Major changes to local government – including possible amalgamations – is one of Conargo Shire Mayor Norm Brennan’s top concerns for the new year.
Cr Brennan says he will not sit back and let Conargo Shire be ‘‘destroyed’’ by the expected changes.
The long-time Conargo councillor is concerned about the reliability of state government consultation on what could potentially be an amalgamation of local councils.
Cr Brennan said Conargo Shire’s submission to the Independent Local Government Review Panel was not initially recognised.
The mayor gave a short presentation when he met with the panel at a Riverina and Murray Regional Organisation of Councils (RAMROC) meeting earlier in 2012, before ‘‘personally’’ handing them the submission.
‘‘We put a fair bit of work into it (the submission),’’ he said.
‘‘I think it was an 18 to 20 page document. It wasn’t done on the back of an envelope.’’
However, Cr Brennan said Conargo Shire was later not listed among those who made a submission.
Two weeks after raising the issue with the department, Cr Brennan was told the submission had now been recognised.
However, he said by that time the panel had already generated two papers from the submissions, and the department’s late recognition of Conargo meant their submission wasn’t considered in the papers.
‘‘We will be making sure that doesn’t happen again,’’ Cr Brennan said.
He also said the shire did not receive an apology from the department.
Cr Brennan said Conargo Shire would still be a part of the review, which is expected to recommend major changes to the way local governments operate.
‘‘Just because that’s happened won’t stop us,’’ he said.
Cr Brennan said many people have worked hard to get the shire where it is and ‘‘I’m not going to see it destroyed’’.
‘‘Anything that happens has to be better for our community.’’
Amalgamations are one option being considered by the review panel, with the new councils possibly covering much larger areas.
A paper released by the panel says as a general rule, it should be possible to drive from a local government area’s main administration centre, to a boundary, in less than two hours. It also says amalgamations would be voluntary.
‘‘They say amalgamations won’t be forced. I don’t believe that,’’ Cr Brennan said.
However, amalgamations are not the only option, with regional boards of management and a ‘‘whole variety of different scenarios’’ being considered.
Cr Brennan believes the NSW Government wants to reduce the number of councils. There are 152 councils.
‘‘They haven’t given a [target] number,’’ Cr Brennan said.
However, the mayor ‘‘wouldn’t be surprised’’ if they wanted to get down to 50 councils.
Cr Brennan said he doesn’t believe there would be ‘‘huge cost savings’’ in reducing the number of councils.
‘‘Please show me some reasons why we should change,’’ he said.
‘‘We’ve got good roads, we’ve got good machinery.’’
The panel is expected to make recommendations in early to mid 2013.
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