By Angela Dorizas
Councils in the Sydney basin must amalgamate and a new super agency must replace the Department of Local Government and the Department of Planning, if Sydney is to cope with a population of 10 million by 2050.
That is the advice of the Association of Consulting Engineers Australia (ACEA) in its Sydney Towards Tomorrow report released on Thursday.
ACEA recommended a consolidation of local urban councils in the Sydney Basin from 42 to just 11. Under the proposed reform, the regional centres of Newcastle, Illawarra and the Central Coast would each have one council.
“The ACEA proposes the formation of strong, efficient regional local governments to manage the greater urban area, delivering services at a lower net cost to the community,” the report stated.
“The ACEA believes that overall there would be an expected 20 per cent savings in administration costs as a result of amalgamation.
“Such savings would fund services and much needed asset maintenance.”
The association also proposed the abolition of the Department of Local Government, which would be replaced with a new super agency responsible for policy, planning, safety and funding of transport infrastructure management, development, maintenance and operation across all modes.
“There has been a lack of integration between the current Department of Local Government (DLG) and the Department of Planning (DoP). There is a disconnect between the planning policies of DoP and the management of local government policy by the DLG,” the report stated.
“The Department of Local Government should be abolished and the functions amalgamated into a new Department of Planning and Local Government.”
Other recommendations included scrapping the transport tax base and introducing a user pays system; a shift towards sustainable planning and procurement, ensuring that infrastructure delivers carbon neutrality to Sydney; and the introduction of a single urban plan for the entire region focused on quality medium density forms.
Albanese floats council amalgamations
A reduction in the number of Sydney councils has been endorsed by Federal Local Government Minister Anthony Albanese.
At a recent City of Sydney forum on integrated transport, Mr Albanese said the debate over Sydney’s transport problems needed to include some discussion of council amalgamations.
“The small size of Sydney’s councils is an impediment,” Mr Albanese said.
“We do need council amalgamations and that needs that to be from the bottom-up.”
Mr Albanese told Government News there were significant benefits from reducing the number of councils in Sydney.
“It is clear there would be efficiency gains and service delivery improvements if there were less councils in Sydney,” he said.
“But ultimately, decisions about amalgamations should be taken by local communities.”
The issue is on the agenda of the NSW Local Government and Shires Associations (LGSA) annual conference, held in Tamworth this week.
A LGSA spokesperson said the organisation would not be drawn into the amalgamation debate until a key discussion on modernisation of local government had taken place at the conference.
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