Council splits over merger appeal

… to ask Govt to “stop the clock”

By Paul Mullins. 

If you ever needed a reason not to amalgamate Cabonne with Orange you had one on Tuesday.

And, if newspapers are the “first draft of history”, then let this one record that Mayor Ian Gosper will go down as one of the best Cabonne has had.

Cabonne Council is noted as one that does not bring party allegiances and politics into the council chamber. Our councillors deliberate in the best interests of the ratepayers, according to their considered position and the will of the citizens.

On Tuesday the council had to decide whether to appeal the decision, last Friday, of the Land and Environment Court to dismiss Cabonne’s appeal against forced amalgamation with Orange and Blayney.

Under Supreme Court rules Cabonne has 28 days to lodge an appeal.

BUT – the Government can proceed to amalgamate within this period and gave notice that it would do so tomorrow (Friday 14 October) giving Cabonne one week to consider and lodge an intention to appeal.

The council resolved to lodge the intention at Tuesday’s extraordinary meeting. In doing so, the council will seek agreement from the Government not to take any further action on a Cabonne-Orange-Blayney merger for seven days after an appeal by Woollahra Council is determined.

However this was not before discussing a motion by Cr Michael Hayes and Janelle Culverson to accept the inevitable, cease any further appeal action and get on with the merger. The motion was lost six votes to four.

Now, before you takes sides on this, consider that both arguments have a point.

Cabonne’s appeal, like the many other Councils that appealed, including Woollahra, could only be based on technicalities and procedure under the Local Government Act. Fairness or the will of the people doesn’t come into it. For this reason any appeal doesn’t have much prospect of success. And even if it did the Government could turn around and change the rules anyway, to force an amalgamation.

This was the point, well made, by Cr Hayes and co.

But what if Wollahra’s appeal to the Supreme Court is successful? Is it not prudent for the Government (and Cabonne) to await the Supreme court decision before acting.

Consider also that Cabonne’s appeal, like those of all the other aggrieved councils, is driven by the communities belief that the Government has acted undemocratically and cheated them.

By the Government’s very own merger criteria Cabonne, Orange and Blayney were found to be financally sound and “fit for the future”. All three Councils stated that they wished to remain as is.

Yet, behind a still secret but patently flawed KPMG report and just as flawed public inquiries, the Sydney centric Government used the black-letter-law process to ignore its regional citizens.

That’s what this is all about. Basic democracy.

The Council will seek agreement from the Government not to take any further action on a Cabonne-Orange-Blayney merger for seven days after an appeal by Woollahra Council is determined.

Should the Government not agree to the request, Cabonne Council will seek an injunction or interlocutory orders to stay any action and then consider lodging a formal appeal.

Cabonne Mayor Ian Gosper said the Woollahra Council case was based on a similar premise to Cabonne’s.

“I believe the Woollahra appeal still has a bearing on where we go, so we do need additional time to see what judgment is handed down in that case,” Cr Gosper said.

“If the Woollahra appeal is unsuccessful, my opinion is Cabonne Council should not go ahead with a formal appeal after that.”

A Notice of Intention to Appeal is inexpensive and does not require the council to follow through with a formal appeal, but provides an alternative avenue while it considers its legal options. Meanwhile Premier Baird, Deputy Troy Grant and the government do not care.

Mayor Ian Gosper deftly steered Tuesday’s council meeting through its “rock and a hard place”. He kept his word to the ratepayers that the Council would fight on when it was reasonable to do so. To its credit, the whole council acted considerately and always to the greater good as they saw it.

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1 Comment on "Council splits over merger appeal"

  1. One of the best discussions I have seen on the merger appeal issue. It was never about winning the case, it was always about being ignored for so long.

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