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Time for Local Councils to Embrace Change

Release Date: 10/09/2014
The Sydney Business Chamber has welcomed the NSW government’s Fit for the Future council reform package  but has highlighted that any merger between councils needs to be properly aligned with  Sydney’s Metropolitan Strategy and that business needs to be part of the conversation on reform.
“The Sydney Business Chamber has been a longstanding advocate for local government reform and we welcome the Government’s commitment to address this issue,” said Sydney Business Chamber Executive Director Patricia Forsythe.
“In 2009 in conjunction with KPMG we released a report Sydney First - Governance Arrangements for Sydney’s Local Government Authorities that identified that transforming Sydney’s councils is absolutely vital to ensuring that Sydney retains its status as Australia’s only Global City.
“For too long the structure of Sydney’s local government has acted as a barrier to improved operating performance, regional planning and the competitiveness of Sydney as a global city.
“We welcome the Government’s decision to encourage Council amalgamation however there needs to be a clear strategic objective to the amalgamations so that it is about more than the number of councils but is built around the alignment of councils with the job and housing targets that have been set for each region. All stakeholders, including the business community need to be part of the conversation in establishing revised council boundaries.
“Incentives are a good start but history suggests that may not prove enough for those areas that are change resistant.
“We strongly urge local councils to see the benefits and opportunities in the package of measures the NSW Government is offering,” Mrs Forsythe said.
Professor Graham Sansom last year found the number of councils in Sydney and NSW unsustainable.
David Borger, Western Sydney Director of the Sydney Business Chamber noted, “As a former mayor and state minister, I have seen the issue from both sides and believe strongly that council amalgamation will be the best chance for Sydney to manage growth and development. Local councils must have the resources to be sustainable.
“Fewer councils will mean councillors can take a more strategic view on issues like jobs, housing and transport.  However, I’m not sure financial incentives are enough to shift self-interest. We need a new system to encourage stronger leadership.”
“We need to strengthen the role of river cities such as Parramatta, Liverpool and Penrith to provide jobs. Western Sydney needs to attract new talented people to work and start new businesses - the current permitting process and zoning have contributed to the lack of development.
“We are also facing a housing crisis, we can't afford to house our children based in current prices. Lack of overarching strategic planning is contributing to the crisis; amalgamation is the only way forward for Western Sydney.”

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