City support for demergers heightens local hopes

Demerge NSW Alliance member Brian Halstead speaking for the Inner West demerger campaign. Photo: Peter Boyle.

Residents of Sydney’s Inner West Council are voting in favour of a demerger, fuelling the hopes of Gundagai Council in Exile that the State Government will sit up and take notice of the ongoing demerger plight.

A poll taken by Inner West Council and held in conjunction with the December 4 local government elections has delivered strong support to split the council up and re-establish the former councils of Ashfield, Marrickville and Leichhardt.

With more than 88 per cent of the votes counted, 63 per cent of the Inner West community have voted ‘yes’ to demerge.

In all six pre-polls, ivote and 55 of the 56 polling booths, residents voted ‘yes’ to deamalgamation with more than half the polling places recording results above 60 per cent.

President of anti-merger group Save Bombala, Grantley Ingram, said 97 per cent of voters took part in the non-compulsory poll.

“The community does care about local government,” Mr Ingram said. 

“This is a stunning result and shows that the communities are not happy with the large council.

“This is the beginning of demergers right across the State. To have a mega council like Inner West poll ‘yes’ to demerge will not be ignored by the State Government; there are simply too many State votes in it.”

Gundagai Council in Exile’s Glen Moore agrees.

“When you have the Inner West Council with some 200,000 people, the majority of which are in favour of a demerger, it means that there is real concern out there,” Mr Moore said. 

Inner West Sydney demerger group, Residents for Deamalgamation, had promoted the ‘yes’ position prior to the poll. 

“This was a powerful community campaign across the inner west. The incoming council must respect the vote and prepare a strong case to put to the NSW Government,” Residents for Deamalgamation spokesperson Pipp Hinman said.

Demerge NSW Alliance (DNA) member Brian Halstead has been at the tally room during the count. 

“To see over 60 booths return a majority ‘yes’ vote tells me that there is broad support to demerge,” Mr Halstead said. 

“The new council and the Local Government Minister must now honour the wishes of the Inner West.

“New councillors across the State must support a poll to give communities their say. This democratic right was denied in the forced mergers, and can only be corrected by polls in all merged councils.”

Save Bombala will be assisting DNA in campaigning for demergers in the upcoming State by-elections. 

“We will be supporting candidates who will give the community a vote on demerging and who will then deliver the wishes of the people,” Mr Ingram said.

“Now that the State Government must pay for the cost of demerging, we just need to ask the people what they want.

“Our seat of Monaro is shaping to be a demerger battleground with the proposed poll on demergers splitting both Queanbeyan Palarang and Snowy Monaro councils right down the middle. 

“The fact that both mayors used their casting votes to stop local demerger polls means the community will now take the demerger issue to the by-election ballot box.”

Mr Ingram added that the Inner West poll sent a powerful message to newly elected councillors and the NSW Government ahead of by-elections early next year. 

“Our supporters in merged councils across NSW believe, if given the chance to vote in a similar poll, that there would be a similar result in their councils,” he said.

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