Submissions are due soon regarding the proposed amalgamations. So it is time that we need to ask, what does the amalgamations mean for our Brooklyn Community?
There is always an argument for both sides and we are in a situation where our council, Hornsby is in favour, where Ku-ring-gai is not. The “”for”” arguments are all about savings, efficiencies and more qualified personnel. The “”against”” argument is about reduced representation for the local communities and also about the doubt that there will be savings.
In a SMH article by Anne Davies she quotes Research by Professor Brian Dollery, of the University of New England, and others published in the Institute of Public Administration’s journal in January this year that compared Brisbane City Council (population more than 1 million), with City of Sydney Council (population 200,000), and two clusters of south-east Queensland councils and NSW councils. The council‘s chosen were about 125,000 each. Our financial analysis of BCC casts considerable doubts over the continuing mantra that bigger is better in the context of contemporary Australian local government,” Dollery concluded.
“We found that between 2008 and 2011 the three comparison groups consistently outperformed the BCC in the key areas of financial flexibility, liquidity, and debt-serving ability. So we need to question these efficiencies.”
One specific question on the merger- Hornsby only has a 1 per cent backlog in infrastructure whilst Ku-ring-gai has 32 per cent – does that mean the new council will be expending most of the infrastructure in the current Ku-ring-gai area?
So back to Brooklyn, our main concern is how will the very large council understand the unique requirements for our river community? Will they know about all the residents including those that live in other councils that use Brooklyn as their services hub. Things like rubbish, parking, pharmacy and cafes? Will they understand how to maintain the precarious balance between tourism and keeping our quaint fishing village character? This will be difficult with the new council required to service the current 270,000 residents.
Let’s face it, if the State wants the councils to amalgamate then it is going to happen, so we can only hope to change some of the processes. So the questions is, what new processes will the large councils put in place to ensure they are connecting and communicating with all of their communities including the smallest ones? One idea would be to have a newly formed Local association group made up of representatives of the local community groups that meet with the council on a regular basis. Or perhaps a citizens senate chosen by Lottery to ensure real representation. All I know is that a new process must be put in place when the amalgamations happen.
Di Bowles is the President of the Brooklyn Community Association. They can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org