Former long-serving general manager of Sutherland Shire Council John Rayner has taken the reins of the new Georges River Council.
Mr Rayner was appointed administrator of the entity created by the merger of Hurstville and Kogarah councils by government proclamation today (see earlier story below).
The interim general manager is Gail Connolly.
Mr Rayner will govern the council until an election is held on September 9, 2017.
Mr Rayner served Sutherland Shire Council for 33 years, as shire clerk and, then when the title was changed, as general manager.
He stepped down last year and has been working for the state government on the amalgamation process.
Georges River Council will comprise five wards: Peakhurst, Mortdale, Blakehurst, Hurstville and Kogarah Bay.
The Stronger Councils Stronger Communities website says administrators of the new councils hold the functions of the elected council and mayor.
”The administrator will work closely with the interim general manager who will manage councils’ day to day operations and lead the organisation through the implementation process.
“Implementation of new councils will be supported by local representation committees, formed by the administrator for each of the former council areas, to provide advice on local views and issues.
“The administrators will also establish implementation advisory groups to provide consolidated advice for the new council’s Implementation Plan.
“New councils will run a local community grants program from funding provided by NSW Government.
“Local community groups will be able to apply for community grants of up to $50,000 to invest in community infrastructure and services that build more vibrant, sustainable and inclusive local communities.
“Projects may include upgrades of club facilities, funding of sporting equipment or providing tools and equipment to enable improved delivery of community services.”
Hurstville and Kogarah councils have been merged into a new entity called Georges River Council, which will operate under an administrator and new general manager for the next 16 months.
Rockdale Council will be merged with Botany Bay Council subject to a court decision.
Premier Mike Baird announced “the most comprehensive local government reform in more than 100 years will result in 19 new councils beginning operations from today”.
An administrator and an interim general manager was appointed to the new Georges River Council and will remain until elections for new councils on September 9, 2017.
Local Government Minister Paul Toole said the administrator “takes on the role of councillors”.
He said it would be business as usual for residents, with services operating as normal.
Mr Toole said planning protections would remain in place with existing Local Environmental Plans remaining in force under the new councils.
Mr Baird said, in principle, the minister supported creating a further nine councils, including a merger of Rockdale and Botany Bay, subject to decisions of the courts.
Botany Bay has mounted a legal challenge against merging with Rockdale.
Rockdale Council’s position is also affected by an eleventh hour bid to include it in “One St George Council”.
Mr Toole said that application, made by Kogarah Council with widespread bipartisan support, had been referred to the Boundaries Commission, but would not delay the formation of Georges River Council.
Mr Toole denied the decisions about the St George councils were made for political reasons.
By excluding Rockdale, the new Georges River Council is expected to stay Liberal controlled.
Mr Baird said it was an “historic day” for NSW.
“We are ensuring our communities have stronger and more efficient councils, which will free up money for important projects such as local roads, parks, playgrounds and footpaths,” he said.
“The rate protection policy commitment means residents of new councils will pay no more for their rates than they would have under their old council for four years.”
Mr Baird said reducing waste and red tape through local government mergers could free up close to $2 billion over the next 20 years, allowing councils to fund better services and new infrastructure for communities or lower rates.
The government would conduct a review in four years to ensure the community was continuing to benefit from stronger councils.
The government has released the reports of delegates appointed by the Boundaries Commission to inquire into proposed mergers.