Woollahra appeal to determine next step in Bathurst and Oberon merger

THE next step in the protracted preparation for a council merger between Bathurst and Oberon is now dependent on a council in Sydney.

And after a resolution about the forced merger in the courts last week, a new legal wait has begun.

Minister for Local Government Paul Toole said late last week that a new Bathurst and Oberon council could be created by the end of the month after Oberon’s challenge to the merger was rejected by the Land and Environment Court last Friday.

Mr Toole said at the time that Oberon could appeal the decision, but said the council might already be facing a bill of hundreds of thousands of dollars, after also being ordered to pay the NSW Government’s costs in the case.

At an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday night, however, Oberon councillors unanimously resolved to fight on – but not necessarily to formally appeal.

Councillors voted to lodge a notice of intention to appeal against the judgement in the Land and Environment Court and seek agreement from the NSW Government not to take any further action on the Oberon merger until seven days after the determination of Woollahra Council’s appeal.

Woollahra, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, had its own merger challenge in the Land and Environment Court rejected in mid-July and appealed that decision.

Woollahra’s case is based on a similar premise to Oberon’s case.

Oberon Council said in a statement that Mr Toole had given an undertaking on Thursday “that he would not proceed with any action to amalgamate the councils until seven days after the current appeal proceedings undertaken by Woollahra Council were finalised”.

“Oberon Council thanks the minister for this extension and will now have the opportunity to seek further information and clarification in relation to its legal position,” the council said. 

Mr Toole said yesterday that the money spent on the legal fight so far could have been better spent on the community.

“Last week, Chief Judge Brian Preston dismissed all 10 matters in their entirety that were raised by the council and he also awarded costs against the council,” he said.

“This now is turning into a very large legal bill. This is money that could be better spent on projects in the community such as parks, gardens, playgrounds and on fixing up some of the roads after recent rainfall.

“It’s the community that’s missing out.”