Council Reaffirms Commitment To Whole Merger Of Hills and Hawkesbury

Council has reiterated its commitment to an amalgamation with Hawkesbury City Council, but in doing so The Hills has a strong preference to retain the suburbs of Baulkham Hills, Northmead, North Rocks and Carlingford with these residents to be part of the new merged Council with Hawkesbury.

Hills Shire Mayor Dr Michelle Byrne labelled the NSW Government’s proposal to merge The Hills with Hawkesbury while losing all suburbs below the M2 to Parramatta as “illogical.”

“It might look logical on a map, but the M2 motorway does not meet the criteria one would normally associate with a boundary. It has been retro-fitted and the communities have adapted and remain connected,” Mayor Byrne said.

“These communities have strong historical, social and economic links to The Hills and from my experience, those residents do not wish to become part of Parramatta.”

“The NSW Government cannot be blamed for not understanding these nuances given the extent of the reform agenda so I will be working really hard with the NSW Government and our Local MPs to make this minor change and allow us to move on and deal with the issues facing Hawkesbury.”

“The Hills Shire Council has always supported the NSW Government’s bid to reform the local government sector and we know that tough decisions have to be made. However, I feel the reform doesn’t have to mean that communities be fractured and the process made overly complicated by proposing boundary adjustments that are extremely unpopular and unwanted.”

“Residents and businesses below the M2 in suburbs like Carlingford, North Rocks, Baulkham Hills, Winston Hills and Northmead have told us loud and clear that they want to remain in The Hills.”

“These are suburbs that have strong communities of interest with The Hills.  Residents send their children to school in The Hills, they play their weekend sport in The Hills and they shop in The Hills.”

“A good example is that of North Rocks Soccer Club. Founded in 1965, North Rocks has nominated to play with the Sydney Hills Football Association in 2016.  The Sydney Hills Football Association’s boundaries encompass all of the current Hills Shire Council boundaries.”

“North Rocks Soccer Club is making the move to the Sydney Hills Football Association because they feel that the Granville Association that they previously played in – which encompasses all of Parramatta City Council, Auburn City Council and Holroyd City Council – is not local enough. This area that the Club does not consider local enough could very soon be their new Council, unless the residents stand up now.”

“But, I have to tell our residents that they need to engage and make a submission to the NSW government by the 28 February deadline.  My strong belief is that this community has it within them to help me in my endeavours to have the Government change its mind and make a minor amendment to the merger proposal.”

“They must not leave it to Council or their neighbour to advocate and make submissions. To influence we need significant numbers and significant submissions.”

Mayor Byrne said that a merger with Hawkesbury presented opportunities for both councils.

“Hawkesbury residents and businesses will benefit a great deal from a merger with The Hills as over time Council will be able to provide greater equity in services and will be able to manage and renew its assets. Clearly, Hawkesbury’s assets are deteriorating and there is no magic pot of gold available to them to fix it. If left unchanged, Hawkesbury residents will see their roads, parks and public facilities fall even further behind while their rates will rise significantly.

“A new merged organisation will free up funding by removing duplication, providing better advocacy with the potential for enormous investment in their roads, parks and facilities that standing alone will never see.”

“Hills residents will rightfully ask, ‘What’s in it for us?’ – In answering that, residents have to understand that local councils only exist at the behest of the NSW Government.  The Local Government Act is a State Act and allows the State Government to constitute Local Government areas and make changes to them.  The Government was intent on reducing the number of Council’s and The Hills is unfortunately too successful to stand alone as all of our neighbours had been deemed unfit for one reason or another.”

“I am confident that the Hills Shire residents will continue to enjoy the levels of service they have become accustomed to and, in the long term, will benefit from being part of a Local Government Area that will strongly represent Sydney’s North West.”