for Ku-ring-gai, rather than abandoning it, was flagged in the court’s judgement.  “Although, if the decision were to be remade by the same delegate, it is likely that the same result would be reached, that conclusion does not follow as a matter of law,” the judges said. “It cannot be assumed that the Minister would elect to refer the unchanged proposal for further examination or, if he did, that the process would necessarily produce the same recommendation. If the flawed examination can be redone properly, relief allowing that to happen should be granted.” Despite the warning signs, Ku-ring-gai Mayor Jennifer Anderson said she was ‘heartened’ by the court’s decision. “The very real concerns of our council and residents over this merger have been ignored by the government and we feel vindicated by today’s decision,” Ms Anderson said.  “We believe the court’s decision signals a turning point for Premier Berejiklian’s government. If they continue with the merger process they will be flying in the face of our community and the court.” She said the merger should not proceed because Ku-ring-gai ratepayers would be robbed of any real say in how the area was managed and how rates were spent. The Mayor said the council would wait to see what the state government would do after the court’s decision. “We will continue to seek meetings with Premier Berejiklian and the Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton to press our case against being forcibly merged with Hornsby,” she added. Greens Local Government spokesman David Shoebridge called the judgement “an embarrassing blow” for the Berejiklian Government’s forced amalgamation plans, which he said were unravelling, a particular danger with the North Shore by-election so close. “Today the Court of Appeal has said the obvious, that it is blatantly unfair to forcibly amalgamate a local council on the basis of a secret report,” Mr Shoebridge said. “This decision doesn’t just affect Ku-ring-gai Council, it could dismantle every single outstanding amalgamation proposal.                                                                                                                                                  He said the case was a precedent for ‘pretty much every’ forced amalgamation proposal because they were all based on the partially suppressed KPMG report. “The delegates who have recommended forced amalgamations have all relied on summaries from KPMG that allege savings will occur. The Court has now said that these summaries aren’t good enough and they need to see the actual evidence.” A spokesperson for NSW Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton said: "While we are considering the implications of today’s judgement, the NSW Government is committed to the merger of Hornsby and Ku-Ring-Gai councils given the clear benefits it will have for the local communities." [post_title] => Ku-ring-gai Council wins merger appeal, awarded costs [post_excerpt] => Berejiklian on the ropes over KPMG report. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 26676 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-28 11:31:27 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-28 00:31:27 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26676 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26574 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-03-20 11:50:31 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-20 00:50:31 [post_content] =>   The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has fitted GPS trackers onto vehicles suspected of illegally dumping building and demolition waste, including asbestos. NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said the trackers were fitted after a covert EPA investigation into illegal dumping last year. The trackers are fitted on a 12-month trial basis - with the owners’ knowledge - and it is illegal for drivers or owners to remove or tamper with them. If the trucks are transporting waste lawfully after this time the EPA has said it will consider removing the GPS devices. Ms Upton said the GPS system enabled the EPA to track the vehicles’ movements, alerting the authority if trucks travelled near known illegal dumping hotspots. “The NSW government is serious about cracking down on illegal dumpers – trial results show the trackers fitted to vehicles has deterred illegal activity and won’t just deter those being watched but others who think they can get away with dumping on our communities and environment,” Ms Upton said. She said the EPA would consider using tracking devices to monitor other vehicles accused of transporting or dumping waste unlawfully once the trial was complete. An EPA spokesperson said that preliminary results showed the trial had acted as a deterrent to illegal dumping, resulting in waste being transported and disposed of at lawful facilities. Local councils count the cost The scourge of illegal dumping is a huge problem for NSW and also for local councils, who are often saddled with the clean-up. Illegal dumping can be a health hazard, contaminating public land and waterways and poisoning wildlife. Dumping can also hinder roadworks and bushfire protection and block emergency access during a fire. An EPA spokesperson said that cleaning up illegally dumped material was a significant cost for local communities, councils and public land managers. She said that data showed that one in 10 LGAs spent $500,000 or more on education, enforcement, clean-up and other illegal-dumping activities each year.  A 2004 EPA survey found that construction and demolition waste made up about 12 per cent of waste illegally dumped in NSW and this is just waste the councils deal with.     The NSW government introduced tougher laws in 2014, including the power to install trackers onto vehicles and the ability to seize vehicles used in dumping offences. The fines for flouting the rules are steep. The EPA can issue on the spot fines of up to $15,000 for corporations and $7500 for individuals. If the case goes to court, a judge can impose a maximum penalty of $1 million and/or seven years prion imprisonment if an offence is committed wilfully. Illegal dumping incidents can be reported by calling the Environment Line on 131 555 or through the RID online reporting portal at ridonline.epa.nsw.gov.au   Want the latest public sector news delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up the Government News newsletter. [post_title] => GPS trackers fitted to vehicles that dump illegally [post_excerpt] => Environment Protection Agency gets tough. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => gps-trackers-fitted-trucks-dump-illegally [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-19 10:45:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-19 00:45:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26574 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [10] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26489 [post_author] => 658 [post_date] => 2017-03-10 09:52:11 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-09 22:52:11 [post_content] =>  Scott Leach, National and NSW President of the AHA     OPINION By Scott Leach, National and NSW President of the Australian Hotels Association.   Here’s an interesting fact you won’t have read about recently. After publicans in Newtown voluntarily came up with and adopted a raft of measures in September 2015, incidents of non-domestic assault in Newtown have fallen by 10.6 per cent. During the same trial period – again thanks to these measures – incidents of non-domestic assault occurring in Newtown’s licensed premises fell by an astonishing 51.8 per cent – or more than halved. Surprised? You should be given the latest release of yet another lot of figures on the Kings Cross/Sydney CBD lockouts by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR). In that set of figures BOCSAR argued assaults in a range of areas surrounding the lockout zone – grouped together and called the “distal displacement area” (but more commonly known to you and me as Newtown, Double Bay, Bondi and Coogee) had gone up about 17 per cent since the lockouts came into effect. All of the geographically different entertainment precincts were lumped in together – individual breakdowns for the suburbs were not included. The success of the publicans of Newtown, the police of Newtown and the community of Newtown over more than a year was ignored – it was as if it didn’t even happen as the BOCSAR figures were quoted verbatim in the press, on radio and on TV.   Read more here. This story first appeared in The Shout.   Want the latest public sector news delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up the Government News newsletter. [post_title] => Sydney lock-out statistics ignore Newtown’s success, says pub peak body [post_excerpt] => Newtown Liquor Accord has worked. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => sydney-lock-statistics-ignores-newtowns-success-says-pub-peak-body [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-14 12:23:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-14 01:23:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26489 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [11] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26317 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-02-22 15:39:55 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-22 04:39:55 [post_content] =>   Will the Liberals seize victory in Mike Baird's seat of Manly and Jillian Skinner's North Shore? Pic: Facebook.     Council anti-merger campaigners have vowed to inflict pain on the NSW Government in three upcoming by-elections, after North Shore MP and former Health Minister Jillian Skinner finally resigned officially this week. Ms Skinner tendered her resignation to Speaker Shelley Hancock late on Monday, apparently after failing to score her beloved Health portfolio in NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s first Cabinet reshuffle at the end of January. The NSW Electoral Commission will now set a date for three by-elections: Ms Skinner’s North Shore seat, Manly and Gosford. Manly was former NSW Premier Mike Baird’s seat and Labor MP Kathy Jackson recently quit her Gosford seat for health reasons. All three seats have been flashpoints for local council forced merger tensions but it is debatable whether Manly and North Shore – both strong Liberal seats – will really slip from the party’s grasp. However, the Orange by-election result in November, when Shooters Farmers and Fishers candidate Philip Donato seized the rock solid Nationals seat, will no doubt still be painfully fresh in NSW Premier Gladys Berejikilian’s mind. Tom Sherlock from anti-merger community group Save Our Councils Coalition (SOCC) said council mergers were likely to have an influence on by-election results. “I’ve seen some reports that say the Liberals will be massacred but I wouldn’t go quite that far. There are some people who will always vote Liberal,” Mr Sherlock said. “My hope is that there will be some really quality debate about what communities want and what the alternatives are [to mergers].” He said SOCC would be making sure candidate forums occurred and the group would be asking the candidates questions at forums. The group is encouraging voters to put the Liberals last in protest over forced amalgamations. Ms Skinner’s North Shore state electorate, which covers Lane Cove, Mosman and North Sydney, is overwhelmingly Liberal territory but council mergers here have been some of the most fiercely contested. The NSW government said this month that it will still push ahead with Sydney mergers, despite halting regional mergers, and this includes one between Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby Councils and another between Lane Cove, Hunters Hill and Ryde Councils, subject to the outcome of court cases. The North Shore seat has a history of independents throughout the eighties and it is possible that a credible independent candidate could take the fight to the Liberals. Mr Sherlock said Ms Skinner said she opposed local council amalgamations but ‘she never spoke out’ and that she ‘basically let the community down in a very big way’. The Liberals could get a nasty surprise come election time, which is likely to be in late March or early April. He said: “The Liberals have taken the North Shore for granted and they might get a big surprise. In that way it’s very similar to Orange. Orange was taken for granted by the Nationals. They brought in a candidate from outside the area and assumed people would vote National.” Meanwhile, Manly could also give the Liberals a fright if there is a backlash against the newly created Northern Beaches Council. Manly voters have a history of voting for independent candidates and focusing on local issues and personalities. Independents took the seat in all four elections between 1991 and 2003. Mr Sherlock said that Pittwater residents in particular were angry over the loss of their council but he said that the majority of the electorate may still back the Liberals. Warringah residents were more sanguine about council mergers because the former Warringah Council had a dominant role in the new council and some residents had wanted Manly Mayor Jean Hay deposed, said Mr Sherlock. Manly residents might be more worried about other issues, such as the Western Harbour Tunnel and Northern Beaches Link. But it is Gosford, one of state’s most marginal seats, where and the forced merger between Gosford City and Wyong Shire Councils could tip the balance against the Liberals. Labor MP Kathy Smith narrowly beat Liberal state MP Chris Holstein in 2015 by only 203 votes. It is here where council mergers could be the difference between success or failure for the Libs.  A spokesperson for the NSW Electoral Commission said the Commission was still waiting for the government to issue the writs for the by-elections adding that ‘there is no legislated timeframe for when a by-election has to occur’. [post_title] => NSW council anti-merger campaigners plot revenge after Skinner's official resignation [post_excerpt] => Third by-election triggered. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => nsw-council-anti-merger-campaigners-plot-revenge-skinner-officially-resigns [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-24 11:21:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-24 00:21:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26317 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26273 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-02-17 11:09:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-17 00:09:19 [post_content] =>       The NSW Container Deposit scheme (CDS) will be delayed by five months to give local councils and industry and environment groups longer to prepare. NSW Environment and Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton said the CDS would be rolled out from December 1, 2017 rather than from July, as originally planned. It also means the cash for cans program will have broader coverage across the state and take in more rural and regional areas. Ms Upton said groups such as Clean Up Australia and the Boomerang Alliance, as well as drinks industry stakeholders had asked for an extension. “This will be the biggest initiative to tackle litter in the state’s history – stakeholder feedback is vital to get the scheme right,” Ms Upton said. Under the scheme, NSW residents can return most empty drink containers between 150 ml and three litres to collection points in return for a 10-cent refund. The aim is to significantly reduce the estimated 160 million drink containers littered every year and ease the burden on local councils.   Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades called it ‘an eminently sensible decision’. "Councils spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year picking up litter, and would much prefer to be investing this money in other community services,” Mr Rhoades said.  "The scheme has the potential to cut litter in NSW by up to 43 per cent, but the complexity of the collection and refund processes required have become increasingly clear.” He said the five-month extension would make it easier to ensure the supporting infrastructure and resources were in place before the scheme began, as well as rolling it out to other local government areas. Boomerang Alliance Director Jeff Angel said the Alliance fought hard for the container deposit scheme and wanted to ensure it would work efficiently for the community and business to maximise the environmental benefits. “The Alliance understood that getting the container deposit scheme up and running was a very complicated process. It’s better to delay the implementation by a few months, so the scheme is ready from day one,” Mr Angel said. Industry groups were also pleased about the delay. Tanya Barden, Director of Economics and Sustainability Australian Food and Grocery Council, said the drinks industry supported an efficient and effective container deposit scheme in NSW. “We’re pleased that the NSW Government has listened to industry and environmental groups’ views about the complexity of introducing such as scheme. This extension allows the time to put the fundamentals in place so that the scheme can operate smoothly for both consumers and industry,” Ms Barden said. The 2015-2016 National Litter Index found that 49 per cent of litter by volume was made up of beverage containers – and 43 per cent of the total volume was containers that will be caught by the NSW container deposit scheme. Ms Upton said container deposit schemes operate in more than 40 jurisdictions around the world and are a proven and efficient way to recover litter and increase recycling of beverage containers. [post_title] => NSW container deposit scheme delayed until December [post_excerpt] => Move welcomed by councils. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 26273 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-04-19 10:46:22 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-04-19 00:46:22 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26273 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 26265 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2017-02-17 10:19:05 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-16 23:19:05 [post_content] => Council mergers: A tale of two Premiers     NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s decision on Tuesday to dump six regional council mergers and push ahead with Sydney metropolitan mergers concludes another chapter in what has been a terribly managed process. Forcibly merging local councils was never going to be easy but former NSW Premier Mike Baird and Local Government Minister Paul Toole set in motion a sequence of events that further tarnished the public’s view of politicians, irritated councils and angered councillors, all while swallowing a huge amount of time, effort and money. The words dog’s and breakfast spring to mind. “It’s a well-earned epithet in this case,” says Professor Graham Sansom, who led the Independent Local Government Review Panel’s (ILGRP) inquiry into NSW local government reform in 2013. “I think you can say with some fairness that pretty much everything they could get wrong they did get wrong,” says Prof Sansom. “The merger process has unquestionably been a disaster.” Council mergers are not inherently right or wrong – this is the fifth round of council mergers in NSW since the 1970s - but the way the government set about selling them to the public and its dealings with councils was chaotic, inconsistent and disrespectful. Devious even. In the meantime, other important local government reforms – like reviewing the rates system; encouraging better council co-operation around strategic planning and service delivery; and updating the Local Government Act were pushed into the background as mergers sparked all-out war. It seemed mergers were the only game in town. Articulating the merger message Mike Baird’s success in pushing through the poles and wires sell-off to fund that state’s new infrastructure was partly because he went into the 2015 state election saying he was going to do it and he outlined the benefits of doing so for ordinary Australians. Contrast this with the flimflammery surrounding council mergers: another extremely emotive policy area. The government downplayed the subject of council mergers before the 2015 State election, vaguely indicating it would proceed with voluntary mergers and saying that it might push others.  It didn’t help that some government MPs, including Mr Toole, had signed petitions and spoken publicly against forced amalgamations in the recent past. Prof Sansom says the government should have been upfront and honest about what it wanted to do and clearly set out the benefits and objectives of wider local government reform. But the government’s narrow focus, in public at least, was on the savings it said mergers would deliver - $2 billion over 20 years – opening it up to furious disagreement from academics like University of New England’s Professor Brian Dollery at the Centre for Local Government. “By just carrying on constantly about saving a few million here and a few million there I think the government shot itself in the foot because cash savings are the hardest benefit to prove. The financial evidence base was weak,” Prof Sansom says. “And you don’t throw everything into that much turmoil for just one or two per cent savings on total government expenditure.” Instead, other community benefits should have been stressed, such as better quality services, improved metropolitan planning, more opportunities for regional development, stronger local governance, ‘tangible things that people care about’ says Sansom. The government could have spoken about giving councils more scope and more political clout at state and federal level, rather than bypassing them with new agencies like Urban Growth and the Greater Sydney Commission. “The state government is doing things that local government ought to be doing,” he says. Roberta Ryan, Professor and Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Governance and the Centre for Local Government at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), agrees that the NSW government got hung up on the possible cost savings of mergers, without properly articulating the advantages of broader local government reforms. “It is important that other potential reforms are explored and progressed at the same time - amalgamation is only one tool - and the NSW Inquiry outlined 60 plus other recommendations, some of which are being progress as well, so it is useful not to have the argument just focus on this one aspect,” Prof Ryan says. She says the emphasis on savings alone did not help the government’s case. “The evidence is that rates rise to the higher value and services levels also rise from the lower level to the higher level following amalgamation - so this further reduces the potential for cost savings,” says Prof Ryan. “There may well be long-run efficiencies and higher capacity for local government in the long run which can be beneficial - so the evidence of cost savings needs to be considered as part of short term and longer term arguments.” Prof Ryan says people are ‘generally 50:50’ about mergers but their perspectives can shift. People in regional and rural areas are more concerned about the negative impact of mergers, she says. 2015-2016 UTS research, Why Local Government Matters, showed resistance to mergers dropped markedly when the public interest benefits of mergers were spelt out. Providing the research to back it up and showing evidence of good process was also critical. “In the metro areas - the government has a good story to tell - it needs to get out and run the arguments - locality by locality - giving people good processes - access to evidence of the potential benefits - and explain their rationale for undertaking these reforms,” she says. Producing the evidence and sharing it was also necessary when selling mergers to the public. “This evidence then becomes part of the public debate that keeps everyone informed and prevents the exchange of ignorance on both sides - the NSW government has invested substantially in gathering this evidence - but it would benefit from communicating it more to the affected communities.” Baird et al got themselves in a pickle because the evidence for cost saving was weak and they’d made mergers all about saving money. The NSW Government was not overly forthcoming about supplying the evidence either. The KPMG report, that it says backs up its merger case, is yet to be released in its entirety. The government’s over-reliance on savings to make its case also led to jarring inconsistencies during the Fit for the Future process when some councils that were strong financially were forced to merge, while other strugglers were left to stand alone. It left the government open to charges of political opportunism and deepened public cynicism with the process. Prof Sansom says: “You’ve got to be able to explain what your strategy is and why you’re doing it and you’ve got to be consistent from one place to another. If you treat areas for no good reason differently people lose faith,” he says. Listening to ratepayers, allaying fears The government failed to listen to residents’ concerns or to come up with a plan to do anything about them, as well as not communicating a consistent merger message. The UTS survey found people were most worried about loss of local representation from creating larger councils. This came up repeatedly during merger debates but the NSW government ignored it. Instead it held hasty public hearings, sacked councillors, appointed administrators and delayed elections for newly merged councils until September 2017. Prof Sansom says Mr Baird could have considered other ideas, such as having Community Boards at ward level – as happened after the New Zealand council mergers. Larger, merged councils could also have had more councillors and wards, at least as a transition measure to reassure people that effective local representation would be maintained. “There’s this obsession with reducing the number of councillors. A notion that councillors get in the way and it’s going to be better if you have fewer of them,” he says. “The government leapt into mergers without having had that conversation about how to deal with people’s concerns about local representation.” He says: “It’s basic human psychology. You want to try to think of ways of sweetening the pill.” He argues that keeping councillors on during the transition period and appointing a transition manager would also have been the sensible thing to do, as happened with the 2008 Queensland mergers. “Instead: [the government said] we’re going to issue a proclamation and everybody is going to disappear overnight. To me, it’s hard to conceive of a process more likely to get people’s backs up than that.” An independent body and an independent process The ILGRP recommended in its 2013 Revitalising Local Government report that the merger process should be managed by a reconstituted, independent Boundaries Commission – with no current or former state politicians or councillors sitting on it - to increase the public’s faith in the decision making process. The Commission would also periodically review local government boundaries. In fact, says Prof Ryan, residents should also be involved in setting boundaries around ‘communities of interest’. This can involve looking at key factors like how people access services, schools and shopping; commuting patterns and demographic projections, combined with extensive, independent community consultation. “Otherwise the boundaries are not accepted by the community and there are political and administrative impacts for many years to come,” she says. Prof Sansom says the Panel warned the government about taking matters into its own hands in its report. “I’m more than happy to remind your readers that the ILGRP was very definitely of the view that the current legislation and process embodied in it was not going to do the job.” Another key recommendation by the ILGRP was to reduce the direct involvement of the Local Government Minister in the merger process. Local Government NSW describes the Minister as having “unfettered decision-making power” in its 2015 report, Amalgamations: To Merge or Not to Merge? Professor Sansom agrees that there is too much power vested in one person. “The problem with the Local Government Minister’s role in NSW is that it’s all powerful at both ends of the process. “You can’t get anything considered without the minister’s ticking it in the first place and you can’t get anything implemented without the minister ticking it again and having the right to tinker with the recommendations made by the Boundaries Commission. “It just means that the whole process was politicised from go to woe.” Professor Sansom says he cannot understand why politicians would want to place themselves at the centre of such a fraught process. “If you want to overcome the inevitable angst around amalgamations you have got to convince people from day one that you’re fair dinkum about it. “Being transparent and honest, being serious about exploring all the options, not just picking a few arbitrary mergers here and there. Taking councils and communities into your confidence with evidence.” The government wrote the merger proposals submitted to the Boundaries Commission and the Minister had the final say on whether mergers should or should not proceed. Prof Ryan sums it up: “If it is seen as a process of political opportunism by governments to strengthen their own political fortunes it then becomes difficult.” Checklist for state governments pursuing future council mergers 
  • Be clear and honest about your intentions from the start
  • Back them up with sufficient evidence and share this evidence
  • Engage closely with communities around what the benefits are to them
  • Listen to and act on residents’ concerns
  • Be consistent with your reasoning and apply it evenly and fairly
  • Build independence into the process, including drawing boundaries, engaging with communities and assessing proposals
[post_title] => Forced council mergers: How the NSW government got it so wrong [post_excerpt] => A litany of failures. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => forced-council-mergers-nsw-government-got-wrong [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-17 10:19:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-16 23:19:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=26265 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27724 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-07-28 12:16:20 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-28 02:16:20 [post_content] => It has now been a full 24 hours since the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that proposed council mergers before the courts will not proceed, and the original rejoicing and merriment in the streets is being replaced by anger and – well, more uncertainty. “Due to the protracted nature of current legal challenges and the uncertainty this is causing ratepayers, those council amalgamations currently before the courts will not proceed,” the announcement said. “We want to see councils focusing on delivering the best possible services and local infrastructure to their residents. That is why we are drawing a line under this issue today and ending the uncertainty,” the Premier said. The following proposed mergers will not proceed:
  • Burwood, City of Canada Bay and Strathfield Municipal councils
  • Hornsby Shire and Ku-ring-gai councils
  • Hunter’s Hill, Lane Cove and City of Ryde councils
  • Mosman Municipal, North Sydney and Willoughby City councils
  • Randwick City, Waverley and Woollahra Municipal councils
Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton said it was important for local communities to have certainty in the lead up to the September local government elections. “The Government remains committed to reducing duplication, mismanagement and waste by councils so communities benefit from every dollar spent,” Ms Upton said. Naturally, most of the merged councils now want to explore de-merging, and the once who had put up a fight, want to recover their legal costs. And of course the Premier did not, and refuses to, guarantee that the mergers will not be attempted again past the elections. Shadow Minister for Local Government Peter Primrose MLC said: “The justification for forced mergers has been a political fix from day one. The Government must release the KPMG report and stop avoiding scrutiny. “Premier Gladys Berejiklian has failed to rule out forced council amalgamations beyond 2019. As well, the Government must release the secret $400,000 KPMG report used by the former Premier to justify the forced mergers.” NSW Labor is now demanding Premier Berejiklian allow communities in forcibly merged councils to hold referendums to choose whether or not to demerge. Not our fault: developers Whilst developer lobby group Urban Taskforce was keen on the amalgamations, it distanced itself from the NSW Government’s version. “The Urban Taskforce originally proposed a council reform that had a district structure for planning decisions and left local matters to local councils,” said Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson. “The NSW Government’s back down on their version of council reform means the scale of thinking about growth will now be local not regional. The value of larger councils was to move management and planning to a less local and more regional level but it seems the government’s processes were not legally tight and appeals have delayed the process leading to uncertainty for all. “The Urban Taskforce believes that the NSW Government must now play a much stronger role in driving housing supply with councils only focussing on local issues.” “The Urban Taskforce is concerned that today’s back down indicates a less reformist approach by the NSW Government than its previous position. This more cautious approach a year and a half before the next state election could put many important initiatives on hold.” Let’s have some stability The association of Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW welcomed the government’s announcement on council amalgamations, bringing sector stability before September elections. “The uncertainty the amalgamations agenda have brought to the sector have been a huge resource drain on local councils and have distracted the sector from much needed reform to address sector innovation, misconduct in local government, cost shifting, rate pegging and professional development,” said general manager of Hunter’s Hill Council and president of Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW Barry Smith. “We were engaged from the start of the reform process back in late 2011 where the entire local government sector came together to develop real solutions. Regrettably, the focus shifted toward amalgamations, and it is a shame it has taken six years for the State Government to allow all councils to get on with the job of delivering for their community.” The Independent Local Government Review Panel, which first proposed amalgamations, included 64 other recommendations to improve council performance. “Despite sector uncertainty, we have been committed to providing sector wide professional development opportunities, significant council improvement programs and support for councils going through amalgamations. “With this change in policy, we would welcome Minister Upton proactively re-engaging with the sector to ensure that real reform issues raised during the Destination 2036 discussions are dealt with. We must all refocus on supporting innovative council practices and solutions to improve performance, and address critical workforce shortfalls,” chief executive officer Annalisa Haskell said. Back to the courts Without exception, the councils that fought the merger are expected to put in a claim to recover their legal expenses. Additionally, many of the 20 merged councils will seek to de-merge or at least hold plebiscites. And the ones that wanted to merge? Hornsby Shire Council welcomed its proposed merger with Ku-ring-gai, which involved it ceding lucrative rate areas in Epping to Parramatta Council. Parramatta Council happily took these areas while Ku-ring-gai decided to fight, leaving Hornsby in the lurch. [post_title] => Councils: first the clarity, now for the confusion [post_excerpt] => While most councils are rejoicing, the future is still uncertain. 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NSW-councils