Wendy Tuckerman, the New South Wales Minister for Local Government, has confirmed the government will pay for the cost of council demergers.
In response to a question from NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge at the NSW Budget Estimates on March 8, Tuckerman said: “I think that is actually in the legislation now, Mr Shoebridge.”
Ally Dench, Executive Director Local Government, also confirmed this, saying: “If the Minister accepts the proposal, there is a requirement to fund it.”
Grantley Ingram, spokesperson for Demerge NSW Alliance (DNA) said: “This affirmation from the minister is very important. The forcibly merged rural and regional councils can be confident about putting forward fully-funded demerger proposals.”
Meanwhile, a motion submitted by the previous Inner West Council to the Local Government NSW conference on March 1 that the NSW government pay the demerger costs was passed.
Another motion passed at conference, at the instigation of the Snowy Valleys Council, concerned the statutory review of the Boundaries Commission. The matter was raised with Tuckerman at Budget Estimates but the department officers could not explain why a review, committed to last July, had only just started. Tuckerman agreed that the review’s terms of reference would be made available for public scrutiny.
Under questioning, however, the minister would not commit to review the previous local government minister’s decision to reject the Boundaries Commission’s recommendation to demerge the Snowy Valleys Council. She said the Snowy Valleys Council would have to submit its application to demerge for her to review.
Tuckerman did confirm, however, that the proposal from Gundagai Cootamundra Council is being reviewed. She also confirmed that any proposal from the Inner West Council to demerge would go to the Boundaries Commission.
DNA member Grantley Ingram said it is wrong that the minister could “simply reject demerger proposals that the Boundaries Commission has recommended”.
“It is time Minister Tuckerman respected the wishes of the communities in the Snowy Valleys, Gundagai-Cootamundra and the Inner West and allow the demergers to proceed. This issue will not go away until communities get the local back into local government.”