Minister seeks community opinion on proposal to merge MidCoast Water and MidCoast Council

NSW Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton is calling for community comment on the proposal to merge MidCoast Water with MidCoast Council. Photo: Australian Financial Review.

NSW Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton is calling for community comment on the proposal to merge MidCoast Water with MidCoast Council. Photo: Australian Financial Review.

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Community opinion is wanted on the proposal to dissolve MidCoast Water and transfer its assets, liabilities and functions to MidCoast Council.

The Minister for Local Government, Gabrielle Upton has called for submissions on the proposal with the a Wednesday, April 12 deadline.

MidCoast Water is responsible for the provision, care, control and management of water supply and sewerage works, services, facilities within the local government area of MidCoast Council.

The resolution follows careful consideration of all options for the future delivery of water and sewer services to the community, according to MidCoast Council, and has been informed by the potential to avoid costs inherent in running two separate entities. 

“Cost savings will be achieved through integrating into one organisation and management structure, with consolidated back-office and corporate functions and systems. In short, the MidCoast community will benefit from less pressure on water and sewer prices if the proposal proceeds.”

News of the proposal to dissolve MidCoast Water first broke in December 2016. The 28-day consultation period is the next step in the process and the only opportunity provided to the public and interested stakeholders to make comment.

In February former MidCoast Water general manager, Neil Hanington expressed his concern about the proposal.

“They will pillage MidCoast Water. This is a common occurrence in local government in NSW. They will milk the funds and no-one will see it because it will be done internally. Now is the time to say something,” Mr Hanington said.

MidCoast Council interim general manager, Neil Handford rejected Mr Hanington's comments and urged him to “look north” and cited Port Macquarie, Kempsey, Coffs Harbour, Bellingen, Nambucca, Richmond Valley, Tweed, Byron and Ballina in his defence of the proposal.

“They all run their own water and sewer systems as part of the general purpose council,” Mr Handford said.

“We’re the odd person out in terms of management structure … all of our rates data is the same, all of our billing information is the same, so why wouldn’t you try to get some efficiencies for the consumer by bringing those back office functions back into the general purpose council?”

In December MidCoast Council administrator John Turner said: “Should the proposal proceed MidCoast Water staff will be provided with the same three year employment protection that already applies to employees of MidCoast Council.”

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