There will be no forced merger of Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai Council following a unanimous verdict by three Court of Appeal judges.
The announcement received mixed reactions from both sides and throws into chaos Premier Berejiklian’s merger policy in which city councils are being forced to merge while regional ones can decide for themselves.
The Court found there were reasons in law why the proposal to forcibly merge Ku-ring-gai Council and Hornsby Shire should not proceed in its current form, including that the accountancy firm KPMG’s report into the merger was kept secret from both the official investigating the merger Garry West, and the public.
They said Mr West could not properly carry out his assessment without the report.
Speaking after the judgement was handed down, Mayor Anderson said she was ‘heartened’ by the Court’s decision.
“The very real concerns of our Council and residents over this merger have been ignored by the government and we feel vindicated by today’s decision.
“This merger should not proceed because Ku-ring-gai ratepayers will be robbed of the means to decide how and where our rates are spent – and of any real say in how our local area is managed.
“We believe the Court’s decision signals a turning point for Premier Berejiklian’s Government. If they continue with the merger process they will be flying in the face of our community and the court.”
The Mayor said she and her councillor colleagues would wait to see what the state government would do after the court’s decision.
“We will continue to seek meetings with Premier Berejiklian and the Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton to press our case against being forcibly merged with Hornsby,” Mayor Anderson said.
Hornsby Shire Mayor Steve Russell has expressed disappointment at the Court of Appeal decision. “For more than a year we have been waiting for Ku-ring-gai Council and the State Government to resolve this issue,” Mayor Russell said.
“Perhaps now is the time for the NSW Government to revisit our proposal of one Upper North Shore Council, which includes all of the Epping CBD and parts of Ryde.
“That would be a valuable step in the right direction if they are truly committed to the local government reform this state needs.”
Ku-ring-gai Council is now awaiting a response to its letters to Gabrielle Upton for requests to meet with the Premier to take this to the next stage – to halt the whole merger process in its tracks.Meanwhile Opposition Leader Luke Foley is pressuring the Government to make the KPMG report public.