Neighbours mocked ‘We will become Wolli Creek and have the large towers of Hurstville’ – June 11, 2015

Link to the online article: St George and Sutherland Shire Leader, June 11, 2015

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FRONT PAGE ARTICLE:  Neighbours mocked ‘We will become Wolli Creek and have the large towers of Hurstville’  

By Maria Galinovic, June 11, 2015.

Related: Merger process ‘clear as mud’.

Kogarah councillors have mocked neighbouring councils Hurstville and Rockdale — describing Kogarah as a “rose between two thorns” as the threat of mergers looms larger.

At a recent council meeting, mayor Michael Platt and councillor Nick Katris pointed out the failings of Hurstville and Rockdale councils in an effort to convince the community the threat of amalgamation was a bigger issue than the proposed LEP changes in the New City plan.

They pointed out Hurstville Council recently stood down its general manager and was under investigation by the Office of Local Government and Rockdale councillors made headlines for not attending meetings about Bexley pool.

“Look at the built environment — how do you compare Kogarah to Rockdale — their civic centre to our civic centre?” Cr Katris said.
“And Hurstville is Gotham City. Overdevelopment will happen if we don’t remain Kogarah — we will become Wolli Creek and have the large towers of Hurstville.”

The comments caused disbelief in the community, as had a May 29 council letter informing residents it had engaged a consultant to strengthen its anti-merger position.

East Ward resident Ben Rumble said: “Why is the council so willing to spend ratepayers’ money to pay a consultant to gather the data required to support its anti-amalgamation campaign when it has been completely unwilling to commission even one of the biodiversity, traffic, pollution, noise, public health or infrastructure studies required to support the potentially catastrophic rezoning and development proposals outlined in its New City plan?”

“While I fully support the fight to keep our council 100 per cent independent and financially strong, I can only repeat again how disappointed I am by the hypocritical, self-serving behaviour of our councillors and their eagerness to consult with residents only when it serves their political purposes to do so.”

Members of the United Kogarah City Residents Association (kogarah.org) were equally bewildered.

They have been fighting against the very thing the councillors say Kogarah does not want, yet proposes in its New City Plan; higher density and overdevelopment and not much detail on how it will work with inadequate infrastructure.

“Councillor Katris was quoted at last week’s council meeting as having said many times ‘Kogarah is a rose between two thorns’,” said association member Susanne O’Connor.

“And it is a rose. Then why can’t we keep it a rose. Let’s not turn it into a thorn.”

The association, which has run its own public education campaign on the LEP, has repeatedly asked the council to explain its plans in a public forum.

Cr Platt assured residents they would be listened to regarding the LEP, which was still only a draft.

He said they had every opportunity to familiarise themselves with the proposed changes, including an eight-week exhibition period as opposed to the usual two.

He said people could send submission and letters, and talk to staff at the council’s customer service centre. He said he had met with everyone who wanted to speak with him.

Council officers would go through all the submissions and the results would go back to the council to be ratified, he said.
“It is a draft so there will be changes,” Cr Platt said.

He said no one wanted to ruin foreshore areas such as Kyle Bay.

In the meantime, Kogarah councillors are spending Saturdays in their wards attempting to convince more ratepayers about the evils of amalgamation, amid fear that forced mergers would happen by stealth and debt-free Kogarah would inherit the others’ debt and end up with one councillor representing 26,000 ratepayers, compared with one to 6000 now.

“They don’t realise the ramifications, the rate rises and the debt,” Cr Platt said.
“We need to stay independent — LEPs come and go but this stays.
“We are one of a few NSW councils who are fit to stay on their own.
“We meet all the government criteria but for the population.”

Councils have until the end of the month to prepare their submission for the state government’s Fit For The Future initiative.

Of the three St George councils only Rockdale is prepared to amalgamate with Hurstville, Kogarah or both.

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