No vote on Bayside de-amalgamation

No vote on Bayside de-amalgamation

Bayside residents have lost their chance to vote on whether they supported the de-amalgamation of their council.

Voters would have had to show their support at the September local government elections for a de-amalgamation to restore the former Rockdale and Botany council areas, following a motion put forward at last night's Bayside Council meeting by Crs Christina Curry and Scott Morrissey.

But following a fiery debate the motion was narrowly lost by eight votes to seven.

Everyone admitted that amalgamation had been painful but while some wanted a divorce, others said the marriage was too far gone to turn back.

One Botany resident described the amalgamation as a marriage in reverse that started in the courts and was followed by a marriage.

Althhough the relationship has matured the residents should say whether they wanted to make the marriage a success or go their separate ways.

Botany resident Gregory Waterhouse said that, from the Botany point-or-view, amalgamation just hasn't worked for the word 'go'.

"A de-amalgamation is a step in the right direction for the Botany people. To see how the place has gone downhill is just disgraceful. The area is nowhere near as good as it used to be. It has gone backwards in a hurry," he said.

Cr Christina Curry spoke on behalf of all residents.

"They want their voices heard in favour of de-amalgamation. They want to draw your attention to the fact that continuing with this failed venture will lead to an even more dysfunctional council," she said.

"Even the Liberal Government has recognised their failings of their amalgamation policy. Hence, why we have a recent amendment to the Local Government Act which provides the pathway for de-amalgamation.

"We have given the amalgamation the test of time. Five years. Despite the efforts of the council staff this amalgamation has failed to deliver the social harmony, the financial benefits and the cost savings that we were promised by the NSW Liberal Government when they forced us to amalgamate in 2016.

"In the last 12 months approximately 12,000 people have signed a petition by our local state member supporting de-amalgamation. This is a strong message.

"It is time to reverse this shambles . Rates are rising, in some cases up to 50 per cent. We will be in deficit for the first time on Botany's history.

"The amalgamation has failed to bring the people together and harmonise the community and the councils.

"The voices of discontent across Bayside grow louder and louder. There is absolutely no connection between the two communities of the east and west."

But Cr Michael Nagi said, "We need to stop going back to the past. We should all unite.

"I didn't want to amalgamate. When we amalgamated Botany had only $5 million in cash available. Rockdale had over $61 million cash available.

"When residents look at our financials and say we are in the red and are blaming Rockdale and say Botany was so healthy."

Cr Curry objected, adding that the according to the Rockdale Council annual report of 2014-15 - Rockdale had $7,289,000 in borrowings while Botany had been debt free since 1995 and the amount of $71 million in investments in cash.

Cr Nagi said, "People say the council is over $120 million in the red. Over 90 per cent of this shortfall is from assets on the Botany side.

"Over the next 10 year, over $110 million purely relates to assets on the Botany side of the LGA. The funding issue does not exist on the Rockdale side. Since amalgamation Bayside has delivered $23 million in projects in the former Botany area," he said.

Deputy mayor James Macdonald was not originally supportive of amalgamationr but added that that a lot of money has been spent on the merger and the council has done very well.

"I think we are heading in the right direction. If we do de-merge I think the former Rockdale would be disadvantaged," he said.

Cr Ed McDougall asked why can't the residents vote on this and let their opinion be known.

"I think we should consult with our residents and see what they want," he said.

But Cr Liz Barlow said her concern was the monetary aspect of any possible de-amalgamation.

Do we say to Botany you take the $4.8 million you had and you give us $60 million we had, she said.

"We were given $10 million (for the amalgamation) and it cost up $20 million. We were ripped off. I can't see how it will work monetary- wise unless the government gives us back every cent we had," she said.

Mayor Joe Awada supported the motion for a referendum on de-amalgamation.

"At the end of the day what we all know is we were forcibly amalgamated by the government.

"It is a fair to go to voters say do you really want to de-amalgamate," he said.

Cr Curry urged councillors to let the residents have their say.

"This is about giving the people a say. Our community has been impacted. Our rates are going up, our pool has been blocked.

"This was a forced amalgamation that is not working. Our community is very clear on this so please let the people of Bayside have a say. It's a democracy and it's their right to have a say."

But the majority of councillors did not agree.