Ku-ring-gai Council has won its appeal against an impending merger with Hornsby Council, but the decision will only create ongoing uncertainty for the two councils.
The Court of Appeal ruled this morning that the State Government’s proposed merger was “fundamentally unfair” and that delegate appointed to oversee the decision, Mr Garry West, didn’t fully consider the financial impact the merger would have on the area.
The Court found that Mr West used as a reference a KPMG report that recommended mergers, which was only partially made available by the Government.
As Mr West did not have full access to the report’s findings, his decision was not fully informed, the Court found.
The ruling does not guarantee the Berejiklian Government will drop the merger entirely as it just refers to the merger as proposed in its current form.
Despite this, Mayor of Ku-ring-gai Jennifer Anderson said the court’s decision was vindicating news for her Council.
"The very real concerns of our Council and residents over this merger have been ignored by the government and we feel vindicated by today's decision.
"This merger should not proceed because Ku-ring-gai ratepayers will be robbed of the means to decide how and where our rates are spent - and of any real say in how our local area is managed."
The mayor said the Council would continue to meet with the State Government to urge them not to proceed with a merger in any form.
"We believe the court's decision signals a turning point for Premier Berejiklian's government. If they continue with the merger process they will be flying in the face of our community and the court,” said the Mayor.
Russell Aubrey, Mayor of Hornsby Shire Council, expressed his disappointment in the decision and said his Council would be advocating for a merger with varied geographic parameters.
“Perhaps now is the time for the NSW Government to revisit our proposal of one Upper North Shore Council, which includes all of the Epping CBD and parts of Ryde.
“That would be a valuable step in the right direction if they are truly committed to the local government reform this state needs.”
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The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) will target refugees and asylum seekers to fill training positions in skills shortage areas.
The ACT has altered the eligibility criteria for their Australian Apprenticeships and Skilled Capital programs to make them automatically eligible to refugees and asylum seekers on temporary and bridging visas.
This announcement follows the ACTs inclusion last October in the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV) Scheme that allows people who travelled to Australia without a visa to work and study in specified regional parts of the country.
Minister for Multicultural Affairs Rachel Stephen-Smith said, “Permanent humanitarian visa holders now have access to ACT Government subsidised apprenticeships, traineeships and Skilled Capital qualifications.
“Australian Apprenticeships combine paid work and study towards a nationally recognised qualification, while Skilled Capital subsidises training and work experience for eligible post-school job seekers and existing workers in qualifications likely to improve employment outcomes.
“Both programs also subsidise support services, such as language, literacy and numeracy skills. They ensure students accessing training receive the help they need to successfully complete their chosen qualification, giving them the best opportunity to participate fully in our community.
Minister Stephen-Smith welcomed the changes and said the new measure aligned with the ACT Government’s 2016 election commitments to support refugee and asylum seekers looking for employment and maintain Canberra’s reputation as a refugee welcome zone.
“These changes will better prepare refugees and asylum seekers to find work or build a business in skills-shortage occupations within the ACT and ultimately create flow-on economic benefits,” Minister Stephen-Smith said.
A group of councils in Melbourne’s east is calling for the Federal Government to commit to funding the National Affordable Housing Agreement (NAHA) in the upcoming Budget.
The Eastern Affordable Housing Alliance (EAHA) comprises Knox City Council, City of Monash, Manningham City Council, City of Whitehorse, Maroondah City Council and Yarra Ranges Council.
EAHA Chairperson, Councillor Sharon Ellis, said recent suggestions that the NAHA could be sliced in this year’s Federal Budget are alarming.
“Federal Government funding is vital for public housing and homelessness services. If media suggestions are correct and the Federal Government intends to axe NAHA funding, countless vulnerable Australians will be at increased risk of homelessness.
“Despite persistent advice from the community sector, the Federal Government seems bent on taking this important decision without consultation, ignoring calls for reform and revision in favour of abolition.
“The Federal Council on Financial Relations is doing important work with the development of a bond aggregator model, but this should not occur at the expense of the NAHA.
“The Alliance calls on the Turnbull Government to appoint a Federal Housing Minister and develop a Federal Housing Strategy in consultation with States and Territories. The Strategy should identify and commit to minimum national targets for the supply of social housing.
“The Alliance supports the housing-related recommendations in the ACOSS federal budget submission, including calls to reform capital gains tax, establish a long term affordable housing growth fund and housing finance intermediary and review commonwealth rent assistance.
“Without meaningful intervention from the Federal Government the lack of social and affordable housing for vulnerable residents in the Eastern Metropolitan Region of Melbourne – and across the nation – will continue to grow.”
Registration is now open for the National General Assembly of Local Government (NGA).
Under the theme ‘Building tomorrow’s communities’, speakers, debate and discussions will seek to highlight local government’s fundamental role in shaping our communities for today and tomorrow.
The discussions will look at how councils, working in partnership with other levels of government, the private sector and the not-for-profit sector, can innovate and harness the ever-increasing range of data and technology to ensure their communities are best-placed to seize the opportunities of tomorrow.
Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) is currently inviting councils to participate in the NGA by submitting a notice of motion under the NGA theme. Submitting a notice of motion to the NGA is an opportunity for individual councils to identify matters of national relevance to the sector and to submit notices of motion to seek the Assembly’s support for these matters to be considered by ALGA as national policy.
Motions should be lodged electronically using the online form available on the NGA website by Friday 21 April 2017.
ALGA encourages councils to ensure their council and community views are represented at the 2017 NGA which will be held in Canberra from 18-21 June. To register, head to alga.asn.au
*Copy supplied by ALGA