Related: Government considers ditching forced amalgamations.
The sighs of disappointment can be heard loud and clear across the length and breadth of the Great Lakes following the State government’s announcement merged regional councils will remain in place.
Earlier this week Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government would maintain all existing mergers.
However, the government would not push ahead with the plan to amalgamate regional councils which have not yet been merged.
She claimed that since becoming Premier both Ms Berejiklian and her Deputy Premier, John Barilaro had travelled across NSW listening to the views and considering the evidence.
Mr Barilaro maintained the Coalition was committed to listening and delivering to communities across regional NSW.
“Local councils in the bush have done their fair share to contribute to stronger local government in NSW and today we draw a line under local government amalgamations in the regions,” he said.
Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton said three rounds of mergers in regional NSW over recent decades had seen significant consolidation of councils.
Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead said the government’s decision had been made to retain merged councils and to end the uncertainty in relation to other proposals.
“MidCoast Council will go to an election this September where people will get to elect 11 councillors to represent them,” Mr Bromhead said.
“There have been many mergers of councils over the last 100 years in NSW; this is the first time that the NSW government has financially assisted the community through that process,” he said.
MidCoast Council received $20 million from the State government, $5 million toward the administration costs of the merger and a further $15 million toward infrastructure projects, Mr Bromhead explained.
“MidCoast Council staff has done an outstanding job in pulling the region together and the new council together. They’ve realised far greater savings than expected.
“It is a stand out council in regional NSW. This is something as a community we can be proud of.
“We are one region and now have one council representing that region.
“There are many benefits to flow to our region via this merger.”
Angry Forster resident Michael Trickett believes residents ‘have been led up the garden path’ by all levels of government from the start of the Council Boundary Review.
“Unfortunately, the fact that the Liberals have decided not to de-merge councils that have already been merged, particularly in areas where one of the merged councils was previously found to be Fit for the Future and expected to stand alone will be remembered by voters at the next State election.
“The hurt and the fact of being ignored, causes resentment and stays in memories for years to come.”
The NSW Government has now made its decision which is politically expedient and the simplest to implement but it remains unjust in that it still has not listened to the view of ratepaying voters, especially those in Great Lakes, Forster’s Jim Morwitch said.
“However, it is time to move on and we are being advised that the merged MidCoast Council is operating well.
“What we need now is an elected council which takes a whole of council approach to policies and priorities.”
Mr Morwitch believed a key foundation for success would be the establishment of equitable rates over the next several years designed so that Taree and Gloucester backlogs existing at time of merger were caught up and paid for by ratepayers from those regions.
“This can be done if government will work with council on rate levels.
“That is, steady affordable adjustments not severe hits.
“Above all we do not want a parochial bickering council behaving like the Federal and State pollies on television and blocking progressive management and action.”
In a poll conducted by the Advocate last week an overwhelming 78 per cent of respondents voted in favour de-amalgamation.