OPINION: Kyogle's best chance might be amalgamation

TODAY is likely to be crunch time on the issue of council amalgamations.

Many of the councils on the Northern Rivers sounded each other out about mergers as part of the Fit for the Future program, but all those talks came to nought.

They have all chosen to go it alone and find out at a Local Government Association conference in Sydney whether that was a wise or foolhardy decision.

About two-thirds of councils in NSW have budgets in the red and the NSW Government argues that bigger councils have a better chance of surviving.

They even put some cash on the table to sweeten the deal if councils decided to join forces.

Premier Mike Baird was heckled on the way into yesterday's conference and also during his speech to the assembled delegates.

He told the assembly: "There is no doubt that if we have less councils, we have hundreds of millions of dollars that can be put to work for our ratepayers."

Local Government Minister Paul Toole's speech today is expected to finally open up on what measures will be taken for councils in financial strife.

In our region, Kyogle appears to be the most vulnerable.

It has some massive infrastructure problems including its need to replace many of its ageing bridges.

The council has struggled to get grants to fix them and its best chance may be amalgamating with a nearby council such as Richmond Valley or Lismore.

But amalgamations are generally unpopular with ratepayers who assume, perhaps correctly, that their township will be swallowed up and neglected in any merger deal.

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