Approved for release by: Anthony McMahon
Date for release: 8 March 2016
Media Contact: Wendy Tuckerman
Boorowa Not Happy with New Merger Proposal
With NSW Local Government Reforms seemingly moving closer to a resolution, the NSW Government has thrown a spanner in the works by referring two new merger proposals in the Hilltops Region to the Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government (OLG) for review.
The first of the proposals is to merge Harden, Cootamundra and Gundagai Shires with this proposal initiated by Harden Shire. The Government is obliged to review the proposal in accordance with the Local Government Act. The second of the two new proposals is to merge Boorowa and Young Councils which was initiated by the Minister himself.
“The Minister had no choice but to review the proposal put forward by Harden, however he did have the choice not to refer the proposal to merge Boorowa and Young to the Chief Executive of the OLG” said Boorowa Mayor Wendy Tuckerman.
It now appears as though the Government will be considering four different merger scenarios covering the Councils of Boorowa, Harden, Young, Cootamundra and Gundagai.
“Quite frankly we are sick of the indecisiveness of the Government and we are not happy” said Mayor Tuckerman.
“We have done everything we possibly can to work with the Government up to this point in time and lead the change in a positive way, even though it has been highly unpalatable to many in our community. We are now being asked to consider second best on behalf of our community and I’m sorry but that just won’t float with us and I am quite certain Young feel the same way” she said.
Boorowa Councillors held a workshop on Monday evening to discuss the next steps and the proposal that had been put before them. The proposal simply consisted of one sentence from the Minister for Local Government to the Chief Executive of the OLG stating he was proposing to merge Boorowa and Young.
“We will be looking to meet with Young Councillors to express our views and seek feedback from them on the new proposal. At the same time we will be preparing an information package for the community on the process surrounding the new proposal and some of the facts in relation to the multiple merger scenarios being considered across our region” said Mayor Tuckerman.
The Hilltops Region is on the cusp of an economic transformation facilitated by the Canberra Airport opening up to direct flights into Asia in September this year.
“We have stayed fairly silent up until now on Hardens opposition to merge with Young, however it has now reached the stage where surely some logic needs to come into the debate” said Mayor Tuckerman.
Not only do the Councils have strong economic ties but they also undertake a range of shared services. These services include weeds management, library services, RFS services, town planning and regional waste management.
“It doesn’t matter how you look at it, Boorowa, Harden and Young are already intertwined in so many ways. We are still yet to understand the facts rather than just speculation as to why Harden is so against a merger involving Young. From a financial perspective Boorowa, Harden and Young combined did not need to raise rates, whereas Cootamundra and Harden together needed significant rate rises. From a jobs perspective, Harden and Boorowa have long term jobs protections under the Local Government Act because we have populations under 5000” said Mayor Tuckerman.
“We have the Harden Mayor stating he is clearly opposed to forced mergers yet his Council is quite happy to force Gundagai Council to merge. Harden Council had originally agreed to the Hilltops merger with Boorowa and Young, then they opted out, then they were back on board and then at the twelfth hour opted out again” said Mayor Tuckerman.
Only today in the media, the Harden Mayor has stated that he would be happy to work with the Hilltops Proposal should the government decide that way.
“The whole scenario is becoming a little ridiculous and I am certain the community across our region has had enough of the lack of clarity around the process” said Mayor Tuckerman.
Wendy Tuckerman (02) 6380 2000.