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Government demerge bill fails local communities

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Amanda Cohn
NSW Greens MP
9 May 2024

The NSW Labor Government’s demerger legislation fails local communities across NSW who have campaigned for years to restore local democracy. 

The state government has today (9 May 2024) teamed up with the Opposition to pass its own undemocratic bill which gives the Minister for Local Government more power over the process than affected councils or communities.

Greens spokesperson for Local Government Dr Amanda Cohn introduced the Local Government Amendment (De-amalgamation Plebiscites) Bill 2023 in November 2023. This bill would have enabled binding plebiscites to be held in relation to the de-amalgamation of local councils that would be funded by the state government.

The Greens moved amendments to that bill yesterday (8 May 2024) to resolve problems that NSW Labor have raised with it or included in its own de-amalgamation bill. The government rejected the Greens’ bill despite those amendments.

The Greens moved amendments to the government’s bill today, including:

  • Binding the Minister to act on the result of a referendum on de-amalgamation. The government’s bill stipulates that a demerger progressing is at the Minister’s discretion.
  • Allows electors to make a de-amalgamation proposal, which is critical where the amalgamated council itself does not support demerger. This framework is essential to recover the lost voices of smaller communities whose councils were amalgamated into larger councils - as examples, Pittwater, Guyra, Bombala, and Urana.

The government’s bill passes while communities in Bombala, Canterbury Bankstown, Central Coast, Cootamundra-Gundagai, Guyra, Inner West, Pittwater, Hilltops and Tumbarumba continue to campaign for council de-amalgamation and the restoration of local democracy.

Quotes attributable to Dr Amanda Cohn, Greens NSW spokesperson for Local Government and former Deputy Mayor at Albury Council.

“The Minister for Local Government says that he values local democracy and the importance of local government, but today he puts forward a bill that gives himself more power than councils and communities.

“Even after a council goes through producing business cases, Boundaries Commission analyses, and a referendum, the Minister still has the power to veto the community’s decision. Is this the type of local democracy that Ron Hoenig stands for?

“This is a slap in the face to local communities who have been campaigning tirelessly to restore local democracy for the past seven years, many of whom were in the Parliament yesterday and today.

“Rather than work with those communities and the cross-bench in good faith, the government’s undemocratic bill has been rammed through with the support of the Opposition who created the mess of forced council amalgamations in the first place.

The Greens wish to extend thanks to the many advocates across NSW who have campaigned tirelessly for years. They are Save Bombala, Residents for the Demerger of Canterbury Bankstown Council, Central Coast Friends of Democracy, Gundagai Council in Exile, Save and Grow Guyra, Inner West Residents for Deamalgamation, Protect Pittwater Association, Save Tumbarumba Shire, Demerge NSW Alliance and many more. The Greens will continue to fight to restore the local democracy they deserve.

 

Media contact: Josh Appleton - [email protected] - 02 9230 2566

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Amanda Cohn
NSW Greens MP
9 May 2024
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