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Council amalgamation fears continue despite assurances

NSW council amalgamation was a topic of concern raised at last week's Riverina and Murray Regional Organisation of Councils meeting.

KATHLEEN TONINI February 12, 2013 4:22am

Riverina and Murray shires were again assured there would be no forced council amalgamations in regional NSW at Thursday’s Riverina and Murray Regional Organisation of Councils meeting.

Murray Shire mayor Tom Weyrich said NSW MPs John Williams, Adrian Piccoli and Greg Aplin were at the meeting, which discussed council amalgamation and the provision of water and sewerage services.

He said Mr Williams reaffirmed previous advice that there would be no forced amalgamations outside of Sydney and there would be no transfer of water and sewerage functions away from councils.

Mr Weyrich said Mr Piccoli added the NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell had ‘‘no enthusiasm’’ for amalgamations as there were no economic or political benefits.

Despite this, Mr Weyrich said there was doubt among regional councils about assurances of no forced amalgamations.

‘‘It’s reassuring to have the MPs tell us that, but, you know, we’re cynical,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve had the rug pulled on us before.’’

Mr Weyrich said taking away water and sewerage functions from councils would cost jobs and income.

‘‘I honestly believe our water and sewerage are performing very well,’’ he said.

He said in Moama, ratepayers had access to raw water as well as filtered water, which was unique.

In December, Mr Williams addressed Murray Shire Council, saying he would like council amalgamations avoided, but said the decision was out of his hands.

The discussion centres around the NSW Independent Local Government Review Panel Report which will look at ways to strengthen the effectiveness of local government.

The final recommendations from the report will be presented to the NSW Local Government Minister Don Page in July.

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