Premier Mike Baird heckled as he calls on councils to back local government reforms

NSW Premier Mike Baird. Photo: Louise KennerleyThe Premier has urged the state’s councillors to get behind his government’s push for fewer councils – even if it means some of them would be out of a job.
杭州龙凤

Mike Baird was greeted by applause and repeatedly interrupted by hecklers as he used his address to the Local Government NSW annual conference to push the case for reforms viewed with hostility by many in his audience.

“There’s no doubt that if we have less councils we have hundreds of millions of dollars that we can put to work for our ratepayers,” he said.

“The choice of the councils is do you want to put that towards lower rates, you want to put that towards more services, you want to put that towards more infrastructure for your community.”

The Rosehill Gardens Racecourse event comes just days before the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal delivers its report to government, setting out whether councils are “fit” or “unfit” as merged groups or individual councils.

Mr Baird told the crowd that there would be a “last period of consultation” before any changes were expected to be finalised by the end of the year.

“If there is an opportunity on the back of that report for you to take actions in the interests of your community, my call for you is to do it,” Mr Baird said.

“And that might mean that some here are no longer councillors. Some here may no longer be in local government beyond the next election.”

The Premier also used the speech to call out “all types of myths” he said were being circulated by campaigns opposing mergers, including that sporting fields would close, libraries would be lost and rates would rise.

“Not one part of that is true,” Mr Baird said.

“Oh come on,” a heckler shot back.

But Mr Baird said he was “determined to finish this process with local government”.

“Change has to happen and I know that many here will be resistant to that change – and I can see the placards, thank you,” he said to laughter, then applause. “I had the constructive feedback on the way in, thank you.”

About seven protesters from the Save Our Councils coalition also awaited Mr Baird as he left the venue.

“Don’t smile,” shouted one, “hold a referendum!” Protesters confront Premier Mike Baird over council amalgamations. @abcnewsSydneypic.twitter杭州龙凤论坛m/tmEwdshGnq— Luke Rosen (@luke_rosen1) October 11, 2015

Save Our Councils spokeswoman Nella Gaughan​ said the only group to benefit from “huge mega councils” would be developers.

“Developers know that fewer councils and fewer councillors will reduce the ability of local people to oppose inappropriate developments,” she said.

Local Government Minister Paul Toole​ is scheduled to address the conference on Tuesday.

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