Below are some questions that Ku-ring-gai residents may have concerning the proposed forced merger of Ku-ring-gai Council and Hornsby Council.
If you have a question not answered below, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will publish an answer on this web page.
What were the key rulings by the Court of Appeal?
The Court’s ruling included three key findings:
- The NSW Government must pay Ku-ring-gai Council’s legal costs in all cases.
- The KPMG report should be publicly released in full.
- The current merger proposal is null and void.
How did the Court of Appeal make its decision?
The Court based its decision on three key factors:
- That the excision of Epping from Hornsby to form part of the new Parramatta Council was not properly considered by the Delegate Garry West, who was appointed by the NSW government to assess the Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby merger proposal.
- That neither the Delegate nor the public could form an objective view of the merger proposal because the KPMG report was not publicly released.
- That Ku-ring-gai Council was denied procedural fairness as a result.
What is the KPMG report and why does it matter?
The KPMG report has been used as the main justification for the NSW Government’s policy of forced mergers for the past two years. It purportedly contains financial modelling that demonstrates ratepayers would be better off if their council was merged.
However no one, including the government’s Delegates who were appointed to assess each merger proposal, has seen a complete copy. The government’s reason for not publicly releasing the report is that it is ‘cabinet-in-confidence’. However the Court of Appeal, in its ruling on Ku-ring-gai Council’s case on 27 March 2017, found that the public interest outweighed any considerations of confidentiality and that the report should be released in full. To date, the government has still not released the full report.
What has happened since the Court of Appeal ruling?
At the end of April 2017, the Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton publicly declared that the NSW Government would stand by its decision to forcibly merge Ku-ring-gai with Hornsby Council. This was reiterated by Premier Gladys Berejiklian in an interview she gave with the North Shore Times and Hornsby Advocate on 11 May 2017.
Ku-ring-gai’s Mayor Jennifer Anderson has made several requests to meet with the Premier and the Minister for Local Government to discuss the Council’s future. To date a meeting has not been granted.
The NSW Government can still proceed with a merger proposal – just not the current one. The Court of Appeal has ruled that this cannot go ahead.
What happens next?
Although Ku-ring-gai Council won its court case against being merged, the NSW Government has stated that it intends to proceed with the forced merger, which it can do at any time through the NSW Boundaries Commission.
If this occurs, it would mean a new merger proposal, with another public inquiry and a process for residents to give comment.
In the meantime, Woollahra Council has been given leave to appeal to the High Court, while North Sydney, Mosman and Hunters Hill are also conducting legal appeals against forced mergers. For these Councils, the merger process will be further delayed.
What can I do?
If you wish to express your opinion on the matter of forced mergers, you can contact your local MPs and the Premier:
Alister Henskens – Member for Ku-ring-gai
Phone: 9487 8588
Fax: 9880 8550
Jonathan O’Dea – Member for Davidson
Phone: 9880 7400
Fax: 9880 7488
Premier Gladys Berejiklian
Phone: 8574 5000
Fax: 9339 5500
What's happened so far?
The below questions were some that commonly arose in the early stages of the proposed merger.
Will the community have a say on forced mergers?
Yes - The community will be consulted by Delegates appointed by the government.
Written submissions will be one of the most important ways for Delegates to gather information. People who make written submissions are encouraged (but are not required) to focus on the factors listed in section 263(3) of the Act.
There was also a Public Inquiry meeting held on Wednesday 3 February.
Following community consultation, the delegates will report back to the Baird government for a final decision.
Who will review the submission?
Submissions will be reviewed by the Delegate and used to inform the examination and reporting process.
Submissions that are received after the closing date will be reviewed at the discretion of the Delegate.
What is the role of a Delegate?
The role of the Delegate is to examine and report on a proposal that has been referred to the Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government by the Minister for Local Government (Minister) under section 218F(1) of the Act.
Who has been selected as Council's Delegate?
Council’s delegate is Mr Garry West. He was elected to the NSW Parliament in 1976 as the Member for Orange and retained the seat until 1996. During this time he served as Minister and Shadow Minister for various portfolios, including Energy, Local Government, and Police and Emergency Services.
Following his retirement, Garry entered the private sector as the Public Affairs Manager for Unifoods, a division of Unilever Australia Pty Ltd until being appointed as Corporate Relations Manager for Unilever.
Garry currently serves as Chair of the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel and Independent Chair for the Caroona Coal Project Consultative Committee, and is a member of the Planning Assessment Commission.
Mr West is also the delegate for the “Hills-Hawkesbury” proposal.
What are the key steps in assessing the mergers?
The key steps in that process are:
1. The Minister for Local Government refers merger proposals to the Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government for examination and report under the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW). Proposals will explain the impacts and benefits of a proposed merger. (This occurred on 6 January.)
2. The Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government delegates the examination of merger proposals under the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW) to Delegates. (eg. Mr Garry West)
3. Communities will have a chance to have their say during a public consultation process for merger proposals, including through submissions and at public hearings. Submissions are open to 28 February. It is likely that the public inquiry will also be held in February.
4. Members of the Local Government Boundaries Commission will be appointed in the coming month.
5. Delegates examine proposals, including reviewing public submissions, and after having regard to the factors listed in the Local Government Act 1993 provide a report to the Minister.
6. Delegates will also provide their reports to the Boundaries Commission who will review and comment on the reports.
7. The Boundaries Commission will provide its comments on the Delegates' reports to the Minister for Local Government.
8. The Minister for Local Government will consider the reports from the Delegates and comments on those reports from the Boundaries Commission, and make a final decision for each proposal. (Referred to as a proclamation.)
9. The Minister may or may not recommend to the Governor of NSW that the proposed merger be implemented.
10. New Councils commence.
What happens next?
The Delegate will examine the proposal in accordance with the Act.
Once the Delegate has completed their examination, they must prepare a report and and provide that report to the Minister and to the independent Boundaries Commission. The Boundaries Commission will review the report and provide their comments to the Minister.
Once the Minister has received the comments from the Boundaries Commission and the report from the Delegate, the Minister will make a decision on whether or not to recommend the implementation of the proposal to the Governor of NSW.
For more details on the legislative process please refer to Chapter 9, Part 1, Divisions 2A and 2B, and Chapter 9, Part 3 of the Act.
Can I request a private meeting with a Delegate or can I host my own public meeting and invite the Delegate?
Delegates are not required to accept such meeting requests or invitations and it is recommended that individuals, groups and organisations provide input by making a written submission or by speaking at the public inquiry.