Administrator John Rayner tells how new Georges River Council will work

Open door policy: John Rayner wants to "engage with the community" while administering the new Georges River Council. Picture: John Veage
Open door policy: John Rayner wants to "engage with the community" while administering the new Georges River Council. Picture: John Veage

The administrator of the new Georges River Council John Rayner says it will be “business as usual” in regard to services for residents.

Mr Rayner also said he was “more than happy to meet with community groups”.

“I want to make sure the community feel engaged with the new council,” he said.

In a historic moment for St George, Hurstville and Kogarah councils were merged by way of a proclamation in the NSW Government Gazette last Thursday.

A total of 30 councillors from Hurstville and Kogarah councils, whose terms were due to end in September, were sacked.

Georges River Council will be governed by Mr Rayner, and interim general manager Gail Connolly, until an election on September 9, 2017.

Mr Rayner served Sutherland Shire Council for 33 years, initially as shire clerk and, 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.

Ms Connolly was general manager of Ryde Council, which will be merged subject to the outcome of legal action.

Georges River Council will convene for the first time in an extraordinary meeting at 6pm on Thursday this week in Kogarah  Council Chambers.

Mr Rayner said meetings would alternate between Kogarah and Hurstville.

“The first meeting will establish the operational side of the organisation and also start reviewing the governance policies and procedures,” he said.

”We will be getting an understanding of the services that are being provided and looking at how to equalise those over time to improve services within the new area.”

Mr Rayner said the meeting would have a normal business agenda and receive reports on a number of matters, which he would consider, and make decisions on.

Residents would be able to address ordinary council meetings, he said.

Mr Rayner said he was looking at how a “representation committee” of former councillors and mayors, which the government said would be established in each new council to provide advice, would be set up.

”The Premier has made that commitment and I want to look at how it should be best structured and see who is interested in it,” he said.

As for the way planning matters would be handled, he said, “Stay tuned”.

Mr Rayner said advice would be needed from the Department of Planning and Environment on the Kogarah City Plan, which was approved in April, but has yet to be gazetted.

[A spokeswoman for Mr Toole said Kogarah’s 2012 LEP ”remains current”.]

Mr Rayner said he had “a personal view, but not an administrator’s view” on whether the Rockdale Council area should be added to Georges River Council.

Mr Rayner said there was “an unparalleled opportunity for the new council to improve administrative and service efficiencies while cutting red tape and improving outcomes for residents and ratepayers.”

Liberal MP for Barton and Kogarah councillor Nick Varvaris launched an extraordinary attack on Premier Mike Baird and Local Government Minister Paul Toole over the mergers.

Mr Varvaris, who sought to have Rockdale included in “One St George Council”, said Mr Baird and Mr Toole had “crudely rammed through amalgamations that will provide nothing but personal political benefit to a small cabal”.

Mr Varvaris accused the government of arrogance, dishonesty, treating the area with contempt, and farcically naming Georges River Council “after a waterway that runs from the town of Appin”.

Labor accused the government of “a gerrymander”.

SERVICE CENTRES

During the interim council period, the Customer Service Centres for both former councils are operating as usual with no changes to service delivery:

- Georges River Council, Hurstville Customer Service Centre at Civic Centre, MacMahon Street, Hurstville Open: Monday-Friday, Civic Centre: 8.30am-4.30pm, Call Centre: 8.30am-5.00pm Email: hccmail@hurstville.nsw.gov.au

- Georges River Council, Kogarah Customer Service Centre at 2 Belgrave Street, Kogarah Open: Monday-Friday, 8.30am-5.00pm Email: mail@kogarah.nsw.gov.au

Mr Rayner said, “Council will continue to deliver major projects and core services like waste collection, infrastructure program of works including road re-sheeting, footpath repairs, improvements buildings and facilities, and various upgrades to parks, playgrounds and sporting fields across the former Hurstville and Kogarah communities.”

The resident population of Georges River Council is 147,000 people and is projected to grow to more than 181,000 by 2031.

Mr Rayner said, “On behalf of Council, we thank the community for your patience and understanding during this transition period. Council will continue to ensure the community is informed with all the latest information as it happens.”

For the latest updates, contact Council on 1300 525 705 or visit www.georgesrivercouncil.nsw.gov.au [End

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