Monday, 10 November 2014
The Clarence Valley has been down this track before with dissembling state governments and naive mayors
The Daily Examiner 6 November 2014:
A "JOINT organisation" will pool the resources and bargaining power of Clarence Valley Regional Council with three surrounding local governments.
Mayor Richie Williamson was adamant the new structure was not an amalgamation and said Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Bellingen and Nambucca councils would continue to exist as separate entities.
"In fact, it is the exact opposite. This is not about amalgamation in any form," he said.
"It's about a group of councils working in a regional framework."
A $5 million funding pool has been allocated to forming 15 "joint organisations" across New South Wales as part of the State Government's "Fit for the Future" local government reforms.
There have been suggestions the new organisations were a ploy to eventually replace "left-leaning" Regional Development Australia bodies in New South Wales.
Cr Williamson said he had not been told anything to that effect.
"We actually don't know much of substance about it yet. The make-up and its role are up for some strong discussion," he said.
"We need to ensure it's not simply adding another layer of bureaucracy….
In the 1990s local government councils in the Clarence Valley began cooperative management in areas of mutual interest through the Clarence Valley Local Government Committee, then a limited voluntary merger occurred in 2000 before the then NSW Labor Government forced wider amalgamation into the current Clarence Valley Council in 2004 with consequential diminution of good governance and transparency.
It is foolish to suppose that in the eyes of the current NSW Coalition Government the creation of a so called ‘joint organisation’ is not broadly comparable with the former Clarence Valley Local Government Committee (used to ‘soften’ local government opposition to merger proposals) and, therefore a possible precursor to the creation of a super council centred in one of the two largest population clusters, Coffs Harbour City or Tweed Shire.
It is equally foolish to believe that the $300,000 which this organisation would receive from the Baird Government would mitigate increased costs to Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Bellingen and Nambucca councils flowing from the so-called ‘joint organisation' containing four local government areas with few historical or contemporary common interests.
The Baird Government makes it clear that once the $300,000 is spent no more state funding will be forthcoming. Direct and ongoing costs to be covered by member councils of a joint organisation include employment of an Executive Officer as well as accommodation and administrative costs, where not provided ‘in house’ by a member council.
Make no mistake, the joint organisation covering the four local government areas mentioned by Richie Williamson is highly likely to be just a pilot program for the final larger joint organisation which would start in the southern Great Lakes region and end at the NSW-Qld border – covering roughly half of the NSW coastline by 2016.
At its most basic the entire process is yet another scheme aimed at continuing cost shifting by the state government and, this map gives some indication of how rural and regional super council boundaries might look if the Liberal-Nationals Coalition gets its as yet unspoken wish:
Map in Fit for the Future: Joint Organisations, September 2014
The NSW Minister for Local Government and Nationals MLA for Bathurst who is progressing this scheme is the well-named Paul Toole.
NSW Government, Office of Local Government, Fit for the Future: Joint Organisations, September 2014