Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

The amendments to the Local Government Act 1993 will provide a new legal pathway for NSW councils to try and standalone once again, but there’s a catch.

The legislation requires councils that want to split will need to fund their own de-amalgamation, and to have the backing of the community.

“The whole idea of demerging is to get the funding so you can go back to what you had before, as a successful viable council, which the former Guyra Shire was.” said Robert Lenehan, Rural Contractor in Guyra.

Guyra was one of 19 forced amalgamations back in 2016, in a controversial attempt to save ratepayers money.

The move sparked protest across the New England as many smaller councils were formed into uncomfortable unions.

Guyra lodged their paperwork to demerge over 6 months ago, and remains commiteed to the cause more than ever.

“A lot people in our local area are assuming we have come to the end, and we have lost, but that is not the case.” said Robert.

“The current amended of the local government act, is on a particular section of 2.1.18CC which the Labor Government has altered, which was only installed late in the last Government’s term, where they amended the act to say that if a forcibly amalgamated council, the new council agreed with the demerge, the government would fund it.”

“What the minister has done now to shut down the whole demerger movement across NSW, I believe, they’ve amended the act to say they won’t fund a successful demerger applications, and it has to come from the forced merged council.”

“What is means for Guyra is, our submission and application for a new council area come sunder 2.1.5 of the local government act and it hasn’t changed.”

The new bill outlines the steps councils will need to take which requires a comprehensive business case and strategic plan that includes an estimate of their ability to fund the divorce.

Once a business case is put forward by a council, the NSW Local Government Boundaries Commission will carry out an independent review.

Extensive community consultation will be required along with a constitutional referendum with a compulsory vote, which would require majority support to proceed.

In a push to regain their voice and stand under their own banner, Guyra will be hosting a public forum this Thursday, February 22nd, to inform the local community where the submission is up to.

“We have no representation in the council at the moment.” said Robert.

“Our history is great for Guyra, we were a very successful council, and we encourage all Guyra residents and Armidale residents to attend.”

“We have invited all 11 councillors from Armidale Regional Council, which only two have accepted at this stage.”

What about Manilla?

There are many councils across the state wanting a de-merger, including Guyra, and Manilla could be on that list.

Back in 2004, 56.8% of Manilla residents signed a petition against the amalgamation.

“Manilla residents are strongly in favour of de-amalgamation from Tamworth Regional Council.” said Sandy Allan, Manilla resident.

“The definition of democracy was clearly not in the minds of the majority of those Manilla Shire Councillors, of that time, who failed in their roles as elected representatives of the Manilla Shire electorate leading them to vote in favour of the proposed amalgamation and, therefore, against the democratically demonstrated wishes of the electorate.”

Manilla too feels a lack of representation on the current Council panel, which they say has resulted in a decreased level of quality of basic infrastructure maintenance of the township and surrounding area.

“TRC’s claims that they spent millions of dollars on vital projects – that is, new Namoi River Crossing bridge; new water treatment works – was only possible due to the new-found strengths obtained subsequent to and because of amalgamation, ring somewhat hollow when considering the majority of financial contributions were provided by/from State and Federal Governments; being none local government sources,” said Mr Allan.

“In discussion with fellow Manilla residents, in respect to the NSW State Government Minister’s statement that the cost/s of de-amalgamation will be worn by those Councils wishing to de-amalgamate, it appears that this statement is viewed as a purely political strategy designed and intended to defray the respective electorate’s thoughts on abstaining from any proposed de-amalgamation strategies.”

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