Is Mike Baird handpicking councillors for new super councils?

Mike Baird
Is Mike Baird picking teams on new NSW super councils?


NSW Premier Mike Baird is handpicking the councillors for new super councils, believes the president of the state’s local government peak body.

NSW Minister for Local Government Paul Toole wrote to councillors and general managers last week asking them to complete an expression of interest (EOI) if they wanted to reapply for their jobs in an interim council and “help shape the future of any new council.”

President of Local Government NSW Keith Rhoades said the application process, which closes on April 15, was like the merger process, “shrouded in secrecy.”

“It’s totally undemocratic. Totally,” Mr Rhoades said. “Here we’re going to have a government selecting and handpicking who they want to form a council.

“The Minister and the Premier did not elect these councillors. These councillors were elected by their communities: democratically.”

Mr Toole’s has asked interested applicants to complete a 500-word statement about why they should be allowed to stay on.

The options for councils include one person acting as an administrator of a newly-merged council or some or all councillors continuing in the new council until the local government elections in March 2017. Council elections will be held for those councils not affected by mergers in September 2016.

Councils may also form committees to advise on mergers or represent community views.

But Dubbo Deputy Mayor Ben Shields, who is also the area’s Federal Branch President of the Liberal Party, criticised Mr Rhoades’ comments: “I think anything Liberals or Nationals Keith is going to put the boot into but he offers no solutions at all.”

Mr Shields said most Dubbo councillors had decided to submit an EOI by mid-April.

“It’s an administrative process. I don’t think it’s democratic but we’re better off having people who are inside the tent. We have always got to think of the community first.”

It is not known on what criteria the government will chose councillors, for example, whether political affiliation or ward they represent will be taken into account.

Mr Toole’s letter has provoked stinging criticisms from councils, some of whom accused him of already having made his mind up on forced mergers ahead of reports by delegates running public inquiries into mergers and the Boundaries Commission.

Lockhart Shire councillors, in the NSW Riverina, have vowed to rebuff the minister’s request and not apply for anything.

Lockhart Mayor Peter Yates told the Daily Advertiser that he had received phone calls from councillors who refused to complete the form because it would be accepting the government’s forced merger plans.

“It’s what the government wants us to do to add weight to their merger proposal – we’d just be falling into their hands if we filled it in,” Mr Yates said.

“What the government’s saying is the mergers are a foregone conclusion – it’s going to happen – so be a part of it and add solidarity to your community.

“Well, we believe we have a good case to beat the merger proposal and until we’re told otherwise in June, we’re fighting right through to the end.”

The new councillors and general managers could start work as early as May, when Mr Toole is likely to deliver his verdict on the Boundaries Commission’s report.

Mosman councillor Tom Sherlock said he would not be responding to Mr Toole’s “coercive EOI.”

He said that submitting an application was incompatible with the views of the majority of Mosman councillors that the process had been “false” and trust had been broken between the state government, councils and communities.

But he admitted he was concerned that Mosman would be sidelined in a super council if councillors did not apply for the roles.

“To be honest, the process is so corrupted that I have no trust or faith in the government or the Minister or the Premier that I feel, if we were there, what kind of real power and trust would we have that anything we did or said would have any impact on what would happen?

“The agenda is very much in the hands of the big end of town, those that will benefit from the lack of community involvement in developing Sydney or regional areas.”

Woollahra Mayor Toni Zeltzer said interested councillors would submit EOIs – despite rejecting the proposed merger with Randwick and Waverley Councils – in order to represent the community that elected them.

“We believe that our community voted us in as their representatives and that has not changed,” Ms Zeltzer said. “We are still their voice. We continue to voice their majority opposition to forced amalgamation, we continue to fight for the democracy we believe should still be the heart of local government.”

She said she did not agree with the way the government was pushing its “political agenda” or the EOI process but councillors took their public service role very seriously.

“We were not elected by a group of government officials in Macquarie Street on a 500-word CV and a tick-a-box compliance checklist – the process is not ideal.

“Our councillors all have local knowledge, genuine commitment to the community and a competitive range of skills to bring to the table if we are forced to merge.

“We should remain in the arena – that is where we can promote the values upheld by our community and where we can make sure that any change is for the better.”

Mr Rhoades said he was concerned that councillors who completed an EOI had not be given any assurance of anonymity.

He said it was up to individual councillors to make their decision.

“There’s some chatter out there at the moment,” Mr Rhoades said. “I’m sure those affected councillors will be meeting to discuss their position.”






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13 thoughts on “Is Mike Baird handpicking councillors for new super councils?

  1. Democracy is dead. Murdered by the NSW Government. Mr Baird and Mr O’Toole and the whole Cabinet have blood on their hands and their constituencies won’t be forgetting it. Nobody likes fake community consultations with hidden agendas. The Government has taken us for fools.

    1. I agree, and if you disagree with them they punish you just as if you were a disobedient school kid; or are they just plain vindictive?

  2. The only people who are really opposed to the merger plan are councillors and council staff — most others think it’s long overdue.

    Roll on efficient local administration!

    1. I don’t know which residents you’ve been talking to but the majority tell me the opposite, they think the system is corrupted from the top starting with the Premier, maybe your constituents are developers and aren’t their needs well catered for!

    2. That is not true at all Robert Mc. Our community were independently surveyed and 92.7 % do not want to be amalgamated, our community are relying on our Councillors to convey this view and fight for us. We do not expect them to be scrambling over the top of each other for jobs from the Government when we are the ones that elected them. If we lose our council to the bigger centre or a merged entity people will lose their jobs, we will lose the quality of service we currently have, we will lose the ability to govern things locally that concern us. The run on effects of these things for a small council being taken over by a large council are devastating. Loss of teaching positions, loss of income for small businesses that support the town. Any small town that has been taken over will tell you it leads to economic and social demise. Creating easier developments in the cities and displacing people and herding them into larger centres in the rural areas seems to be the Governments objectives. All done without real evidence based data,without listening to the people and most certainly in the most undemocratic way possible.

    3. Whether an amalgamation is warranted or not, a Democratic and transparent process has to be followed. Local, State and Federal Govt. representatives must be chosen by the people they represent. This is the Democratic system. A Government which seeks to subvert the core rights of the Australian People is treading a very worrying path.

  3. Given recent revelations about the LNP, I would be very surprised if he was not. WE need a truly independent authority monitoring this.

  4. Totally disagree with that Robert – there is huge opposition to this rurally. The town meetings out here in rural NSW have been whole town turn outs and 100% against.

  5. Very, very strong opposition this is Central NSW – town meetings have had huge attendances with 100% against mergers. It’s not just about administration out here, it’s about communities. The backlash towards the Lib /Nat politicians has been immense.

  6. Hi Rob. Every survey I have read from across NSW have figures of between 70 and 90% of residents opposing forced mergers, so a lot more people than councillors and council staff oppose this undemocratic process. Can you tell me what research you read that shows that larger councils are more efficient? The major research projects carried out by Prof. Dollery through UNE show that larger councils result in higher rates, bloated senior managers and less ground staff – not a recipe for a more efficient local administration!

  7. Sorry Rob, you are completely wrong. The Kiama community overwhelmingly are against this forced merger. Why anyone swallows the blatantly undemocratic, autocratic shameless self serving of this embarrassingly incompetent Baird government is beyond me. If these forced mergers are so good for the communities, why can’t the government provide any evidence of benefits…that’s because there is no evidence. The only people who will benefit from these forced mergers will be developers and Baird’s job opportunities after he gets kicked out of parliament at the next election.

  8. The NSW Government are up to their ears in corruption.NSW Water,DPI,Heritage & Enviroment,and MDBA are ”YES” ministers to keep their positions.As citizens of NSW we have to vote against or put a stop to Mike Bairds devious plans.He is creating devision right through out NSW and he has to be replaced by some minister who cares about the area West of the Blue Mountains.

    Land & Water chief Denial Blair,Hollywood Humphreys and Jimmy Hanlon are cotton growing advocates,who are preventing ”WATER” travelling past the Bourke Weir,so that propertys on the Darling River can survive–operate.Never before in 150 years has a Government done what they are doing to people on the land.

  9. Robert Mc – that is NOT true. I work at a council & I am, in principle, in favour of mergers where they are sensible & logical. NOT when they are politically motivated. For instance, I live in Warringah & think it is sensible to have one Nthn Beaches council – I also can see the merit in having a Lower North Shore Council with the smaller councils merged into one. But I don’t see the logic in forcing already large councils to become even bigger. It is not in the interests of the community. You will see essential services cut back & the residents will be worse off. But yes, I agree – roll on efficient local administration. Just hope you don’t end up eating your words! And just so you know, I don’t mind if I am made redundant. I will get a job somewhere else. So I don’t have a vested interest.

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