Boundary maps will change as mergers take place, says Premier Mike Baird.
Boundary maps will change as mergers take place, says Premier Mike Baird. Alan Porritt

Baird won’t budge on amalgamation boundaries

PREMIER Mike Baird has been grilled over reports the NSW Government has already drawn up boundary maps for councils facing mergers.

But he would not disclose whether the maps extended beyond the councils who had already made nominated for amalgamation.

"Nine councils have made merger proposals, which means, yes, there must be changes to maps," he told parliament.

"That is earth-shattering; the Opposition is onto something very significant.

"Yes, the maps have changed because we have agreed that mergers should take place.

"That is already underway."

Local Government NSW president Keith Rhoades said the government had already made its decisions before IPART had released its report.

"Right up until last Friday, they were saying they would not know the way forward until the got the opportunity to study the report," he said.

"Here we are on Tuesday and all the glossy brochures are already out.

"Cabinet meets on a Friday morning so they obviously got there and discussed it before the IPART report came out."

Cr Rhoades said the downfall of so many councils was the ambiguity of the "scale and capacity" criteria that pitted population against distance from regional centres.

He said no one understood what the term meant before submitting their Fit for the Future applications.

"We asked the government and IPART to explain the measure, but they couldn't," he said.

A joint letter from Mr Baird and Local Government Minister Paul Toole delivered to each mayor in NSW carefully avoided any mention of forced amalgamations.

It warned many councils had fallen short of the government's expectations.

"For many councils the next 30 days are a final opportunity to do the right thing for the future of communities, which in many cases may include merging with neighbouring councils."

Cr Rhoades said communities opposed to mergers had until November 18 to lobby their state members of parliament.

But would having enough people loudly publicising their views be enough to change the government's mind?

"Well, they are politicians," Cr Rhoades said.