The last Lord Mayor of Wollongong? Maybe…

This is our current Lord Mayor:

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Gordon Bradbery

And a Wikipedia outline history of our local government reveals mergers have happened before:

First incorporated on 28 February 1859 as the ‘Municipality of Wollongong’, the council became known as the ‘City of Wollongong’ on the 11 September 1942. On 12 September 1947, the City of Wollongong, the Shire of Bulli (established 1906) and the Municipalities of Central Illawarra (established 1859) and North Illawarra (established 1868) amalgamated to form the ‘City of Greater Wollongong’ under the Local Government Act 1919. On 10 April 1970 the council was granted the title of ‘Lord Mayor’ by Queen Elizabeth II. On 30 October 1970 the official title of the council reverted to become the ‘City of Wollongong’. On 1 July 1993 following the enactment of a new Local Government Act, elected representatives of the council were to be known as ‘Councillor’, replacing the former title of ‘Alderman’. Originally nominated annually by the council, the mayor is now popularly-elected for a four-year term.

A friend I often chat to at Diggers is former Lord Mayor Alex Darling.

And now we have announced the most unpopular merger of Wollongong and the local government area to the south, Shellharbour. See these stories in the Illawarra Mercury.

On Thursday, after the Land and Environment Court had ordered Local Government Minister Paul Toole not to make any recommendation about the merger, Premier Mike Baird’s office sent a media release containing details including the new council’s name: City of Greater Wollongong.

This was quickly revealed to be a mistake and replaced with a toned down announcement that the minister “supports in principle the creation of a new council for Shellharbour and Wollongong, subject to the decision of the court”.

Shellharbour’s last ditch legal effort to stave off the merger began on Wednesday when media reports revealed the government would “save” Kiama and Shoalhaven but force the amalgamation of the two northern Illawarra councils.

In an urgent hearing granted on Thursday morning, the council’s lawyer told the court that any recommendation about the merger would be “highly inappropriate and may amount a denial of procedural fairness” due to the council’s pending legal action.

I totally agree with Arthur Rorris:

Having the merger between Wollongong and Shellharbour councils still up in the air is not good for the region, according to South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris.

“It’s hardly a panacea for the region with so significant economic issues and challenges,” Mr Rorris said.

“No one has articulated why simply joining two councils is going to improve things.

“Unless the government can put up a convincing case that merging councils is actually going to benefit the people that live in those regions then the view is that they shouldn’t go ahead.”

He was pleased that Kiama avoided the proposed merger with Shoalhaven Council.

“In terms of Kiama, they had a plebiscite,” Mr Rorris said.

“Obviously the local people have spoken and their wishes should be considered and they should be allowed to determine their own form of government.”

On how KIama avoided the proposed merger with Shoalhaven, Wollongong Lord Mayor Bradbery is quite right:

…a merged Wollongong-Shellharbour council would have 275,556 citizens, according to government figures. 

With 13 councillors, that’s 21,197 residents (almost the entire population of Kiama) represented by each councillor. 

Reacting to media reports on Wednesday night, an emotional and defiant Shellharbour mayor Marianne Saliba said “the fight isn’t over”, as she said the council had taken legal action in an attempt to stop the merger.

Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said he was not surprised the merger would go ahead as he believed Wollongong and Shellharbour had been “easy pickings because we’re a Labor dominated area”….

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KIama Council Chambers

A merger that might have made more sense historically would have been Shellharbour with KIama. By the way, my grandfather and an uncle both served on Shellharbour Council in the first quarter of the 20th century.

I find the merging of Shellharbour and Wollongong a really bad idea.

Later

Alex Darling at the club didn’t seem too fussed. A Shellharbour resident however was not at all impressed. He said I was spot on with “A merger that might have made more sense historically would have been Shellharbour with KIama.” He thought the locals down there might have accepted that one. Finally, this post really should be headed “last Lord Mayor of Wollongong in its current configuration” – to be accurate.

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One thought on “The last Lord Mayor of Wollongong? Maybe…

  1. A timely post with the Baird government’s council amalgamations coming into effect. My own municipality, Leichhardt, has been abolished and amalgamated with Marrickville and Ashfield

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