NSW councils launch fresh push for forced merger investigation

A Riverina council's push for a review of forced mergers has won once again statewide backing, as opposition to the amalgamations remains high.

The annual Local Government NSW conference in Sydney has supported a motion by Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council that calls on the state government to review the progress of the 20 new councils formed in 2016 as a result of forced mergers.

According to Cootamundra-Gundagai, some of these councils have made some "extraordinary advances", but challenges remain for others.

"For Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council, there is still considerable work to be done on harmonising cultures, systems and processes," the council told the conference.

"As a result of the merger, CGRC is facing a large ongoing financial deficit.

"For amalgamated councils there is a feeling of abandonment by the NSW government which, in some instances, leaves amalgamated councils struggling to survive.

"A NSW government review into amalgamated councils, to look at both the benefits and disadvantages of the forced mergers, is a matter of good business practice."

Cootamundra-Gundagai mayor Abb McAlister said the council was again trying to get a response from the government after a similar call at last year's conference, which got little government response.

"If you do something in a business to change it, then 12 months on you would come back to look at it to see if it was working. Well, we've had no local government minister come near us and we've been requesting they come down and talk to us," Councillor McAlister said.

"We also want an independent investigate into the mergers.

"We want them to look into the pitfalls and any benefits, but from our point of view, there has probably been more pitfalls.

"One of our main concerns is our financial sustainability."

Cootamundra-Gundagai mayor Abb McAlister

Cootamundra-Gundagai mayor Abb McAlister

Neil Hamilton from the Save Tumbarumba Shire group - which opposes the creation of Snowy Valleys Council from the old Tumbarumba and Tumut shire councils - said his organisation had met with Deputy Premier John Barilaro and been promised a meeting with Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock.

"I'm hoping Mr Barilaro will come good on his promise because the case that Tumbarumba's got is extremely good," Dr Hamilton said.

"Forced mergers do not work."

A spokesman for Mr Barilaro said the Deputy Premier had spoken to Ms Hancock and was in the process of finding a suitable date for the meeting.

Meanwhile, the NSW Opposition has promised councils the option of holding a plebiscite on the issue, as well as saying it would continue to oppose any more forced mergers or demergers.

Opposition spokesman for local government Greg Warren said the government's support for forced council mergers has angered communities across NSW.

Mr Warren said that the "return of genuine democracy to local communities was long overdue".

"Let's make it crystal clear - NSW Labor does not stand for forced mergers or demergers," he said.

"If a local community has a plebiscite and votes to demerge then a Labor Government will support that decision."

This story NSW councils launch fresh push for forced merger investigation first appeared on The Daily Advertiser.