Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Grassroots of Gerrymanders: Randwick Council has backflipped and will now mount a legal challenge against amalgamations
FOR two years Randwick Council acquiesced to the State Government, but now it will move to mount its first legal challenge against amalgamations, after a last-ditch effort to stave off the move was withdrawn.
Council voted in favour of fighting its merger with Waverley and Woollahra after hearing legal advice prepared by Ian Davidson SC and commissioned by Labor councillors Tony Bowen and Kathy Neilson at an extraordinary council meeting last Tuesday.
The advice proposed the council had grounds to challenge the merger.
Liberal councillors attempted to block the decision late last week, but they withdrew after Woollahra Council won the right to appeal the merger to the High Court last Friday.
Randwick Liberal Councillor and Deputy Mayor Brendan Roberts said it would have been “inappropriate” to proceed with the rescission motion “in light” of Friday’s decision.
“However, the High Court decision in no way represents a victory, it just represents their right to appeal,” he said.
Randwick will now “immediately commence proceedings against the NSW Government” to challenge the merger proposal, as tabled in the motion.
When questioned as to why Randwick took two years to mount a challenge before last week’s meeting, general manager Ray Brownlee said: “It was never raised by a councillor to seek legal advice before.”
The High Court appeal will be seen as a precedent for other councils to mount legal challenges and will stall a possible eastern suburbs merger for a number of months.
As a result, it is expected Randwick will call a council election in September.
When submitting the rescission motion to block any action on the legal challenge, Liberal Cr Harry Stavrinos said: “To line the pockets of barristers, SCs and solicitors with money to launch a fruitless legal challenge is nothing short of reckless.”
But Labor Cr Tony Bowen blasted the move by his Liberal colleagues.
“If Woollahra’s appeal hadn’t got up Randwick Council would not exist today because of the rescission motion.”