Ballina MP Don Page.
Ballina MP Don Page.

Page claims council amalgamation reports a ‘media beat-up

REPORTS that NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell was preparing to back-flip on an election pledge not to amalgamate councils were a media beat-up, according to Local Government Minister and Ballina MP Don Page's office.

"The NSW Government has not made any decision to amalgamate councils," Mr Page said in a statement.

He said he would not pre-empt the outcome of a review of local government under way being chaired by Professor Graham Sansom.

"The panel is continuing its work and is due to make its final report to the Minister in July - we won't pre-empt its outcome," Mr Page said.

Infrastructure NSW chair Nick Greiner has previously advocated for forced amalgamations, but Premier O'Farrell ruled it out before the election.

But Dr Michael Kortt, a senior lecturer in applied economics at Southern Cross Business School, said it was clear from the interim report of the local government review published last month, that amalgamations were on the agenda.

Dr Kortt said that was despite their being no evidence that it would improve service delivery or save money.

At least one major company with interests throughout regional NSW is future planing on the basis that amalgamations are a virtual certainty, including Ballina merging with Byron.

Ballina Shire Council Mayor David Wright yesterday revealed that about 1999 he was asked by former local government minister Harry Woods whether his shire would be prepared to merge with Byron.

Cr Wright said he told the minister he would consider it if they received an extra $60 million in government funding, but Mr Woods refused.

Cr Wright, who was born and raised in Byron Bay, said today he wouldn't take Byron Shire on for any money as it had too many infrastructure shortages that would drag his shire down.

He believes Ballina would be safe from any amalgamations as it had a big enough population to stand alone and was already sharing resources with Lismore and Richmond Valley Councils.

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