February 18, 2016
Mr Ian Reynolds
Council Boundary Review Commission
GPO Box 5341
Sydney, NSW 2001
Dear Mr Reynolds
Re: Merger Proposal: North Sydney Council and Willoughby City Council
The Northbridge Progress Association Inc. and its members acknowledge the advantages that can eventuate as a result of a merger between Willoughby and North Sydney Local Government regions.
We recognise that there will, in fact, be financial benefits in a combined larger council structure – such as a consolidation of services and improved efficiencies; greater bargaining power with suppliers; ability to commercialise and reap a return on current underperforming assets; and fewer councillors and council staff per population area. All this should contribute to a better operating performance.
We favour a ward structure. Willoughby and North Sydney currently have a combined total of seven wards. The ward system assists with community cohesion and ensures that local issues receive the focus and attention necessary. We support having three councillors per ward to provide decisive representation and to avoid an indecisive two-way split. We see advantages in having at least four wards.
We favour part-time councillors as opposed to professional, full time representatives. Our future councillors need to be representative of the residents within the Local Government Division. They need to have a demographic diversity and their decision to uphold the position should not be skewed in favour of those who can afford to put their professional career on hold or those who are in retirement. A system that incorporates part-time councillors will attract diversity in demographic representation that will provide a better appreciation of community opinion. Also – all elected officials should be independent of any pecuniary interests that would prove them associated with developers, real estate agents and builders. Council by-laws would need to exclude such candidates from office.
We favour a publicly elected Mayor. The presiding position on council should be responsible to the community and not a position that can be orchestrated by Government, political entities or by fellow councillors.
We support a unified renaming of the Local Government area to something that is reflective of our geographic location – Lower North Shore City Council.
We are supportive of centralising the location of the council chambers to a mutually agreeable site. Such location needs to have disabled access, ample parking and easy public transport services.
We see Progress Associations as being key to all of the above; in ensuring greater accountability, transparency and community engagement. A larger Council area, with less Council representatives per population, will necessitate alternative means by which all levels of Government and the community can be adequately informed. Progress Associations, with their enhanced communication network and their resource of resident volunteer expertise within their membership structure, can fill that void. Progress Associations can provide a conduit between residents and Council. We can provide community cohesion and a strong united voice in directing Government.
We thank you for the opportunity to comment and again reiterate our support for the merger process.
Northbridge Progress Association Inc. is one of nine Progress Associations within Willoughby City Local Government area. We have a membership of close to 400 individuals and have been operating continuously since 1919. We have a publication –The 202 – which we distribute as a hard copy, free of charge to all 2600 households within Northbridge on a quarterly basis to keep our residents abreast of Local issues. The 202 is also distributed electronically to a wider audience via our Web Site and social media. We as an Association, also conduct regular quarterly community meetings where we encourage greater interaction between our member residents; other community associations, our Councillors and Council Officers. All in all – we encourage increased transparency between all parties and thereby ensure a greater working relationship between residents and Government.
The above submission was written in response to the New South Wales State Government proposal for the merger of North Sydney Council and Willoughby City Council.