On 14 February 2017 the new Premier Gladys Berejiklian, together with Deputy Premier, the Hon John Barilaro and Minister for Local Government, Gabrielle Upton announced the next process in the NSW Local Government reforms.
Ms Berejiklian, Mr Barilaro and Ms Upton announced that the NSW Government would not be proceeding with Regional Council Mergers that are currently pending legal action. Ms Berejiklian stated “whilst there have been a number of significant improvements in merged regional councils, we accept that a one size fits all model does not always apply outside Sydney.” She further indicated “that the financial benefits over the next 20 years are six times greater in Sydney than those in regional areas”.
Mr Barilaro stated “local councils in the bush have done their fair share to contribute to stronger local government in NSW, and today we draw the line under local government amalgamations in the region.”
The release also indicates “the decision has been made to ensure that we put an end to the confusion and uncertainty for those council’s locked in drawn out legal battles.” Mr Barilaro stated “he looked forward to local government elections in September to restore local decision making in our regions.”
Ms Upton indicated that three rounds of mergers in regional NSW had occurred in recent decades, which has seen significant consolidation of councils whilst metropolitan council numbers had remained largely unchanged since the 1940’s with some boundaries unchanged for more than 140 years.
Oberon Council will continue to support those metropolitan councils continuing with legal challenges against forced amalgamation. Mayor Kathy Sajowitz stated “whilst this is welcome news in the regions we continue to support those metropolitan councils that have fought strongly to maintain their independence as we have.”
Further the Mayor added “it is an absolute credit to the Oberon community, elected representatives and council staff who have been steadfast in the fight to oppose the undemocratic and purely political process of forced amalgamation; they have all carried through with the commitment to have our voices heard. The intervention of John Barilaro after the watershed Orange By-election has been very welcome and shows recognition that one size does not fit all”.
Mayor Sajowitz went on to indicate that “Oberon Council looks forward to delivering services to our community in a timely and efficient way, as it has done now for 110 years.”