The new City of the Lower North Shore
On 12 May 2016 the NSW Government formed 19 new councils and announced its in principle support for a further nine new council mergers currently subject to legal action.
The merger of Willoughby, North Sydney and Mosman councils has been delayed by the legal action initiated by North Sydney and Mosman councils. These cases have been heard in the Land and Environment Court, which rejected all but one of the complaints. The Government is obliged now to instruct the Delegate to review his report.
Meanwhile Woollahra Council lost its case in the Land and Environment Court and has since appealed. We await this decision. Mosman Council may also appeal its Land and Environment Court judgement, which may mean more delays. The cases before the courts are about administrative procedures and fairness, not about the merits of any merger proposal.
The Government has released the Delegates report, the Boundary Commission’s report and their recommendations (click here), these include:
- The formation of the City of the Lower North Shore which combines Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby Councils with a population of 178,250 residents.
- Creation of five wards with three councillors per ward.
- The Mayor will be elected by the councillors.
Elections for the proposed City of the Lower North Shore will be held in September 2017. In the meantime an administrator will be appointed to run the new council. It is likely an advisory board will be appointed consisting of former and supportive mayors and councillors.
In the case of the new Northern Beaches council, the General Manager of Pittwater has been appointed interim GM with the former GM’s of Manly and Warringah being appointed as assistant GMs. The advisory board consists of the former mayors of Manly and Warringah and the deputy Mayor of Pittwater.
This is a brief history.
All councils in NSW were assessed in 2015 whether they were ‘Fit for the Future’. Under the definition of ‘Fit for the Future’ councils had to show that they had effective services and infrastructure, plus ‘scale and capacity to effectively engage across community, industry and government’.
These assessments came after a comprehensive three year review by the Independent Local Government Review Panel (ILGRP), involving numerous reports and public consultations. The ILGRP recommended councils needed to have scale and capacity and in effect this required small councils to mergers.
On 22 October the Government released an assessment by IPART, the Independent Pricing and Regulation Tribunal. IPART reported that Mosman council was not fit for the future as it did not satisfy the scale and capacity test. Our neighbouring councils also failed.
The NSW Government gave Councils further time to consider voluntary mergers and to report back with their proposals.
Mosman council is the second smallest in Sydney and it made sense to merge with one or more of its neighbours, either North Sydney/Willougby or Manly/Warringah.
A majority of Mosman councillors vowed to fight any merger Using council funds, their campaigns were highly misleading including claims that there would be high rise in your backyard and loss of parking rights at Mosman beaches. Mosman Council refused the Governments request to submit merger options leaving the decisions to the NSW Government.
Leading Mosman councillors argued that Mosman should hold out because the State Government had limited powers to merge council and that the existing Boundary Commission review process was too hard for the government to use. This view proved to be wrong, although the court cases are delaying the final outcome for some councils.
On 18 December The NSW Government announced widespread mergers across NSW.
The Governments first proposal was to include Mosman as part of a ‘Greater Manly’ council comprising Manly, Mosman and half of Warringah councils.
However, on 25 February 2016 the Government put forward a second proposal to include Mosman in a three way merger of Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby council.
The second proposal arose following a strong resident campaign in Warringah in favour of a one norther beaches council. Warringah Council initiated a proposal under section 218 e of the Local Government Act to merge Manly, Warringah and Pittwater.
Mosman’s inclusion in the Greater Manly council had never been a good fit and the second proposal, Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby was the better proposal. While all three councils voted to oppose this second merger proposal, Willoughby council had previously supported a proposal to merge with North Sydney. Mosman Council indicated at the last minute that if it had to merge with any council, it would prefer North Sydney (but not Willoughby).
The NSW Governments merger proposals were subject to a formal boundary review process which involved appointing Delegates to conduct a enquiries which were then reviewed by the Boundaries Commission. The Mosman, North Sydney, Willoughby merger proposal enquiry process took less than three months to complete.
Councillors who wanted to be considered for a role in shaping their new council were invited by the Government to submit expressions of interest.
The first legal challenge to the Governments process was made by Woollahra Council in April which encouraged other councils, including Mosman and North Sydney, to follow. The Woollahra actions in the NSW Land and Environment Court claim that NSW Minister for Local Government Paul Toole has failed to hold a proper public inquiry, issue reasonable notice and to seek the views of Woollahra voters on the proposal to merge the three councils. It also claimed there has been a denial of procedural fairness because the government has failed to release in full a report by consultants KPMG on the amalgamations including its financial modelling.
A decision on the Woollahra Council case was handed down with with Chief Judge rejecting all Woollahra’s claims. Woollahra has appealed in NSW Court of Appeal and the case was heard in late August. The decision will take a month or so.
In the event that any of these cases are successful, the Government will simply repeat the Boundaries Commission process. The court cases are about fairness off the administrative procedures, not about the merits of the proposed mergers.
This website is updated as new information comes to hand.
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In March 2015 the Mosman Daily ran this article for and against amalgamation.
Amalgamate or separate
5 Mar 2015
IF MOSMAN Council was to amalgamate with surrounding councils, the area would become a “highrise ghetto” with no charm. That is according to a group of Mosman residents who have come together to make sure Mosman is not forced to become part of a…read more…
Website updated 28 September 2106