The NSW Government amalgamated Gosford and Wyong Councils in May 2016. At no time had there been a referendum or poll of our community to ask if we wanted our Councils to merge.
The former Wyong Council had voted in October 2015 to support a merger. In favour were Best, Eaton, Taylor, Troy and Webster—against were Graham, Greenwald, Matthews and Vincent.
Gosford Council put up more of a fight. A number of Gosford Councillors claimed that they had been “bullied and coerced”, effectively told to “amalgamate or else”. Gosford Council reluctantly supported the merger in November 2015. Voting in favour were Strickson, Doyle, Bowles, Burke, Ward, Bocking and McKinna. Against were McFadyen, Scott and Morris.
By October 2020 the failures of the Council mergers were clear. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the 20 amalgamated councils around the State were losing $1.03 billion in three years and ratepayers facing hikes in rates and cuts in services.
The State government has taken a combative stance to Central Coast Council since the September 2017 election rather than working collaboratively with Council to deliver for the community.
This has been most obvious in planning. The State government introduced a Gosford SEPP in 2018 which removed planning powers from Council and removed height and floor space limits from large sites in Gosford CBD. It also reduced the amount of developer contributions paid to Council with 2 percent of the contributions going to the State government instead . This increased the burden on Council’s budgets.
In 2020, the Minister introduced a Local Planning Panel, with little justification, that again removed planning powers from the community and its Council, again at a cost to Council.
The Central Coast suffered a $163 million from the 2019-20 summer bushfires but did not received a single cent of financial help from the NSW Government’s Bushfire Local Economic Recovery Fund. The State government has admitted that “pork barrelling” is one of its tools. This has been to the detriment of the Central Coast.
The State government has failed to properly fund its Council amalgamations resulting in significant costs being imposed on the Central Coast community - the residents and ratepayers. These have contributed to Council’s financial situation.
I support the call for a public inquiry into Council’s financial situation and the root cause.
I support the call for a referendum on the amalgamation.
I support the call for the NSW Government to reimburse the Council for the full cost of amalgamation.
Posted: 24 February 2020