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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Two southern NSW councils reject need to merge under Government program

Two southern NSW councils reject need to merge under Government program By Jordan Hayne Posted about 7 hours ago Queanbeyan mayor Tim Overall Photo: Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall wants his council to become a regional services provider but does not want to merge with others. (ABC News: Ian Cutmore ) Related Story: Local councils vote against NSW forced amalgamations Related Story: City of Sydney votes to oppose proposed merger with neighbouring councils Related Story: More NSW councils in deficit as State Government urges amalgamations Map: Queanbeyan 2620 Queanbeyan City Council and its neighbour Palerang Council have rejected the need for a forced marriage under the New South Wales Government's Fit For the Future Program. Both councils have lodged submissions arguing they should each keep their independence, despite the Independent Local Government Review Panel preferring a merge between the two. Fit For the Future is designed to ensure all local councils in New South Wales are operating efficiently. In some cases councils that were not meeting specific benchmarks and were urged to consider voluntary amalgamation. The NSW Government is refusing to rule out the prospect of forced merges, despite the Australian Local Government Association voting to oppose any forced amalgamations. The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has begun assessing council submissions, before delivering a report to the Government in October. Queanbeyan Mayor Tim Overall said a consultant enlisted by both councils determined that a merger would not improve the region's position. "It was found that if both councils came together, that would be a financially unsustainable proposition unless there were major, major rationalisations between the two councils involving the loss of a whole range of positions," he said. He warned that if a merger went ahead special rate variations could well follow. "I can say that over 30 councils across NSW have recently secured special rate variations to their rate base, but we haven't gone down that path yet. So we'll be doing further analysis work in that regard." Mr Overall said. Palerang Mayor Pete Harrison said that a merger would decrease representation for his constituents. "We have two fundamentally different demographics," he said. We've got ourselves, largely a rural council, dealing with or delivering services into the farming community, small rural villages and towns, whereas next door to us in Queanbeyan you've got what is essentially an urban council. "In Queanbeyan you have something in the order of 26,000 voters, and in Palerang something in the order of 10,000 voters. "Pure democratic reality is that you would have three times the representation and only a quarter from the other." Councils differ on next step of process While both agree a forced merger would be to the detriment of the region, the councils disagree about the best way forward. Palerang mayor Pete Harrison Photo: Palerang Mayor Pete Harrison fears any proposed merger with the larger Queanbeyan Council would reduce representation for residents. (ABC News: Jordan Hayne) Palerang is eager to see both councils share resources and continue on as equals, but Queanbeyan City Council has proposed it become a regional services provider. The model would see smaller councils like Palerang would outsource some of their back office operations to Queanbeyan. "[It would] allow Queanbeyan to provide services to smaller councils across the region, particularly Palerang Council" Mr Overall said. "I do know there are a number of other councils, both in metropolitan Sydney, and regional New South Wales are putting in similar proposals". But Mr Harrison wants to see those services remain in Palerang. "To be perfectly honest [a regional services provider model] doesn't actually help smaller councils, a great deal. It provides a stop-gap sort of solution, but at the end of the day it doesn't really help any small council become stronger," he said. "Buying services from a central provider really doesn't help any small council develop those particular capabilities themselves, it creates an entity which then becomes dependent on a larger entity." The proposals from all councils involved in Fit For the Future will be assessed by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, which will report to the NSW Government in October. Powered by Bing Topics: state-parliament, local-government, urban-development-and-planning, queanbeyan-2620, bungendore-2621, braidwood-2622, nsw, act

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