Today we moved a motion opposing forced council mergers.
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) [12.45 p.m.], by leave: It is important to state for the record that in the past the Newtown electorate had three local government areas—South Sydney City Council, the council of the City of Sydney and Marrickville Council—but, unfortunately, as a result of forced amalgamations in 2004, it has only two local councils. I move:
That the amendment be amended by leaving out all words after "this" with a view to inserting instead:
(1) Opposes forced amalgamations of councils as a flawed and counterproductive vehicle for meaningful local government reform.
(2) Notes the strong community and local government sector opposition for forced council amalgamations.
It is very important to recognise that local councils have a plan. Earlier non-Government members were accused of deliberate opposition, but there will always be opposition. It is important to remember that we do have a plan. The council of the City of Sydney has an amazing strategic plan that is making our city more diverse and more liveable. Marrickville Council has a great plan that is able to deliver a level of integrated cycleways, connected communities and amazing art spaces. That is what the plans are for local government areas in the inner city and that is what the council of the City of Sydney and Marrickville Council deliver for their communities.
I wonder whether my Government colleagues have spoken to the newly elected upper House member, the Hon. Shayne Mallard, who was a member of the South Sydney City Council prior to the forced amalgamation, and have asked him how he feels about forced amalgamation. I also ask whether we need to be doing this. What is the agenda? Members may recall that during my inaugural speech I referred to Lilian Fowler, who, as a member for Newtown in this House, also spoke about her rejection of forced council amalgamations. We are seeing that the issue has emerged again at a different time, but with the same agenda—an agenda of efficiencies.
It is not about efficiencies to provide better community services and community support to our local areas. It is about efficiencies that look simply at the bottom line and the level of profit that can be delivered rather than what types of services our communities are provided. Our local councils provide a number of programs that are about diversity in our communities, supporting people who are most in need and those who are most vulnerable. It is councils like the Marrickville Council, the council of the City of Sydney and councils in the inner city areas, such as the Leichardt Municipal Council, that actually are delivering those outcomes for our communities. In a big city that is as dense, complex and challenging as is Sydney, we need to have local representation to be able to deliver for the community.
It is only The Greens in the New South Wales Parliament who consistently have stood up against forced amalgamations. The Greens is the only party in the New South Wales Parliament that has said that we do not support forced amalgamations, we do not support the idea of communities being run over and ignored, but we do support strong community consultation.
Over many years the City of Sydney, the Marrickville Council and the Leichhardt council have provided strong community consultation. It is something that The Greens will continue to stand up for in this place and we will continue to work with the community. The mayor of Leichhardt council—a member of The Greens—has been active in ensuring consultation with the community. I note the member for Balmain, a former mayor of Leichhardt council, has also made a strong effort to stand up for the community. I note that the former mayor of Marrickville Council is also present in the Chamber as the member for Summer Hill. There has been a strong and active community campaign within the inner west and the inner city to support local councils. Local Councils are the means by which we make our cities liveable. Members need to stand up for local councils.