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U-turn plebiscite still a live option

Pittwater residents have swung their support behind the campaign to restore their council while momentum builds at the state level to unwind amalgamations.

The issue has gained traction in the NSW Parliament, with the Upper House passing a bill in late June to end forced council mergers. Protect Pittwater Association President Bob Grace welcomed the development.

“This is terrific news for Pittwater,” Mr Grace said. “And it just goes to show the anger felt by Pittwater residents is shared by others around the state.

“The Upper House of Parliament has recognised that the State Government’s mergers were undemocratic and momentum is building to put an end to them.”

The bill, proposed by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party and supported by all parties except the government, would set up plebiscites in all areas forcibly merged last year.

Proposed mergers – in areas such as Woollahra, Waverley and Hunters Hill where legal action is underway – would also be halted until a referendum is held and approval gained from a majority of electors.

The Greens also moved amendments that would ensure amalgamations could never happen again without local residents’ consent in a binding plebiscite.

However, Mr Grace said Protect Pittwater would continue preparing for legal action and circulating its petition calling for the local council to be reconstituted because of the risk that the bill might fail in the Lower House when parliament returns in August.

At the local level, the group’s Treasurer, David Wenden, said he had been overwhelmed by the level of support at the Careel Bay Winter Festival last month (June 17) where Protect Pittwater had a stall.

“Visitors were seeking out the petition before the festival even opened in the morning and were still coming up to sign it while we were busy packing up at the end of the day,” Mr Wenden said.

“I only had two people knock me back in the whole day… the underlying displeasure with the forced amalgamation is still raw among all the Pittwater residents we spoke with.”

The petition, which hundreds of people have already signed, can be printed from the Protect Pittwater facebook group. It is available for signing at some local shops and cafes.

– Miranda Korzy

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