My name is Gail Giles-Gidney, and I have the honour of being the 50th Mayor of Willoughby City Council. However, I address you tonight in my personal capacity, as a resident of Willoughby.
Mr. Reynolds, thank you for the opportunity to address you tonight. I would also like to acknowledge the presence of Mayors Gibson and Abelson and former Mayor McCaffery.
I am very pleased to see so many here tonight. I had feared that after this long process we might have been suffering from “submission fatigue”.
Like Mosman and North Sydney, my Council’s initial response to “Fit for the Future” was to stand-alone. We were nevertheless declared unfit and asked to submit preferred merger options.
Willoughby Councillors then agreed to submit a preference for a merger with just North Sydney. It is interesting to note that at that time one Councillor suggested adding Mosman into the mix, and failed to get a seconder.
Now we are forced to consider a merger with both North Sydney and Mosman.
So, Mosman keeps telling us that they are different, and I agree.
I believe there are 4 main differences worth highlighting tonight:
1. Willoughby and North Sydney combine business districts with both low and high-density residential living. Mosman is low density, does not have any meaningful high-rise apartment living and does not have substantial commercial rates income.
2. Public transport in Willoughby and North Sydney is highly dependent on rail infrastructure. As a result the State Government has identified Chatswood, North Sydney and St Leonards as strategic centres. Mosman requires a very different approach to dealing with through traffic from the Northern Beaches over Spit Bridge and down the choked Military Road.
3. Our communities do not naturally resonate with each other. Willoughby research shows that while its residents associate with North Sydney, very few connect with Mosman. Similarly while Mosman residents connect with North Sydney, they do not feel associated with Willoughby.
4. Finally, Willoughby and North Sydney are of comparable size. If amalgamated, Mosman will end up with only one sixth of the total population and has a distinctly different demographic. I am genuinely concerned that in any merger, Mosman residents will feel disenfranchised by both this process and the outcome. Who could blame them? Not a great start to community harmony.
Mosman you are not unloved. I visit regularly. I played Netball for Mosman. I have been part of a Mosman book club for the past 14 years and I have many professional and social relationships here. I just don’t believe merging with Mosman is the best outcome for Willoughby and I do not support the three way merger.