New alliance for council demergers launched

November 9, 2021
NSW Demerger Alliance launch under the Tree of Knowledge. Photo: Peter Boyle

A cross-party alliance has come behind a renewed call for forcibly merged councils in NSW to de-amalgamate.

The Demerge New South Wales Alliance (DNA) launch on November 9 attracted support from NSW Labor, the Greens, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers, Independent MP Joe McGirr and the Mayor of the Inner West Council Rochelle Porteous.

Grantley Ingram, DNA convenor and president of Save Bombala, told the launch that communities wanting to demerge their councils would not give up.

“Bombala once had our own council with 10 million dollars in the bank and a community that knew where they belonged. Now we have got a disaster that has a cumulative deficit of more than $20 million and we now live in a place called the Snowy Monaro Region.

“I am here to tell you that merged councils in NSW are crook with many symptoms including: Executive Bloat: a disease that affects cattle in a good season, now a malady that has infected the executives of many merged councils. 

“Service atrophy: in the wake of massive pork barrelling on mostly unnecessary building projects basic services like parks mowing, gutter cleaning and road patching have shrunk and wasted away.

“Credibility bi-polar disorder: where the council media spin section is working overtime to convince us that the future is bright while the councillors are bombarded with service complaints from the public.

“Fee engorgement: the costs of services not covered by rate pegging have increased many fold in some cases since amalgamations.”

He said that communities must be given say on their futures and pointed to the Inner West council poll as being a test for the state.

DNA includes people from Guyra to Bombala, from Edwards River to Dubbo, from the Mid Coast to the Inner West.

“The actions of the Local Government Minister to squash the demergers of Tumbarumba and Gundagai have only fuelled the fire of discontent and galvanised communities right across the state.

“I am here today to tell you that this group is not going away … After today we will be swinging behind the ‘YES’ campaign for the Inner West council and after that we’ll be on the by-election campaign trail.

Inner West mayor Rochelle Porteous said she was proud that the Inner West would conduct a poll on de-amalgamation and she supported a demerger.  

Greg Warren, Labor’s Member for Campbelltown and shadow minister for Local Government, said communities must have a say.

David Shoebridge Greens MLC, who was instrumental in passing the most recent amendment to the Local Government Act to allow government to cover costs of councils to demerge, read a statement from the Save Tumbarumba Shire community group expressing the outrage that Minister rejected the Boundaries Commission recommendation to demerge without giving any reasons.

Robert Borsak from the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers and Independent MP for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr said the state government needed to listen to communities who have lived though the forced mergers and know that it is not working.

Brian Halstead and Phil Jenkyn OAM from the Save Our Councils Coalition also spoke, saying the merged councils’ financial failings were enough to disprove the government’s original argument that council mergers would lead to better services and eliminate waste.

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