The state government has torn up its own rulebook and ignored public opinion in its campaign to push councils together.
The three northern Beaches councils - Manly, Warringah and Pittwater - and Mosman council have been forced into two. Greater Pittwater will gain the northern parts of Warringah - Duffys Forest Terrey Hills, Ingleside, Belrose, Cromer, Narrabeen, Frenchs Forest and Killarney Heights. Here in Greater Manly we gain south Warringah - Dee Why, Brookvale, Curl Curl, Freshwater, Queenscliff - and…Mosman!
The rationale is that bigger councils are more “efficient”, although there’s no real evidence to prove that’s true.
And while the government’s original plan to create a Greater Northern Beaches Council - Manly, Warringah and Pittwater - was not popular, at least it was geographically sensible, recognised our shared ocean beach lifestyle and complied with the “big is better” mantra.
But that’s not what’s happened. A cynic would saw Premier Mike Baird has put politics first, and common sense and the northern beaches community a distant second.
Overwhelming public opinion is that Greater Pittwater has been created to save the job of Pittwater MP Rob Stokes, who would have faced a huge backlash at the next state election.
Warringah, which went from basket case to winner of this year’s most prestigious council award - the Bluett Award - has been split in two. To add insult to injury Mayor Michael Regan was the only Northern Beaches mayor to support the council merger plans. The cynic would say Warringah was split to block Cr Regan, an independent, from becoming the powerful new mayor of the Greater Northern Beaches.
Maybe he’ll try and turn the tables and run as a local independent in the state elections or even the federal ones next year?
And Mosman? The same cynic would say that’s been thrown in with Manly to bolster the Liberal vote.
“I am really angry,” Good For Manly councillor Candy Bingham said. "Splitting the most successful council to create two new councils the same size just doesn't make sense.
"Locals are really losing faith in our ‘local member, Mike Baird, who is supposed to be representing us, not what's best for his political party. It's a disgrace", Clr Bingham stated.
Reaction on social media has been fierce.
Here’s some from GFM Facebook.
"Is this the most stupid decision ever?" - Darren Lewis
"Worst possible result. The most capable council in the state gets carved up to save two Liberal Party strongholds. I thought The Premier was above this sort of thing." - Simon Anthony Fry
"So that's how the Liberals consult with the voters?" - Linda G Silvester
Manly Daily had two pages of letters - every one negative.
Many were furious that politics had trumped common sense. Clive Finemore summed it up like this: “Mike Baird has caved in to the Liberal Party heavies in Manly and Pittwater… In the process he has displayed breathtaking cynicism and complete contempt for the people of the northern beaches.”
Other letter writers were angry that they would now have to pay to use facilities, including their nearest beach, that their rates had maintained. And several people complained that they would now inherit Manly Councli’s swimming pool and oval car park debt.
And what will happen to proposed major works, like the oval car park and Whistler St redevelopment?
No one knows if there will be a freeze on major new projects, despite so many changes coming down the line.
If there’s no freeze, it’s presumably business as usual until the new council elections, which are now not due until March 2017.
Candy Bingham, Deputy Mayor, Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations & community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.