EDIT: I have discovered an error in the official election results which appear to have transposed Tempe High with Summer Hill Community Centre. The results suggested Tempe voted No and SHCC voted a very strong Yes, but it makes more sense with surrounding booths to swap them. I compared vote totals to the council results and it matches, so I have swapped them and updated the map and data below.
ORIGINAL POST WITH CORRECTIONS: We’ve finally got results from all of the referendums and polls conducted alongside the NSW council elections. I’m planning to do a slightly deeper analysis for a few of those that I find interesting as time allows, but I will also include them in my wrap-up of the final results.
For today, I’m looking at the Inner West deamalgamation poll. While this result is non-binding it has drawn a lot more attention than any of the other questions asked – it’s one of the biggest councils to hold a vote alongside the council election, and is a particularly fascinating topic.
The Inner West council was created in 2016 as a merger of three councils: Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville. The three councils fit together quite well demographically and politically, but it’s an area that is very politically active and there has been a lot of resistance to the general idea of amalgamation.
The campaign to demerge the council was partly motivated by concerns about local democracy, demanding a better ratio of local councillors to residents, but also was tied in with the issue of rates harmonisation, which will see rates rise for most Marrickville ratepayers and go down for most Ashfield and Leichhardt ratepayers.
The Yes win was a big one. There’s no getting away from that. But there are some interesting trends when you look at the geography.
Firstly, I broke down the results by the three former local government areas:
|Former LGA||Yes %||Votes|
(Correction: I had Ashfield originally as 57.9% and Marrickville as 65.2%)
I couldn’t locate about a quarter of the total votes: those cast at Sydney pre-poll, declaration votes, postal votes and iVotes. For everyone else voting at pre-poll or on election day I’ve assigned them to the most appropriate former LGA, although voters were not restricted to their former LGA.
The Yes vote was highest in Marrickville, which had the lowest previous rates and faced the most rate rises, and lowest in Ashfield, the smallest of the former councils where ratepayers will see the biggest benefit from rate harmonisation. Ashfield is also the weakest part of the council for the Greens.
Next up, I’ve mapped out the election day results, which made up 49.94% of the total vote, since they give more of a sense of the geographic spread:
The differences are not consistent across each former LGA. Indeed it appears that booths closer to the former council boundaries had the highest No vote.
There were three booths that gave a majority No vote, all of them in Summer Hill, which is in the former Ashfield council but is close to Dulwich Hill in the former Marrickville council.
I used to live right on this border, in Dulwich Hill but using services in Summer Hill. The suburb of Summer Hill fits quite well with the suburbs further east and could easily fit into the former Marrickville council.
The effect is less dramatic on the other former boundaries but also exists. The Yes vote was highest on the Balmain peninsula and in the Marrickville area, but is lower along Parramatta Road and in western Leichhardt and Haberfield.
I’ll mostly let you all draw your own conclusions, but I do have some thoughts. For people who live far away from the council boundary, the question of deamalgamation is less about who you are merged with and more about the general shape of the new council: what happens to your rates, and are the services better or worse than before? If you live closer to the boundary, the question probably becomes more about those specific councils and if they fit together well, and generally in the inner west voters near the border know that there isn’t much difference across the border. I suspect Yes won because it wasn’t about these specific areas not fitting well together, but more about a general principle of having smaller councils.