As councils across New South Wales consider their future after a push from the State Government to see amalgamations take place, one property expert believes fewer local government areas (LGA) across Sydney could come with enormous benefits.
A number of councils in Sydney have already agreed to join forces, with Waverley and Randwick agreeing to amalgamate, while in the inner west Canada Bay, Auburn and Burwood have also decided to form a single LGA.
Those amalgamations were decided before the release of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal’s (IPART) Fit for the Future Report, which claims 60% of councils in the state will not be viable in the future and should amalgamate with their neighbours.
Councils were given to 18 November to reply to the IPART findings, with speculation mounting that the government will move to forced amalgamations after that.
"Mike Baird is hell bent on forcing councils to amalgamate, regardless of whether it’s the best option for communities across NSW," Shadow Minister for Local Government Peter Primrose said earlier this year.
If that is the case, the inner west of Sydney could see another large LGA formed, with Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville last week submitting a joint merger preference that would see them become one if forced amalgamations are enacted.
Moves like that would be welcomed by Sam Saggers, chief executive officer of Positive Real Estate, who believes the benefits of reduced councils can be seen in Sydney’s northern counterpart.
“If you look to Brisbane you can see first-hand how well it works. Brisbane City
Council has a population of something like 1.2 million people and the rest of the city is covered by four other LGAs,” Saggers said.
“If you look at what Brisbane’s been able to achieve in the past 10 years it’s amazing. They’ve put in roads, underground bus ways, and bike lanes and made a number of other improvements because they’ve got consistency across the city,” he said.
Saggers said an injection of infrastructure into Sydney like the one seen in Brisbane would bring marked improvements for some areas of the city.
“There are some areas of the city that would really benefit from increased transport links,” he said.
“If you could make some of the outer suburbs more accessible and in a way make them closer to the CBD, then you’d really see some benefits.”
In Saggers’ opinion there would be other benefits that would come with a more streamlined approach to local government in the city.
“As it stands at the moment councils are given quotas each year in terms of how much supply they’re supposed to release each year and they get a grade each year like a school report card.
“At the moment most councils are scoring a C or a D because they’re not releasing enough and not keeping up with population growth and that’s causing artificial price movements.
“By amalgamating we’d see a lot of the bureaucracy like different height restrictions [and] different no-go zones. I think you’d see a better flow of supply which would help affordability.”
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