RALLY: Local Government NSW president Keith Rhoades will lead the fight against the Baird Government’s plans.
RALLY: Local Government NSW president Keith Rhoades will lead the fight against the Baird Government’s plans. Trevor Veale/The Coffs Coast Adv

Residents to rally against council amalgamations

ANGRY residents and ratepayers from across the State will gather on Sunday in Sydney’s Hyde Park to protest the Baird Government's push to forcibly amalgamate local councils – a move communities have dubbed as the death of grassroots democracy.

The Local Democracy Not Dictatorship rally kicks off at the Hyde Park Fountain at noon, and has been coordinated by the Save Our Councils Coalition.

“Premier Mike Baird and Local Government Minister Paul Toole waited until the week before Christmas to reveal their proposals to scrap 22 regional and 18 metropolitan councils,” Local Government NSW President Cr Keith Rhoades said.

“Councils slated for the chop include many found by IPART to be “fit” to stand alone under the Government’s own criteria, while voluntary merger proposals have been overruled in favour of the Government's approach.

“LGNSW welcomes council amalgamations where they can be shown to deliver genuine benefits and are supported by residents, ratepayers and councils.

“In fact we’re working hard with councils who have chosen to amalgamate in order to help ensure the process goes smoothly and maximum benefits are realised.

“What we do vehemently oppose is forced amalgamations, where Minister Paul Toole and Premier Mike Baird have chosen to ignore hard economic evidence and the wishes of local communities that their councils remain stand-alone entities.

Statistically verified opinion polling released by LGNSW found just 18% of the community supported the Government’s merger proposals, while more than 60% preferred their Council to stand alone.

“Local Government is the only way the majority of ordinary individuals can have a direct input into the future of their neighbourhoods and the way they live their lives – and they don’t want any sphere of Government riding roughshod over this right,” Cr Rhoades said.

“They don’t want to be forced to give way to big developers, or to see their lifestyles impacted by decisions into which they have no meaningful input.

“I urge the Government to heed this expression of public opinion, whether it is demonstrated through independent polling, locally-based community protests or larger rallies such as the Save Our Councils rally tomorrow.”

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