NSW local government reform: Council amalgamation, antagonism, and resistance

Published date01 November 2018
Date01 November 2018
NSW local government reform: Council amalgamation,
antagonism, and resistance
Khandakar Farid Uddin
Macquarie University, Australia
Khandakar Farid Uddin, Department of
Geography and Urban Planning, School of
Social Science and Psychology, Western
Sydney University, Locked Bag 1797, NSW
2747, Australia.
Email: kh.fariduddin@gmail.com
Funding information
international Research Training Pathway (iRTP)
Scholarship, Macquarie University, Australia
The New South Wales State Government announced its local government strategic
reform programme Fit for the Future in 2014. At the centre of the plan was the desire
to reduce the number of local government areas. Opponents mobilised various resis-
tance strategies to challenge amalgamation. However, the initial efforts to resist amal-
gamation failed but opponents got success in opposing amalgamation via the legal
system. As such, the New South Wales State Government was forced to abandon
its plans to amalgamate some regional and metropolitan councils in response to com-
munity opposition and resistance. Despite a growing body of existing literature, to
date, the analyses of local government reform fail to examine the rationale and strat-
egies of community opposition. To examine the public participation, community oppo-
sition, and resistance, this paper draws on the research that pertains to the proposed
merger of the Ryde, Lane Cove, and Hunters Hill councils.
Local government is a key device in governance an d administration
systems, particularly to ensure facilit ies for and services to commu-
nities. Local governments in Australi a deliver a significant number of
public services. Structural refor m through compulsory council amal-
gamation has been the primary instrument of refo rm in most Aus-
tralian states (Aulich, Sansom, & McKinla y, 2014; Brian, Joel, &
Lin, 2008; Drew & Dollery, 2014; Drew, Kor tt, & Dollery, 2013;
Sinnewe, Kortt, & Dollery, 2015). Al most every state has experi-
enced forced amalgamation (Bell, Dollery, & Drew, 2016; Drew,
Kortt, & Dollery, 2014). Subsequently, the number of loca l govern-
ments has been reduced from 1,067 in 1910 to 5 65 in 2013
(ILGRP, 2013; Ryan & Woods, 2015). Despite the push fo r amal-
gamation from state governments, forced amal gamation has always
been a controversial effort (Drew, Kortt, & Dol lery, 2016). Tiley and
Dollery (2010) characterise the contex t around council reforms
across Australia as amalgamation wars( p. 1) because state govern-
ments seek to implement amalgamation in the face of local govern-
ment and citizen opposition. In New South Wale s (NSW), there
were 327 councils in the year 1906, 324 councils i n 1910, 176
councils in 1991, 177 councils in 1992 , and 152 councils in 2003
(Tiley & Dollery, 201 0). Recently, NSW has experience d forced
amalgamation again concerning the Fi t for the Future (FFTF)
The NSW State Government introduced a series of local govern-
ment reforms under the banner of FFTF in September 2014 to reduce
the number of local government areas from 152 to 112. Consequently,
by September 2016, 20 new councils have been created in metropol-
itan Sydney. However, the creation of some councils was delayed due
to legal proceedings. According to the government, reform would cre-
ate new, stronger councils, improve council performance and
strengthen the system of local government(OLG, 2016a, 2016b).
Opponents including council staff, councillors, residents' groups, and
opposition political parties claimed that council amalgamation would
reduce existing services, raise rates, and weaken the local democratic
process (Byrne, 2016; Davies, 2015, 2016).
Numerous studies of Australian local government have been con-
ducted. For example, Tiley and Dollery (2010) examined the council
amalgamation and structural reform trends of NSW. Drew and Dollery
(2014) analysed the relation among council population, size, and finan-
cial sustainability and empirically proved that proposed amalgamation
does not provide any financial benefits. Drew et al. (2016) empirically
investigated the impacts of the economies of scale on Queensland
both pre and post amalgamation. Valuable empirical works have been
also conducted by Australian scholars about current FFTF reform. For
example, Drew and Dollery (2014) reported that the proposed
amalgamations would not secure enhanced financial sustainability,
whereas Drew, Kortt, and Dollery's (2015) study critically analysed
the scale and economic logic of the council amalgamation policy
Received: 12 October 2017 Revised: 4 February 2018 Accepted: 3 April 2018
DOI: 10.1002/pa.1725
J Public Affairs. 2018;18:e1725.
© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/pa 1of8

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT