The NSW Government has announced that Sydney councils will be reduced from 43 to 25 under new plans revealed today.
Regional councils will also be reduced from 109 to 87.
The changes follow a review by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) released in October that found many councils were not "fit for the future". The IPART report found "reducing waste and red tape through local government mergers could free up to $2 billion over the next 20 years for NSW ratepayers".
“Four years of independent research, analysis and NSW Government consultation with councils and the community has shown that the current system of local government is not working as well as it should be,” NSW Premier Mike Baird said.
“With 60 per cent of councils not fit for the future, this IPART report shows the situation is now critical and that action is needed to ensure ratepayers get value for money and the services and infrastructure they deserve.
“For many councils this is a final opportunity to do the right thing for the future of their communities, which in many cases may include merging with neighbouring councils.”
The planned Sydney council mergers are:
The NSW Government has announced a Stronger Communities Fund, providing each new council up to $15 million to invest in community infrastructure projects such as sporting fields, libraries, and parks and funding of up to $10 million for each new council to ensure ratepayers do not pay for the up-front costs of merging. This funding will be available to those mergers agreed to by councils and the NSW Government.
In early January 2016 the Minister for Local Government Paul Toole will refer detailed merger proposals to the Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government for examination and report under the Local Government Act.
Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson said of the changes: “The NSW Government’s proposals for council amalgamations are a good balance between improving performance while maintaining local identity. However, the proposed groupings do not align with some of the Planning District boundaries as defined in the Metropolitan Strategy, A Plan for Growing Sydney. Botany Bay and Rockdale, Canterbury and Bankstown, The Hills and Hawkesbury are all now in different districts yet are proposed as amalgamated councils. Clearly the Greater Sydney Commission Districts and their proposed Commissioners will need to be rethought."