Northern Rivers mayors speak out on merger rumours
KYOGLE Mayor Danielle Mulholland says rumours the council was 'in the firing line' to merge was nothing but scaremongering.
The claim comes after this weeks Local Government Conference in Sydney where council mergers were a hot topic on the agenda.
Following the preparation of the Fit for the Future report, the NSW government announced a $5 million 'sweetener' if two councils merge, which increases to $11 million if three councils merge and $13.5 million for a four council merger.
Cr Mulholland said the claim is not supported by the facts and it's clear from the submission we have lodged with the State Government that Kyogle Council is as fit for the future as any of our neighbouring councils.
"The Independent Local Government Review Panels final report did not recommend Kyogle Council for a merger, and there has been no indication from the Minister's office that there will be any sort of a focus on Northern Rivers' councils," she said.
"Council, like many other councils around the state including some of our very close neighbours, was identified as weak, but a merger was not the State Government's identified preferred option, rather it was a possible option.
"Council investigated a range of merger options but could find little to no merit in any of them."
Cr Mulholland said it was "almost laughable" that the State Government had set financial viability as one of its criteria for councils being fit for the future, when local government had been chronically under funded due to many years under the NSW Governments rate pegging system.
"We still remain hopeful that the current government's Fit for the Future reforms will deliver the changes needed at both state and local level to ensure that there is a genuine whole of government approach to servicing our local communities in the future," she said.
Ballina Mayor David Wright said he didn't think any council could decide on mergers until the results of the Fit for the Future report done by IPART.
Cr Wright said Ballina council had been identified as sustainable.
"I know the people in the shire don't want to and I will protect that position unless council's position comes out really bad; but I don't think it will," he said.
With an annual budget of $100 million, Cr Wright said the financial incentives to merge were not enough.
Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell said Lismore City Council was in a strong position to continue without merging.
"Council has resolved that we are fit for the future we have a sound financial situation and are becoming stronger," she said.
"Any merger would weaken us."
Richmond Valley mayor
Richmond Valley Mayor Ernie Bennett said the council wished to stand alone and not merge.
"I'm sure there will be a discussion at the next council meeting," he said.
"I guess we'll have to think about what the ramifications are if we look like being in the firing line."
Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson did not respond to calls from the Northern Star.