Minister thanks NSW councillors about to be sacked
FORCED amalgamations for councils deemed to be dysfunctional money pits have been all-but guaranteed at the Local Government NSW annual conference in Sydney.
Local Government Minister Paul Toole met jeers when he thanked councillors who would no longer have a job after the Baird government's Fit for the Future reforms were implemented.
"For those of you who are completing your last term in local government, I thank you for your service to your community," he said.
It was a tough crowd.
Sheets of paper reading "No forced amalgamations" were handed out before the minister spoke and were readily waved during his speech, amid calls of "bullsh*t" from certain members of the peanut gallery.
A seemingly unfazed Mr Toole went on the offensive, slamming "unfit" councils for failing to nominate for mergers.
Only nine of the state's 152 local government areas had put their hand up to be joined with their neighbours.
The number in line for the imminent council border-blending will apparently be much higher, despite assurances last year there would be no mandatory amalgamations.
Mr Toole gave councils one last opportunity to nominate for mergers and reap the rewards - a swag of incentives including rate-setting flexibility, cheaper loans and a one-off payment.
"A final chance to respond is not a chance for those who are not fit to argue that they are," he said.
"It's a final chance to make the decision that's in the best long-term interest of your community."
Mr Toole guaranteed all councils in NSW would know their fate by the end of the year.
He added there were no plans to push back the September 2016 local government elections "at this stage", bringing a sigh of relief to resigning councillors who already have their retirement holidays planned.
"I said to you last year, I am not going to be standing here in the next five or 10 years and still talking about the same issues that we spoke about 20-plus years ago," he said.
"They haven't been dealt with, and as the minister I am committed to making sure that once and for all we're going to deal (with) and tackle those issues.
"I hear councillors saying to me, 'Oh minister, that's too much. We've got a lot happening'.
"I make no apology for that because we are getting on with it, and we are going to address it together.
"I get letters every week from people who are fed up with discord and the shenanigans in their local councils.
"And they want me to fix the system that allows them."
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal will deliver its Fit for the Future findings to the government on Friday.
They will be considered in Cabinet before any final decisions are handed down.