Strathfield Council – history of council amalgamations

By Cathy Jones, 2013 (updated 2017)

The original Strathfield Council area expanded in size with the amalgamations of Enfield and Homebush Councils in the 1940’s.

The Municipality of Enfield was proclaimed on 22 January 1889 [additional area west of Enfield added in 1893] and Municipality of Homebush on 6 June 1906. The area of Flemington was incorporated into the Municipality of Strathfield on 16 February 1892. Homebush Municipality was incorporated into Strathfield Municipality in 1947 and in 1949, the west ward of Enfield Municipality was incorporated into Strathfield Municipality. The central and east wards of Enfield Council were incorporated into Burwood Council.

The issue of Council amalgamation has been proposed by the State Government on a number occasions, most notably in 1947, 1973, 1983, 1993, 2003 and 2012-current.

In 1999, the Council considered amalgamation with Burwood Council, which did not proceed after community consultation. The issue of Council amalgamations was reopened by the State Labor Government in 2003 and a bid by Auburn Council to takeover Strathfield Council was lodged.  This did not proceed.  In 2012, the Coalition State Government have appointed an Independent Local Government Review panel to investigate reform in local government including amalgamations and boundary changes.

History of amalgamations and boundary changes in Strathfield

Strathfield Council was formed in 1885. Any unincorporated area of NSW without local government was required to form local government under the Local Government Act 1906. Many councils including Homebush Council were incorporated in 1906.

Bills to amalgamate councils were brought raised in NSW parliament in 1912, 1927 and 1931 but each time they failed to gather any support, mainly due to campaigning by most local councils in Sydney against the proposals.

Following the World War II, the McKell Labor Government appointed a Royal Commission to reorganise local government boundaries. The Government adopted the recommendations of one of the commissioners to form eight ‘cities’ in the Greater Sydney Plan.

Strathfield Council fought a hard campaign against the Greater Sydney Plan. This proposal involved a plan to reduce councils to 16 Councils in Sydney and create the ‘Greater Sydney City Council’ with 30 Aldermen with 3 elected from each ward. Addressing the Royal Commission, Alderman Firth argued strongly that Strathfield Council was financially viable and well managed.  The Mayor, Colin Hudson stated in 1946 that ‘this enormous area will be controlled by 30 Aldermen. Such as monstrous innovation will ring the death-knell for true democratic local government and set up an organisation based on political patronage and bureaucracy. The intimate degree of interest in and control of their councils by the citizens will be lost’ and ‘there has been neither request nor demand for this revolutionary change in our mode of life’.

However, many Councils were amalgamated in the 1940’s, particularly in the inner city of Sydney including Homebush and Enfield Councils.  In May 1947, the Municipality of Homebush voluntarily amalgamated with Strathfield and in January 1949 the west ward of the former Municipality of Enfield was added. As this doubled the population that was managed by Strathfield local council the threats of amalgamation after the Second World War ended subsided.

Following the 1940′s amalgamations, wards were formed but were later abolished. Strathfield Council does not currently have wards.

In 1974 C. J. Barnett wrote a Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Local Government Areas and Administration in New South Wales and recommended that Strathfield be amalgamated with Ashfield, Drummoyne, Burwood and Concord.  ln 1977, Strathfield Council conducted a Poll of Electors on 17″‘ September 1977

‘Do you approve of the amalgamation of the Municipality of Strathfield with any combination of the Municipalities of Auburn, Bankstown, Canterbury, Burwood, Concord, Drummoyne and Ashfield?’  

No vote 77.7%
Yes vote 14.6%
Informal 7.7%

In 1983 it was further recommended by the State Boundaries Commission that Strathfield be amalgamated with Burwood Council. A great deal of uproar greeted this plan and a circus tent was erected for a town meeting in which 2,000 people attended (from a population of 26,000) after the plan was announced. The then Mayor, Alderman Clarrie Edwards, spoke at the meeting and after seeing the tremendous opposition to the merger the then New South Wales Premier, Neville Wran finally decided that a merger would not be in anyone‘s best interest.  This is detailed at some length in the book ‘Oasis in the West’.

ln 1999, an amalgamation between Strathfield and Burwood Council was considered by the NSW Boundaries Commission.  Two surveys of the local community were taken, one by Strathfield Council and the other by the Department of Local Government.  The community voted against amalgamation by over 70% on each survey. Strathfield Council withdrew from this proposal as it was considered that the community was not supportive of the proposal.

In 2003, the NSW Government requested all Councils consider amalgamation and provide reasons why they should not amalgamate and how they can provide more efficient services. This resulted in a number of amalgamations, particularly in country areas of NSW.

Auburn Council submitted to the Minister for Local Government, a report for the “Proposed boundary adjustment of Auburn, Canada Bay and Strathfield Local Government Areas’ in August 2003.  Auburn’s report requested formation of a new Council, City of Homebush Bay. The so-called ‘Boundary Adjustment’ involved taking over the entire Strathfield Council. The report also requested that the Council would have wards which are not based on geographical alignments of existing areas.  The proposed wards did not guarantee the area of Strathfield any representation.

This proposal inflamed the community of Strathfield, who overwhelmingly rejected the Auburn bid.  This proposal did not proceed.

In 2012, the NSW Government established a review panel to investigate among other reforms to local government, amalgamations and boundary changes.  The final report was released in 2013.  The NSW Government responded in September 2014 with the Fit for the Future program requiring all Councils to make submissions on how they met the criteria of this program by June 2015. In late 2015, the the NSW Premier Mike Baird announced the NSW Government had formally proposed the merger of Strathfield Council with City of Canada Bay and Burwood Council.  Following a public notice period, a report was submitted to the Minister for Local Government recommending the forced merger proceed.  Strathfield Council commenced legal action in the Land & Environment Court, which at time of writing is still pending.

(c) Cathy Jones 2013.  Pursuant to the provisions of the Copyright Act 1968, no permission is given to any person to reproduce any work.  Existing publications do not assign or imply any ownership by any other person by the author.  No permission is given by the author for any commercial advantage to any person or organisation.

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