Friday, 19 September 2014

The good news is that the NSW Coalition Government is not supporting forced amalgamations in regional areas - the bad news is that it will actively encourage 'voluntary' mergers by offering cash and other incentives

The Final Report of the NSW Independent Local Government Review Panel was completed in October 2013 and released in early 2014.

In September 2014 the Baird Coalition Government published its response to the review panel’s sixty-five recommendations, in the suite of documents under the title Fit For The Future.

In a 10 September media release NSW Premier Mike Baird stated:

“Our State cannot continue to be constrained by local government boundaries that were set more than 100 years ago.
“That’s why we have created the $1 billion Fit for the Future package – to help councils take the next steps towards change.
“We are supporting councils that wish to voluntarily merge by providing financial incentives and other support to assist the process.
“We are also providing councils with cheaper finance to build and maintain the facilities that communities need such as roads, bridges, pools and sporting fields - saving them up to $600 million.”
The Fit for the Future package is based on the Independent Local Government Review Panel’s recommendations following three years of research and consultation.
Councils will have until 30 June 2015 to submit their proposal on how they plan to be Fit for the Future. It will be assessed by independent experts against independently-established criteria.

Given the New South Wales Treasury Corporation's 'negative outlook' assessments of Richmond Valley, Byron, Kyogle, Lismore City, Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour and Belligen local government areas in the April 2013 Financial Sustainability of the New South Wales Local Government Sector report and, the 'neutral outlook' assessments for Ballina and Tweed Heads councils, Northern Rivers residents could be forgiven for feeling a little nervous about the Premier's intentions right now.

In 2004 the Lower Clarence was part of a forced amalgamation and local government democratic processes have been in decline ever since.

One has to wonder if the Lower Clarence will find itself shafted by the state government and Grafton-centric councillors a second time around, if in 2015 Clarence Valley Council decides to ‘voluntarily’ merge for the millions on offer?

No comments: