Government hit man The Boundary Commission’s Dr Robert Lang will review public submissions into the forced merger of Hunters Hill, Ryde and Lane Cove councils.
Local residents have until Sunday February 28 to tell the NSW Boundary Commission why their democratically elected councils shouldn’t be abolished and forcibly merged into a mega council dominated by the City of Ryde.
Premier Mike Baird regime’s deadline was announced on Friday alongside news that a bureaucrat known for economic rationalism has been appointed to head our local Boundary Commission review.
Bureaucrat Dr Robert Lang is Chairman of Regional Development Australia and a former CEO for Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority and Parramatta City Council.
He said he supports the Baird regime’s ‘long-term vision’ for Sydney which is driving the abolition and forced mergers of Hunters Hill Lane Cove and Ryde City Councils.
“Having developed a new vision for Parramatta as the Sydney’s second CBD I look forward to working to bring about the next phase of change and growth required to keep Sydney at the cutting edge of the global economy,” Dr Lang said.
His appointed as a government ‘hit man’ has been blasted by former Hunters Hill Mayor and Save Hunters Hill Municipality spokesman Ross Williams.
“He has been put in to do the government’s dirty work and to try to convince us the government is consulting with our communities,” Mr Williams said.
“He has no previous commitment to preserving our community values and my first reaction is he’s been put in to help the government suck as much money out of Hunters Hill and Lane Cove as it possibly can.”
Local Government Minister Paul Toole disagreed and said the consultation process with Mr Lang will be fair dinkum.
“Through this assessment process there will be opportunities for communities and stakeholders to consider the merger proposal and have their say,” a report released by Mr Toole said.
“Through the consultation process the delegate (Mr Lang) will ensure the opinions of each of the diverse communities will be effectively represented.”
Mr Williams described this process as a token gesture after reading the government spin sent to the media alongside news of Mr Lang’s appointment.
This spin includes claims the merger of our three local councils will generate $86 million in extra community services over two decades, lower rates and provide an immediate cash injection of $25 million to alleviate what the government claims is a $71 million infrastructure backlog across the three existing council areas.
“If there is going to be lower rates in Hunters Hill it will because the value of our residents’ homes will be reduced,” Mr Williams said.
“This is unfair on people who’ve worked hard all their lives to improve their homes and it means that Hunters Hill will no longer be a protected, advantaged heritage municipality, it will just be another suburb of Ryde.”
The current 28 councillors across Ryde, Hunters Hill and Lane Cove will be reduced to twelve, with the majority representing Ryde.
Mr Williams is also concerned that Hunters Hill’s Local Environment Plan and heritage protection rules will be scrapped.
He warned these protections could be part of the so-called ‘red tape’ the government wants to abolish to encourage property development.
The government spin hints at this.
“The establishment of the new council will also provide an opportunity to generate savings and efficiencies and reduce the many layers of current regulations,” Mr Toole’s report claims.
“Any savings generated by a merger of these three councils could be redirected to improving local community infrastructure, lowering residential rates and enhancing service delivery.”
Ratepayers can lodge submissions at www.councilboundaryreview.nsw.gov.au