Wed. Apr 17th, 2024

Community action group Save and Grow Guyra has decided to incorporate a ratepayer’s association into its role to better represent the town’s people in the future, and ensure their region is represented at a local government level. 

A ratepayers’ association, also known as a neighbourhood association, is a body that represents the interests of those who pay rates to the municipal government in a specific region, in this case, Guyra.

Speaking to the New England Times, Rob Lenehan, the Save and Grow Guyra group chairman, said the decision was made in a March 6 meeting. The name change to Save and Grow Guyra Ratepayer’s Incorporated has already been formally registered with Fair Trading NSW. 

“Regardless of what happens with our submission and application for a new council area, we want to continue into the future and represent the Guyra part of an amalgamated council if that’s how we are forced to live,” Rob said. 

“The idea is that we can take a broader range of issues that are affecting our area and hopefully have them recognised by the council and respected in the future, which isn’t happening at the moment.” 

A 2015 review of local government boundaries recommended Guyra Shire Council merge with adjoining councils, despite resistance from locals. Following an independent review in 2016, the Minister for Local Government announced Guyra Shire Council would merge with Armidale Regional Council (ARC) immediately. 

According to Rob, incorporating a ratepayers association into the Save and Grow Guyra group was the best way to ensure clear communication between ARC and the Guyra community so that the local government would consider the town’s unique needs and challenges. At the moment, he says that isn’t really happening “in regards to speech or consultation.”

“A great instance of that at the moment is the new strategic plan, which has quite a bit of rezoning and intended rezoning for Guyra. My argument is, before you do the strategic plan, why don’t they have a consultation with the landholders surrounding these areas?” Rob said. 

“Why haven’t they negotiated with the community, and in particular with the adjoining landholders? They talk about consultation with stakeholders. If your lands are being used or rezoned, and you’re not regarded as a stakeholder, then I’m at a loss to tell you who is.” 

According to Rob, following the March 6 meeting, Save and Grow Guyra Ratpayers Incorporated attracted 40 additional memberships, which he called “very encouraging.” Among the other plans discussed for the community action group going forward are regular meetings at six or eight-week intervals, and growing the membership. 

“We started before we were forcibly amalgamated; we tried to stop it happening in the first place because we didn’t believe it was right, small is not better at the local government level, and I believe that’s been proven beyond any shadow of doubt right around the state,” Rob said.

“If we have to live with an amalgamated council, which we don’t seem to have much choice in, we want to be represented; it’s as simple as that,” he added. 
Check out their Facebook page for more on the Save and Grow Guyra Ratpayers Incorporated group.

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