Catherine Cusack.
Catherine Cusack.

Library row heads to Parliament

LENNOX Head-based MLC Catherine Cusack has been successful in winning the Liberal Party’s backing for a Private Member’s Bill that would remove the need for Lismore Council to take over the Richmond Tweed Regional Library network.

However, due to the amount of legislation it could not be debated before the NSW Parliament rose yesterday for its two-month winter break.

“There is every reason to believe it will pass Parliament when it returns,” she said.

In the meantime she has called on Lismore to defer the takeover.

However library chairman and Lismore deputy mayor Isaac Smith said last night it was too late to stop the council taking on the executive role.

“What we have already put in place has probably gone too far to turn back easily,” he said.

Lismore Council this month controversially took control of the library network – which services Ballina, Byron, Lismore and Tweed councils – arguing that the library’s long-standing structure was in conflict with the NSW Library Act.

Under the move, Lismore Council will become the executive council on July 1.

If Ms Cusack’s amendment is accepted, the library would no longer be in conflict with the act and the current structure could remain.

Ballina Council became the latest library member on Thursday to raise concerns about Lismore becoming the executive council, with mayor Phil Silver presenting a last-minute mayoral minute as a matter of urgency to reassure ratepayers about the future of the library.

Ms Cusack said Lismore’s move raised issues of State significance.

“All regional libraries will be concerned by what has occurred,” she said. “Now that Lismore has opened up the legal debate and exposed the vulnerability of regional libraries it is vital for the State as a whole that we safeguard other library systems from suffering a similar fate,” she said.

Cr Smith said the library committee’s preferred option had always been retaining the status quo, but legal advice ‘made it clear it would be unworkable in the short term’.

“The committee did make that very clear they would like to return to this model some stage in the future.

“I would hope some time in the coming years that could be done, but a lot of things need to happen before that could take place.”

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