Local Government Amalgamations

14th May 2015

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) [12.29 p.m.], by leave: I acknowledge the Minister at the table and thank him for respecting the motion moved by the member for Sydney and appearing here to listen to this debate. I strongly support the motion, even though we saw a wonderful and colourful exhibition by the member for Kiama.

Mr Gareth Ward: I have no colour.

Mr GREG PIPER: He said that, I didn't. The most colourful thing about him was his performance on this matter. I have a significant amount of experience in local government. I acknowledge in the Chamber the member for Charlestown, who is the current mayor of Lake Macquarie. I held that position for 8½ years and I served for more than 21 years on Lake Macquarie City Council. I see myself as a creature of local government and have huge respect for councils. Other members, including the member for Balmain, have expressed the same sentiment, but that does not mean we are saying that there should be no amalgamations at all.

This motion concerns the fact that there should be no forced amalgamations of councils that can demonstrate sustainability and that choose not to amalgamate. This debate is not about saying that there should be no amalgamations, because we know that some councils are not viable in their current form. Local government has made suggestions. I am sure we will hear from the mayor and deputy chair of Hunter Councils, the member for Charlestown, about the incredible success of Regional Organisations of Councils. Her organisation of councils led the way in New South Wales and it can provide economies of scale to councils within the region. It is a very good model for others to follow.

I am concerned about the ideology driving this push as a result of the independent review. The discussion has been almost entirely about economic sustainability but communities will be better served if we can achieve economic sustainability without putting other measures in place such as population measures that will force amalgamations. The Minister and the Premier have talked about the time line and said that many council boundaries were drawn more than 100 years ago. So what? A boundary is drawn and a community builds within it.

Let us talk about Victoria, which was formed in 1851. That is a funny little State struggling along down at the bottom of Australia. We should also throw in Tasmania and the economic basket case that is South Australia. Let us be a bit fair dinkum and bring those States into this discussion. We could hive off the bottom half of New South Wales—the electorates of Murray, Albury, Wagga Wagga, Monaro and Bega—and give them over to Victoria. That will make them much more sustainable.

Mr Paul Toole: Are you amending this motion?

Mr GREG PIPER: I see the Minister is taken with that suggestion. That is the same kind of nonsense argument that is being promulgated by the proposition of forced amalgamations. I strongly support the motion of the member for Sydney.

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