Inner West deamalgamation results


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 LGAYes %Votes
Other votes61.527,289

(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.

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  1. Thanks for your analysis.
    It is quite interesting.

    Some of us who have been campaigning for the YES votes also notices the three booths with the NO vote.

    Isn’t rather interesting that while Summer Hill PS had one of the lowest YES votes at 40%, the nearby Summer Hill Community Centre had one of the highest at 73%, and combining them gives a respectable 55% YES vote?

    Also, as I live in Haberfield, I was particularly interested in the three booths in Haberfield, were the possibly more exclusive end at Dobroyd Point PS votes 51% YES, and at the other end HPS voted 57%. But you should note that it is also significant that Haberfield residents have been hit with rate increases of up to 35%, so that goes against the hypothesis that those with rate increases were more likely to vote no?

  2. A victory for democracy these managerialist fantasies of both the New Left and the New Right have despoiled local democracy across the country for the last 45 years taking power away from the local populations and vesting it in new super class or managers, consultants and their dancing attendance senior management teams.

    When in reality MOST Councils could be run by decent Town Clerk, a very good and honest accountant and small support teams focusing on street cleaning, parks and gardens, rubbish, rates, & other plus a decent Engineering Dept run horror or horrors by an actual Engineer. With 95 % of staff re focused back to roles like driving graders, & doing real work.

    Social & Community services & libraries could be managed by clusters of local councils working together on these and any other issues with commensurate financial input by the State and Federal governments. IF people want these services to continue.

    That is the sensible creation of larger interstitial structures of that type shared by adjoining Councils!

    But not meta councils or mini states run mostly for the benefit of 10-20 senior managers & their consultant mates. Not forgetting all our friends ibn the DOZENS of commensurate levels of overseers from 20-30 State and Federal Departments all in all a nightmare of bureaucratization that has gone far beyond a joke

  3. Will be interesting to see what the current State Government does with this result.
    Given the money already spent on rebranding and facility upgrades offset by ignoring a non-binding plebiscite.
    State Libs will rationalise that the electorate was not well-informed of the cost benefit ahead of the election due to COVID, and that it would be more costly for the ratepayer to revert.
    On the other hand the “Yes” vote will need to continue the momentum and not be passive if they expect results. Given there is a Federal Minister for Local Government, and if potentially a change in government occurs there, could be an interesting dynamic if both sides are advocating different results. Still noting the primacy of State Governments in Local Government matters.
    I would say that won’t help the cause for the “Yes” movement is not staying in their lane. If the whole argument is about more localised services, perhaps avoid the Council (particularly Marrickville) being used a vehicle to advocate National issues, which often becomes a source of resentment and an argument for the continued merger by ratepayers.
    It will also be interesting if the State Liberal Government, does agree to terms do they agree do the de-merger but tamper with the boundaries.
    Interesting to see where the “No” vote polled highest was around major roads like Old Canterbury Road and the Princes Highway. Arterial roads flowing out of the Council- ratepayers may see the benefit of the merger due to perambulating in and out of the LGA for basic services like supermarkets, entertainment, etc..
    I still reckon this has buckley’s of happening.

  4. As a (Balmain) local, i think another obvious reason for the vote is that services from mowing to council communications have deteriorated post-amalgamation. I continue to think amalgamation was a bad move, but am also sceptical that we will go through with deamalgamation.

  5. According to Brian Halstead, who was scrutineering, there is an error in the uploading of the results. The poll results for Tempe High and Summer Hill Community got mixed up and the mistake has not been corrected yet. So the three No majority booths are all in the same Summer Hill area, which was not letterboxed with the Residents For Deamalgamation flyer.

  6. Peter, I looked into this claim and I think you’re right. The number of votes cast at each booth is consistent with the results being swapped. And it’s consistent with the surrounding booths. I’ve updated the map and this post to show the correct figures, which further widen the gap between Ashfield and Marrickville.


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