MIL-OSI Australia: Councils to foot the bill under proposed government demerge legislation

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Source: Australian Green Party

Local councils across NSW are expected to foot the bill for their own de-amalgamation under new proposed legislation by the Minns Labor government.

Local Government Minister Ron Hoenig is expected to introduce legislation to parliament today (Tuesday 6 February 2024) that creates a legal pathway for councils to demerge. Under this proposed legislation:

  • Councils must present a business case demonstrating their financial sustainability including funding their own de-amalgamation to the Boundaries Commission
  • The Minister has to approve the demerger before a vote is held amongst residents.

The proposed change comes while communities in Bombala, Canterbury Bankstown, Central Coast, Cootamundra-Gundagai, Guyra, Inner West, Pittwater, Hilltops and Tumbarumba continue to campaign for council de-amalgamation and the restoration of local democracy.

“Failed amalgamations were an expensive mess that the NSW Government created and they’re a mess that the state should be cleaning up,” Greens MLC and spokesperson for Local Government Dr Amanda Cohn said.

“Instead, this proposed legislation takes councils one step forward legally but two steps back because of the financial burden it poses for them to fund their own de-amalgamation.

“Impacted communities have already paid the cost for forced amalgamations through inefficiency, cuts to local services and weakened local democracy.

“The Minister had refused to progress any legislative change as recently as November 2023. Thanks to pressure from the Greens and community activists, legislative change is on the table – now we’ve got a fight to ensure the NSW Government accepts its financial responsibility to support councils wanting to demerge.

In late 2023, Amanda Cohn introduced a Bill in Parliament which would allow binding plebiscites to be held in relation to the de-amalgamation of local councils that would be funded by the NSW Government. This bill had the support of a majority of the Legislative Council cross-bench and was expected to be debated in March.