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Give us our land back

Hornsby Shire Council has voted to submit a proposal to the NSW Government seeking the return of territory that was lost last year.

In May 2016, the NSW Government removed the land south of the M2 Motorway from Hornsby Shire and gave it to the City of Parramatta Council.

“We didn’t agree with the loss of that territory,” Hornsby Shire Mayor Steve Russell said.

“The government’s declared purpose of its local government reform was to create larger and more financially secure councils, a proposition we agree with in the 21st Century with increasing need for bigger and better facilities.”

The loss of Epping and other suburbs south of the M2 Motorway has had a severe negative impact on council’s budget, with a reduction of more than $9 million in the recurrent budget surplus.

“This is very frustrating, particularly when Hornsby Shire Council was one of the most efficient councils in NSW and an active supporter of the government’s plans for reform.

“With Ku-ring-gai Council’s win in court, it is not clear what the government’s position is in regard to continuing with the amalgamation of Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai councils.

“We are asking the government to return our lost territory if the amalgamation does not proceed.”

An olive branch

At this week’s meeting, council also resolved to prepare a second submission that would see a redrawing of the Shire’s southern boundary.

It is a compromise proposal that would allow Carlingford to remain in the City of Parramatta and consolidate the Epping town centre in Hornsby Shire.

“This proposal would give council added financial security, whilst it would also avoid returning to the situation of having significant town centres managed by multiple councils,” Mayor Russell said.

A rebuke of major proportions

The Greens, who have been fighting council amalgamations from the outset, see the Liberal-dominated Hornsby Council’s frustrations as the final nail in the coffin of the merger idea.

The coalition has lost its last ally in local government, as Hornsby Council delivers a ‘stinging rebuke’ to the Berejiklian forced amalgamation mess, the Greens said. Liberal-dominated Hornsby Council is the last remaining elected council that supported the Coalition’s forced amalgamations.

Greens MP and local government spokesperson David Shoebridge said: “Every rat is leaving the Coalition’s forced council amalgamations ship and it’s well and truly time that Captain Berejiklian scuttled the whole affair.

“The Liberal-dominated Hornsby Council had been one of the few elected councils that supported the Coalition’s forced amalgamations because they thought they would gobble up Ku-ring-gai.

“Now its planned take-over of Ku-ring-gai Council has fallen over, Hornsby Council has turned against the Berejiklian government and is demanding its high-rating land back.

“The decision to hand over parts of Epping and Carlingford to Parramatta Council was never about the best interests of those residents, it was designed to deliver money and Liberal votes for a super-sized Parramatta Council.

“Treating residents as pawns in the Coalition’s politicised boundary changes and forced amalgamations is a very low form of politics that the Greens fundamentally reject.

“While there are good democratic and financial reasons to see Hornsby Council restored, it is deeply troubling that the Liberal Council says it wants the decision reversed to get back ‘developable assets in the Epping area worth between $50 million to $100 million'”

“No Council should be eying off public land solely as a development opportunity. The Greens support restoring Hornsby Council to its former boundaries, but it must be with a promise to keep scarce public land in public hands,” Mr Shoebridge said.

The council report states:

“Council’s view is that our ratepayers are likely to judge both the council and the government harshly if council seeks a rate variation to recover a significant portion of the lost revenue.

 “The NSW Government’s execution of its local government reform agenda has to date comprehensively failed the residents and ratepayers of Hornsby Shire.

 “The matter has been made worse by the NSW Government’s subsequent inaction and apparent indecisions.

 “The council is not even able to carry out something as fundamental as the appointment of a permanent general manager, and has now appointed it’s third acting general manager since August 2015.

 “No other council in NSW has been subjected to such a significant loss of territory, on top of an amalgamation. The situation is worsened by the fact that the NSW Government never signalled its intention to transfer the area south of the M2 Motorway to Parramatta.

 “Since the areas south of the M2 Motorway were removed from Hornsby Shire Council, there have been no formal surveys or other research into the opinions among the local community.

 “By the government’s action and inaction, it’s strongest supporter of local government reform has been left weaker with less scale and capacity than before. And it is the only local government where this has occurred.”

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