Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

‘Amalgamation’ before Christmas

NSW Government to decide on proposed council amalgamations.

ZOE MCMAUGH August 20, 2014 3:40am

The NSW Government has told the state’s mayors and senior council staff that a response on the Revitalising Local Government review, including proposed council amalgamations, will be delivered before Christmas.

NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole made the commitment at the NSW Country Mayors conference in Sydney last week.

Deniliquin Mayor Lindsay Renwick attended the conference with general manager Des Bilske.

The mayor said he had the opportunity to meet with Mr Toole at the Local Government Week presentation dinner the night before he opened the conference.

Cr Renwick said the minister did not give away the government’s position on the review but was adamant the process would not be drawn out any longer than it had to be.

‘‘Paul Toole said prior to Christmas we would be guaranteed to see some outcomes of the review,’’ Cr Renwick said.

‘‘Even though he was only appointed Local Government Minister in April this year, he has already been right through the Independent Local Government Review Panel’s report.

‘‘He was very generic in his discussions with me about it and when he addressed the Country Mayors conference.

‘‘I did notice though that he is a man fixed on finalising this process while he is in the role.

‘‘He said he would not be waiting until the election (in March 2015), which has been speculated.’’

Cr Renwick and Deniliquin Council have been open to the recommendations in the review panel’s report, including its recommendation of regional shire mergers.

An amalgamation of Deniliquin Council, Conargo Shire, Murray Shire and potentially Wakool Shire was first recommended in the NSW Treasury Corporation report released early last year.

It listed Deniliquin and Conargo as ‘‘councils at risk’’ and both having ‘‘low’’ rate bases. Their financial outlooks were listed at ‘‘negative’’ and ‘‘neutral’’ respectively.

The review panel backed up the TCorp recommendation in its draft and final recommendations released in April and October.

Cr Renwick says he maintains there are some positives to be gained from the proposed amalgamations, saying concerns about loss of identity are unwarranted.

‘‘When we talk about amalgamation there are people who think they are going to lose their identities,’’ he said.

‘‘But just look at Berrigan Shire, for example. It covers the towns of Finley, Tocumwal, Berrigan and Barooga, and none of those towns have lost their own individual identity.

‘‘They are running the entire shire from a single administration and under a single general manager very well.

‘‘It can be done without, for example, Pretty Pine or Booroorban being swallowed up.’’

Both Murray and Conargo shire councils have been vehemently opposed to any mergers.

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