Hills Shire Mayor Dr Michelle Byrne has expressed her disappointment that Hills suburbs below the M2 will become part of an enlarged Parramatta City Council, but that she’s pleased the rest of The Hills will be left alone following the NSW Government’s proclamation on council boundaries.
Under two NSW Government proposals that affected The Hills Shire Council, all Hills suburbs above the M2 were proposed to merge with Hawkesbury City Council, while all suburbs below the M2 were to become part of an enlarged Parramatta City Council.
In late 2015, The Hills Shire Council resolved to only support a full merger with Hawkesbury City Council if suburbs below the M2 remained in The Hills.
“The Hills was open to the idea of a full merger with Hawkesbury if we kept all our suburbs, even if it wasn’t our first preference. Although I’m bitterly disappointed to be losing residents in Carlingford, North Rocks, Baulkham Hills, Winston Hills and Northmead, I’m glad that we are largely remaining in our previous form,” Mayor Byrne said.
“Those southern suburbs have strong historical ties with The Hills. Our Council is proud to have served them for over a century and I hope that Parramatta City Council is just as proud to have them within their boundaries.”
Mayor Byrne said The Hills Shire Council was not in favour of being carved up and attached to an unfit Hawkesbury City Council.
“Our population is booming, our major challenge is managing growth and that’s what we will continue to focus on, without having to be concerned with tackling Hawkesbury’s $100 million infrastructure backlog.”
“However, it should be noted that in June 2013, we were one of the first councils in the state to present a positive plan for local government reform.”
“In our original merger proposal unanimously supported in 2013, The Hills proposed boundary adjustments that would take in parts of Hawkesbury, including the North West Growth Centre and suburbs including Pitt Town, Cattai, Scheyville, Windsor, McGraths Hill, Vineyard and Maraylya.”
“The NSW Government has made it clear that there is a dark cloud hanging over the future of Hawkesbury City Council. They’ve outlined that Hawkesbury’s services are seriously below par. This is not news to Hawkesbury residents and businesses and that’s certainly not news to The Hills Shire Council.”
“As the Local Government Minister has outlined in his media release, Hawkesbury’s boundaries no longer serve the needs of the community and must be reviewed. I’m glad to see that The Minister realises this. Our original proposal was seeking to create more logical boundaries and reflect communities of interest.”
Mayor Byrne said it was time for the NSW Government to get mergers over and done with and focus on the other aspects of Local Government Reform which have been overshadowed by amalgamations.
“NSW Premier Mike Baird and Local Government Minister Paul Toole should go back to the Independent Local Government Review Panel’s findings and look at implementing more of the recommended changes.”
“Things like reforming the way we calculate rates in terms of apartments, perhaps installing a Sydney Metropolitan Council of Mayors and keeping councils to account when calculating their infrastructure backlogs so we get a true picture of where investment is truly needed.”
Mayor Byrne said the future is bright for The Hills Shire, reiterating their strong financial position.
“We are one of the strongest, if not the strongest performing Council in NSW. I want to reassure our residents that we will continue to be focused on managing our future growth and continuing to provide an excellent level of services.”
“At both elected and organisational level, The Hills has the strategic capacity to assist Hawkesbury City Council in improving services to the community. We are willing to help and look forward to working with the NSW Government.”