I have submitted my response to the merger proposal prepared by the NSW Government concerning the proposed merger of Hawkesbury City Council and part of The Hills Shire Council. My submission ended up being over 2,200 words but my covering letter reads:
‘I am a professional historian and I own and operate Hawkesbury Valley Heritage Tours, based in Windsor. This submission comments on several matters outlined in the merger proposal document that are of concern to me and these matters relate to the issues of heritage and agriculture in the existing Hawkesbury Local Government Area. The Hawkesbury is a semi-rural or peri-urban area and it consists of a number of rural localities, communities, villages and townships with two main commercial centres – Windsor and Richmond.
Within these localities, communities, villages and townships there are thriving family networks that go back seven, sometimes eight, generations to the very early convicts and settlers who came to the area from 1794, when European settlement of this area began. In addition, there are families who have farmed in the area for many years, sometimes on original grants made to their ancestors. There are also newcomers to the Hawkesbury who have bought existing farms and who are working them and making their living from the produce. There is a special uniqueness and sense of place existing in the Hawkesbury which the proposed merger does not satisfactorily take into account.
As explained in the attached submission, part of this genius loci, or sense of place, can be attributed to the number of heritage sites extant in the Hawkesbury Local Government Area and the emotional engagement felt by members of the community who act as volunteers and participate in planning and activities in and around those heritage sites and rural districts. The proposed merger of Hawkesbury City Council with part of The Hills Shire Council does not take into account the existing historical and traditional values in the existing areas, nor the impact of change on those areas.
For these reasons and based on the evidence outlined in the attached submission, I wish to register my opposition to the proposed merger on the basis that The Hills Shire Council has not satisfactorily demonstrated that it has the understanding or ability to conserve, preserve or respect State and locally significant heritage items in either The Hills Shire or the Hawkesbury, particularly as the Hawkesbury is one of the most heritage rich local government areas in the nation.’