Democracy denied

For far too long the Central Coast has been denied a democratically elected council and to suffer the machinations of the NSW Liberal Government and their failed council merger. And now that same government, who refuse to accept responsibility for ‘getting it wrong’, believe that ratepayers should be downtrodden for more than another two years with their dictatorial ‘jackboot'.

3 June 2022

ALAN HAYES

 

CENTRAL Coast residents will be left without an elected representative on Central Coast Council until September 2024 after the NSW Government announced an extension of the administration period.

 

The current debacle hitting ratepayers and residents on the Central Coast is a direct result of this Liberal Government’s failed amalgamation process of Gosford and Wyong Councils.

 

Simply not enough time was invested into examining the pitfalls of the merger; not enough money was allocated by the NSW Government to support the merged council; and not enough ongoing support was offered to the council or community by the NSW Government.

 

Despite the widespread community opposition, the NSW Liberals and Nationals still forcibly merged the councils.

 

Last Wednesday in Wyong, in the company of the Member for Terrigal Adam Crouch and Council Administrator Rik Hart, the minister for local government Wendy Tuckerman announced that polling day would be September 14, 2024.

 

There was no notice of the announcement or courtesy given to our locally elected Labor State members. Tuckerman slinked in to the Coast like a thief in the night, with total disregard for the Central Coast community. A trait clearly demonstrated by Adam Crouch – it was Crouch who supported the former minister for local government Shelley Hancock to conduct a public inquiry into council’s shambles instead of a full judicial inquiry, enabling the government to control the outcome.

 

Tuckerman said "I know this may be disappointing for some people but it's important that we make sure that we're not going back to the same situation we were in the past."

 

"It's the ratepayers that have significantly been accosted in this whole environment and they're the ones that have been paying for the mistakes of the previous council."

 

Tuckerman’s comments are no more than a blame shifting exercise – an endemic failure of this state government to accept that council’s problems occurred because they forced a merger when both Wyong and Gosford councils were unfit for the future.

 

Shadow Minister for Local Government Greg Warren said it was the NSW Government that created the mess on the Central Coast and it was up to the Premier and his colleagues to clean it up.

 

“The community, the councils and the local members knew that this merger was never going to work,” Mr. Warren said.

 

“Despite the fierce opposition to the merger, the government went ahead and forced Gosford and Wyong to merge anyway.

“As a result, the council and its community are now in disarray.”

 

Sacked deputy mayor Jane Smith said waiting until 2024 was "outrageous" and a "kick in the guts".

 

"Our community has lost their voice," Ms. Smith said.

 

Yet, not surprisingly, Central Coast Council Administrator, Rik Hart welcomed the Minister's announcement and date set for Central Coast's local government election, saying "it now provides Council with a date to work towards and time to implement the Commissioner's recommendations."

 

“At this stage, I plan to continue as Administrator…,” said Hart.

 

“While I've always been in favour of democracy, I am firmly of the opinion that sacked Councillors should not be allowed to run for Council in a subsequent election, and I will continue to push this view.”

 

Hart’s remarks echo loudly and clearly that of his master’s collusions and their readiness to blame the elected councillors for Central Coast Council’s financial fiasco. So, why weren’t certain senior council staff, who had their hands illegally in the lolly jar, held to account? And while the Central Coast community continue to endure client dictatorship, those who were to blame received the government’s 'Don’t Go to Gaol’ card.

 

"The NSW Liberal government is demonstrating a complete lack of connection and lack of integrity in removing local democracy for further two years," said Jane Smith.

 

Central Coast Council watcher Kevin Brooks said the government was denying locals an early vote on recent rate hikes pushed through by the administrator.

 

"Whatever happened to the principle of 'no taxation without representation?'," he asked.

 

And, let’s not forget, it is the administer, who is not only keen to tax the community but hellbent of selling off community assets to bring council’s books back into the black. This “has been the most galling part of this period of administration for those wishing to retain what is left of the bushland habitat that has been characteristic of this region and deter over-development.” (thepoint.net.au)

 

“Rik Hart and Dick Persson (previous administrator) promised the asset sales would not be a “fire sale” and they promised that no environmental land would be sold. Both promises have been broken. The public is told it is too late to stop the sale of assets. In fact, Rik Hart, at the April Council meeting, attempted to rescind a motion from the former councillors to reclassify tranches of land from operational to community so they could not be sold. What reason would Hart have for keeping land operational other than its potential sale?” (thepoint.net.au)

 

Shadow Minister for the Central Coast and Member for Wyong, David Harris, said ultimately it was the community on the Central Coast who were paying the price of a disastrous NSW Government policy.

 

“The approach the Government took to amalgamating the Wyong and Gosford Councils was always doomed to fail,” he said.

 

"Now Central Coast residents are paying higher rates for reduced services and are left without any democratic representation for four years."

 

So, where do ratepayers stand? Staring up at a ‘jackboot’ that is more interested in holding them responsible to solve council’s financial mess. And when the elections finally roll around in 2024, given the ‘dirty bomb’ left by the Liberal State Government and what happened to the first lot of elected councillors, who will be prepared to run for office?

 

The Central Coast Council is the Liberal State Government’s mess – it behoves them to clean it up and ‘kick the financial can’. Ratepayers are not responsible!

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