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Government’s metro merger backflip

Save Our Shire President Lucy Henderson.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has canned the planned mergers for the Sydney councils that took their objections to court, taking the number of merged councils from the original 32 down to just 20.

At the beginning of her tenure as Premier, Ms Berejiklian allowed councils in regional areas who had challenged their mergers in court to demerge, but insisted on all Sydney councils staying amalgamated.

On Thursday she backflipped on that decision.

President of Tumbarumba’s Save Our Shire, Lucy Henderson, said she had called an emergency meeting of the committee and that they planned to capitalise on the new development.

“She can’t admit that all the other mergers are wrong and leave us with the mess that she’s created,” Ms Henderson said.

“She’s said that the whole process has been flawed, and if she’s taken this step she can take one more step and demerge the forcibly amalgamated councils. We didn’t take it to court because we didn’t have the resources, and initially we didn’t think we were going to be merged. We thought that sanity would prevail.

“We’re not there yet but we’re one step closer.”

This Thursday a bill is due to be introduced to the NSW Legislative Assembly from Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party member Phil Donato, who won Orange on the back of opposition to council mergers.

The bill calls for referendums in all merged council areas, and demergers in the areas that vote against being merged.

“John Barilaro and Gladys Berejiklian are only stepping back from some forced Council amalgamations that are being challenged in the courts but what about the rest?” said Mr Donato.

“What about the councils who haven’t been able to mount a legal challenge?

“Most importantly, what about the local communities who clearly didn’t want a council merger, but had it forced on them anyway?”

The Sydney councils that will now not be merged are:

• 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

The NSW government said the councils were being demerged to provide clarity to ratepayers leading up to the September 9 local government elections.

“We are proud of what we have already achieved for local communities in the 20 merged councils, where significant savings and improvements to services and infrastructure have been delivered,” said Premier Berejiklian.