Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

No forced amalgamtions for Southern Riverina Shires

Jerilderie Shire Mayor Terry Hogan says council amalgamations may be needed in the future, but for now he is happy they will not be forced on local government.

February 13, 2013 4:14am

The assurance was given by three local state members at a Riverina and Murray Regional Organisation of Councils (RAMROC) meeting on Thursday.

Member for Murray-Darling John Williams, NSW Education Minister and Member for Murrumbidgee Adrian Piccoli and Member for Albury Greg Aplin were quizzed on a number of issued relating to local government at the special meeting.

Cr Hogan and Conargo Shire general manager Barry Barlow said the prospect of amalgamations dominated discussion.

It is part of a wider independent review of local government.

Cr Hogan, who is also RAMROC chair, says he believes council amalgamations may be necessary in the future.

However, he joined other member councils in welcoming news that none would be compulsory right now.

‘‘We (local government) seem to be facing more and more regulation, and we need specialists to help us carry out and meet those regulations.

‘‘There will be some shires who may have to consider amalgamation now because of a lack of population and subsequent low rate base ... they may not be able to survive otherwise.

‘‘You have to be living in a big, deep, dark cave to not see that some changes need to be made in the future to continue meeting the needs of our communities.

‘‘But it was spelled out emphatically that there would be no forced amalgamations at this stage.’’

Mr Barlow said the reiteration that there would be no forced amalgamations by the local members was ‘‘very, very good news’’.

‘‘The state government advised the local members there would be no forced amalgamations or boundary changes in country areas.

‘‘I find that reassuring, because I believe we (Conargo Shire) are viable and can sustain and provide for our ratepayers.

‘‘It’s also reassuring to hear from a staff point of view.’’

Cr Hogan said a review report based on council consultations meetings, which are not believed to have been held in this area yet, was due ‘‘soon’’.

He said with no forced amalgamations, the future control of water and sewerage was likely to be the most anticipated part of the report.

The NSW Government first proposed to introduce state government controlled water and sewerage services in 2007.

At the time, councils said losing control of the services would remove millions of dollars from council revenue and affect a large number of jobs.

In an attempt to keep the services in local hands, RAMROC developed a regional alliance model of management to be called RAMROC Water.

The government’s push for the change went quiet in 2010, but Cr Hogan said it would form part of the local government review.

He said councils may need to fight to retain the services again if the NSW Government goes back to its original plan.

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