The Greens NSW State Delegates Council meeting in Wagga Wagga this past weekend passed a resolution (full wording below) in response to the Sansom Report on the future of Local Government in NSW, calling on the O’Farrell government to implement resolutions relating to greater financial autonomy for councils but opposing forced amalgamations.
“The Greens have strong concerns that the Local Government review panel is proposing the merger of Wagga Wagga City Council with Lockhart Shire Council without consulting the residents in either local government area.
“There are many recommendations in the report, such as more flexible regional government structures and ending rate pegging, that are to be welcomed, but the focus on creating mega-councils is misguided.
“Study after study has proven that amalgamating councils does not produce either increased funding or inevitable efficiencies. In fact on many occasions amalgamated councils have suffered from as many diseconomies of scale as economies of scale.
“Whether it is in the regions or in metropolitan areas, the Greens believe that local residents must have the right to determine the future of their local council and if there is a strong case for amalgamations then that must be decided democratically,” Mr Shoebridge said.
Wagga Wagga Greens Councillor Kevin Poynter said:
“In all the people I have spoken to no one has ever told me that they want Wagga to amalgamate with neighbouring Shires.
“Wagga council is already big enough and councillors already have to travel literally hundreds of kilometers to consult with the villages.
“If the council got any bigger it would be next to impossible to do the job properly.
“The council’s finances are already pretty tight and the chances are that any amalgamation would make matters worse,” Clr Poynter said.
Motion as adopted:
That this Greens NSW State Delegates Council in Wagga Wagga:
1) Resolves to:
a) Commit to continue to strongly support local government as the level of government with the greatest grassroots participation and closest connection to people in NSW.
b) Maintain the right of local residents in local councils to determine the future of their local councils and their local representation.
c) Work with other parties to implement those recommendations of the Local government review panel that increase the financial autonomy of local councils by ending rate pegging; and
d) Oppose the long term agenda of the O’Farrell government and the Local government review panel to merge metropolitan and regional councils regardless of the wishes of local residents.
a) It has strong concerns that the Local Government review panel is proposing the merger of Wagga Wagga City Council with Lockhart Shire Council without consulting the residents in either local government area.
b) Wagga Wagga City Council has solid finances and strong community support and that there is no clear case for it to be merged with neighbouring councils; and
c) That any merger of Wagga Wagga City Council with neighbouring councils will inevitably reduce the level of local representation and strength of local democracy in the Riverina.