The NSW government has given its strongest indication yet that it’s preparing to change its controversial council amalgamations policy.
New Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton on Tuesday released a statement saying she wants to consult with communities about the issue.
“It is early days but Premier (Gladys) Berejiklian has indicated that she wants to look closely at the issue of councils,” she said.
“And on my part there is some learning and listening to do.
“Councils should be about local communities and serving their best interests. They deserve the best possible services and infrastructure.”
The former attorney-general has previously spoken out against the government’s council amalgamations which have proven unpopular in her Vaucluse electorate.
In October 2015, Ms Upton urged residents at an anti-merger rally in Double Bay to sign a petition against the merging of Woollahra, Randwick and Waverley councils.
“I believe there is no perfect size for a council and what works here may not work for those that are three streets to our south. I do believe small can be effective,” she told the rally.
Woollahra is one of at least six councils still fighting its forced merger in court, with ratepayers footing the cost of the hefty legal bills.
Questions about mergers have intensified since Deputy Premier John Barilaro declared his party would stand against further forced council mergers in regional areas following former premier Mike Baird’s resignation.
Ms Berejiklian has promised to “listen to the community” about the issue.
Labor’s spokesman for local government Peter Primrose on Tuesday urged the premier to ensure no more councils are forcibly merged – regardless of their location.
Forcibly merged councils such as Gundagai and Tumbarumba (in the Riverina) and Holroyd (in Sydney’s west) should be able to voluntarily de-merge if this is supported by the majority of their local community, he said.