LATEST NEWS FROM MAYOR KATHY SAJOWITZ - 31 March 2016

It was pleasing to see so many visitors in town and families getting together over the Easter break, parking was at a premium, copious amounts of refreshment appear to have been consumed and much shopping done. A busy time indeed.

Last week Woollahra Council formally resolved to pursue its legal challenge in relation to a proposed forced merger with Waverly and Randwick Councils. More and more councils are committing to this course of action. Oberon Council is closely watching the situation and how it develops: we will be discussing all options in the near future.  I have invited our Local Member the Hon Paul Toole MP to a meeting to address council and explain why he feels a proposed merger with Bathurst Regional Council is justified and what benefits he sees for Oberon in this process.

Last week Oberon Councillors received a letter from Minister Toole, via email from LGNSW, advising he was considering options and arrangements for implementing the proposed mergers of targeted councils. Councillors have been requested to submit an expression of interest by April 15 if they wish to apply for a position on any interim council established as a result of a merger.  This is despite the Boundaries Commission Delegates still having to report on the merger proposals. These reports then have to be submitted to the Boundaries Commission for comment then to the Minister for decision. 

Whilst Minister Toole maintains no decisions have yet been made on proposed mergers, this is being met with deep scepticism in the affected communities of NSW. His letter has drawn an angry reaction from councils opposed to amalgamation, many have described the Ministers actions as toxic and highly divisive and a pre-judgment on the outcome of what has been a deeply flawed process. In the letter the Minister has stated he was looking for councillors who have a "commitment to making the new council a success" and "a commitment to promote the new council to the community". 

Meeting this criteria raises questions about whether any councillor who has been involved in campaigning against a merger will be considered for the interim council – how can any councillor be committed to a newly merged council when they have spent almost twelve months fighting against the concept, not to mention the betrayal of a community who have firmly indicated their opposition to a merger proposal.
 
As usual the Ministers letter was short on detail such as when administrators would be appointed when he would announce the makeup of an interim merged entity. No indication on the guidelines that may be used to implement this process - such as whether councillors would be appointed in proportion to the geographic spread across the new proposed LGA.

This is just a further erosion of our democratic voice in local government. Councillors are elected by the people to represent them at a local level, only they should have the right to decide when that representation ends. Why should the local process be any different to the state or federal process? 

Oberon Farmers Markets are on this Saturday as is the FOOLs Recycled Book sale outside the Council Building all monies raised from the sale are channelled back into the Library.

Mayor Kathy Sajowitz