One of the state government's strongest supporters of council mergers is preparing to apply for a partial reversal of its own amalgamation.
On Wednesday night, Hornsby Council endorsed a proposal to formally request the government return a portion of council territory handed to the expanded Parramatta Council last year.
The move is a reflection of the frustration felt by Hornsby Council, which has been an enthusiastic supporter of council amalgamations, about the government's failure to implement its policy. In particular, the government was defeated in the Court of Appeal by Ku-ring-gai Council, which was to have been merged with Hornsby.
Hornsby mayor Steve Russell, said the result of the "whole sorry saga" of council mergers had been that Hornsby had reduced in size, and in financial capacity.
Hornsby Council lost size because a lucrative area south of the M2 including Epping and Carlingford was transferred to Parramatta Council last year. Had Hornsby been able to merge with Ku-ring-gai, the council could have dealt with that loss.
"We are about $10 million worse off after the past 12 months," Cr Russell said.
"It's quite unfair because we've been the council that has embraced our responsibilities."
The mayor said his council remained committed to amalgamations, but its current position was unsustainable.
"The frustration that it's brought about with the staff and everybody else...we've been in turmoil, and we are up to our third acting general manager."
The resolution to be considered by the Liberal-dominated council would be to formally request, through the Boundaries Commission, the return of Hornsby's land south of the M2. Cr Russell, however, said he would propose an amendment allowing Carlingford to remain in the City of Parramatta, but Epping to return to Hornsby.
"The NSW government's execution of its local government reform agenda has to date comprehensively failed the residents and ratepayers of Hornsby Shire," council papers say.
After the Court of Appeal ruled that the proposed merger between Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby had not been lawfully considered, the state government decided not to appeal the decision. It says it remains committed to a merger of Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai, but will wait on the result of a challenge to mergers brought by Woollahra Council in the High Court. Woollahra does not expect the High Court to hear that matter until October or November.
The delays mean Hornsby fears that it will remain in its current weakened state "indefinitely".
The Greens local government spokesman, David Shoebridge, said: "Every rat is leaving the Coalition's forced council amalgamations ship and it's well and truly time that Captain Berejiklian scuttled the whole affair."
A spokesman for Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton said: "There are clear community benefits for the proposed merger of Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai councils.
- This article first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.