Sydney council amalgamations backed by expert

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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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  • Rochelle says on 15/11/2015 02:19:32 AM

    Seems like the coalition has become the development industry 's puppet- how unusual.
    What exactly does the author mean by councils holding back on the release of "supply" ? What is the "supply" in Woollahra? in Marrickville or Hunters Hill - is it local homes that you want to get hold of and see them rezoned by Urban Growth to high rise apartments? And what complete nonsense to equate the provision of better public transport in cities with amalgamated mega-councils. Public transport is the responsibility of the state government and local councils are the ones advocating very hard to get the state government to make significant investments in public transport - they are part of the solution - the state government is the problem.

  • Jason says on 16/11/2015 11:47:35 AM

    Which council are you on Rochelle?

  • Angela says on 16/11/2015 02:51:49 PM

    Hornsby Council failed because they did not have enough population for their area size. State Gov forgot that Hornsby has a national park running inside its borders.

    Michael Baird and the NSW State Liberal Government are all for developers and increased population. SO what we do not have schools, hospitals or roads to support the increase.

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