A proposal by MidCoast Council councillor, Katheryn Bell to conduct a non-binding poll asking ratepayers if they 'would like to see council de-amalgamated and a return to the former three local government areas of Gloucester, Great Lakes and Greater Taree', has been soundly dismissed.
Cr Bell, who put forward the notice of motion during this month's October ordinary meeting, was outvoted by six to one. Councillor Peter Epov was not present.
The motion was seconded by Cr Len Roberts, who said he wanted to see in what direction the debate would go.
According to mayor, David West the poll could cost ratepayers up to $70,000, along with additional dollars to put together a business case for the State government.
Cr West, who has led council since the three former councils were forced to amalgamate by the State government in May 2016, said he could not in good conscious support a poll.
"Why would you spend ratepayer money to create a poll."
He said even if the poll went ahead, the outcome was not binding on council or the government.
"The amalgamation is working, contrary to fake news," Cr West said.
"The amalgamation has created a council with significant political strength, a council that is an economic zone in its own right with the ability to borrow funds at treasury rates and access to grant funding through, not just one, but four State members."
Cr West said he didn't dare to think about the prospect of taking Greater Taree back to where it was before the amalgamation.
"Of the three councils that made up the amalgamation - according to treasury - only one council was sustainable and met the criteria of scale and capacity, that was Great Lakes Council.
The amalgamation has created a council with significant political strength, a council that is an economic zone in its own right with the ability to borrow funds at treasury rates and access to grant funding through, not just one, but four State members.MidCoast Council mayor, David West
"Greater Taree had the scale but not the capacity and Gloucester unfortunately was in a very difficult position to deliver to their community."
Cr West said council was tracking well financially through its decision to centralise to Taree south, funding the centralisation through its publicised strategy that is, the collection of rent from existing properties and the sale of unused sites.
"There is no impact on council's ratepayers and importantly it should be noted that the rent return on our expanded property portfolio will continue to benefit the community for many years to come.
"The installation of solar power at Yalawanya Ganga is already delivering a financial benefit to council.
"Just our rentals have generated $325,000 at this point in time, and we still have some properties that are not yet leased."
Cr Bell said the community had never been asked if they wanted to amalgamate and this would be their opportunity have have a say.
She believed conducting a poll would be a good look for council because it would be seen to be engaging with the community.
Speaking before the start of the meeting, Tionee resident, Christine Stanton asked for residents to be given a voice.
"The proposed poll is not about a demerger; it is about allowing the community to have its democratic voice heard," she said.
"You will be aware that there is a substantial proportion of the community which is not happy with the status quo.
"The community's opinion regarding amalgamation as expressed at the meaningless State consultation was ignored.
"That created a sense of betrayal of the people by the then State government which has festered."
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