Hornsby bites back

Enough govern­ment dither­ing, says Coun­cil, we want Ep­ping back

Monthly Chronicle - - Front Page - Jenny Bar­lass

Cash-strapped Hornsby Coun­cil has had enough of be­ing short-changed and kept in the dark about its amal­ga­ma­tion, tak­ing mat­ters into its own hands.

At a Coun­cil meet­ing last week coun­cil­lors voted unan­i­mously to try and get back a size­able chunk of the lu­cra­tive area south of the M2 which in­cluded Ep­ping and Car­ling­ford, given by the State Govern­ment to Par­ra­matta City Coun­cil dur­ing the amal­ga­ma­tion process in May last year.

The move ef­fec­tively means a par­tial re­ver­sal of its own amal­ga­ma­tion with Par­ra­matta, ironic given Lib­eral dom­i­nated Hornsby Coun­cil has been one of the State Govern­ment’s big­gest amal­ga­ma­tion ad­vo­cates, with a coun­cil re­port con­clud­ing: ‘It’s strong­est sup­porter of lo­cal govern­ment re­form has been left weaker with less scale and ca­pac­ity than be­fore.’

The coun­cil is tired of wait­ing to see what Premier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian in­tends to do re­gard­ing the amal­ga­ma­tion af­ter Ku-ring-gai won a court case in March to set aside merger plans.

The han­dover to Par­ra­matta equated to around a fifth of its annual ratepayer in­come. In an exclusive in­ter­view with the Monthly Chron­i­cle, Hornsby’s Mayor Steve Rus­sell said: “We ob­jected to los­ing Ep­ping at the time but we didn’t kick up too much of a fuss as we could see the ben­e­fits of an amal­ga­ma­tion with Ku-ring-gai, with bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture and bet­ter ser­vices.

“But it looks like this might stall so we need to send the govern­ment a mes­sage say­ing ‘you need to think of us - we can’t be the big­gest loser in all this’”.

The move has come about be­cause, says the Mayor, “I didn’t want us to be left hold­ing the dirty par­cel as the amal­ga­ma­tion process was all get­ting too hard for the Govern­ment.

“I asked our Chief Fi­nan­cial Of­fi­cer to do the sums and it seems that through the loss of this land and ratepayer base, res­i­dents would be los­ing $200 mil­lion over the next decade, re­duc­ing our sur­plus by $140m.

“So un­der S218E of the Lo­cal Govern­ment Act we’re ap­ply­ing to the Bound­aries Com­mis­sion to get Ep­ping back un­der Hornby’s ju­ris­dic­tion and Car­ling­ford can stay with Par­ra­matta. There’s no

cost to our ratepayers to do this.”

The coun­cil’s re­port also said that if suc­cess­ful, the move to get back de­vel­opable as­sets in the Ep­ping area is worth be­tween $50 mil­lion to $100 mil­lion.

The Mayor added that “we still think a merger is the best op­tion for Hornsby, but if not, we want Ep­ping back.”

If the Govern­ment doesn’t agree to the move, Hornsby’s bud­get will be ef­fec­tively re­duced by 15%. He added that he will stand again for Mayor at the forth­com­ing coun­cil elec­tions on Septem­ber 9.

Greens MP and Lo­cal Govern­ment spokesper­son David Shoe­bridge said: “Ev­ery rat is leav­ing the Coali­tion’s forced coun­cil amal­ga­ma­tions ship and it’s well and truly time that Cap­tain Bere­jik­lian scut­tled the whole af­fair.

“The de­ci­sion to hand over parts of Ep­ping and Car­ling­ford to Par­ra­matta Coun­cil was never about the best in­ter­ests of res­i­dents, it was de­signed to de­liver money and Lib­eral votes for Par­ra­matta Coun­cil.

“The Greens sup­port the re­turn of Ep­ping and Car­ling­ford to Hornsby, not just be­cause of the fi­nances, but be­cause those res­i­dents never got a say in the forced bound­ary change in the first place.”

Mayor Steve Rus­sell: “Coun­cil can­not be the big­gest loser in all this”

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