Council mergers

Below is the text of the submission I made on 26 February 2016 to the Council Boundary Review considering the New South Wales government proposal to merge Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby local government areas.

My wife, our six children, and I vehemently oppose any merger of Ku-ring-gai Council with any other council.

Unlike Brisbane, for which a single council is sensible, Sydney has always been a city of distinct local areas, with different local cultures. Those cultures direct the priorities of their local councils. I don’t believe a merged council could have produced the St Ives Medieval Faire, concerts in local parks, or many other cultural activities of the nature we’ve enjoyed with the support and leadership of Ku-ring-gai council.

The only businesses generally dealing with multiple local councils are property developers. To destroy Sydney’s local cultures so as to make life a little easier for them is to betray any final sense of being a civilisation.

A merger with Hornsby would obliterate Ku-ring-gai and give nothing to the people of Hornsby. Hornsby Council’s support for the proposed merger appears driven more by empire building by Hornsby councillors than the interests of Hornsby residents.

If merging councils produced economies of scale, then large councils would already be performing better and state governments would be better than they are. They’re not. The corporate world is littered with failed promises of economies of scale.

In my experience, the most efficient businesses are small. Big councils without natural affinities over their areas will become increasingly bureaucratic and unresponsive to local residents.

The state government already has mechanisms to monitor and improve council performance. Merging councils will distract council staff from their useful roles.

If the state government is so convinced of the merits of any merger opposed by an existing local council, it should make its case in a plebiscite of each local government area it is seeking to destroy. Anything else is oppression.

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