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 2012-2017.
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.
Greater Sydney Plan – 1940s Council amalgamations
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.
Proposed merger of Strathfield with Ashfield, Drummoyne, Burwood and Concord Councils 1974-1977
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?’
Proposed merger of Strathfield and Burwood Councils 1983
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’.
Proposed merger of Strathfield and Burwood Councils 1999-2000
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.
Auburn Council proposal for takeover
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.
Merger Proposal 2012-2017
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 December 2015, the NSW Government announced their proposal to merge Strathfield Council with Burwood and Canada Bay Councils and in January 2016, a Delegate was appointed to review the proposal and make recommendations to NSW Government for decision. Council presented its submission to the Delegate strongly arguing against forced amalgamation, based on community surveys indicating that over 80% supported Strathfield remaining a stand-alone council. Following a public notice period, a report was submitted to the Minister for Local Government by the Delegate recommending the forced merger proceed.
In May 2016, Strathfield Council submitted a court challenge against the merger. In September 2016, Justice Moore of the Land & Environment Court upheld the Council’s case and ruled that the Delegate failed to address two mandatory requirements in his report and as such did not comply with the requirements under the Local Government Act.
Subsequently, the Delegate prepared a Revised Report, dated September 2016. The Revised Report was referred to the Boundaries Commission on 5 October 2016. The Boundaries Commission provided commentary to the Minister on 10 October 2016 including that the Delegate had adequately considered the factors required by section 263(3) of the Act, with the exception of financial advantages or disadvantages.
In July 2017, the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced that the Government would not continue its forced amalgamation policy for councils that had commenced legal action, which included Strathfield Council.