Editorial February 15 2017

It’s off.

On hearing those two simple words, Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba was able to pop a bottle of champagne and celebrate the continued “stand alone” existence of the Shellharbour council.

The words were delivered by Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward in a conference call to Mayor Saliba and councillors.

The call was made ahead of Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s announcement on Tuesday afternoon to quash all pending mergers in regional New South Wales including the merger between Wollongong and Shellharbour.

“It’s off,” Mr Ward told the Mayor.

“Congratulations, it was a mongrel proposal from day one and I know it’s been a rocky ride between you and I over the last few months but I’m glad we arrived at the decision we wanted.”

It is worth noting Mr Ward had openly and often expressed his opposition to the merger against the position  of his own party.

Yet he’d often been attacked for simply being a part of the Baird Government which was hell bent on proceeding with the mergers.

The announcement by the new Premier is certainly a large turn around from the previous position of Mike Baird.

In fact it further erodes the legacy left by Mike Baird.

Mr Baird was forced to back down on a tough stance on banning greyhound racing and that was the beginning of the end.

Now, after his departure, another key policy was turned on its head.

There also appears to be movement around other Baird policies such as hospital privatisation, which is another hot issue in the municipality of Shellharbour.

While Shellharbour council was in celebration mode, there are those who will be disappointed with a chance to find efficiencies for ratepayers.

Actually now, given their renewed autonomy, the responsibility will be even greater on our local councils to ensure they are “fit for the future”.

There will be a lot of pressure on these councils to ensure they are doing the right thing by their ratepayers and are operating in the best interests of their community.

This decision by the NSW Government puts the ball back in their court.

Now, they are again carrying the ball the best thing councils can do is not drop it.


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