A state government review is considering dramatically consolidating councils for all of NSW, and Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell believes they will be forced.
The program could see Sydney’s 41 councils reduced to 10 and all of inland NSW reduced to just 12. A figure has yet to be finalised for the state’s coastal councils, which she said had ‘special needs’.
Cr Dowell has confirmed she attended a round table discussion last week with 10 mayors of regional councils conducted by the state’s Independent Local Government Review Panel, which is investigating amalgamations. The panel is set to report back to the state government in July.
Lismore has been identified as the centre as one of the regional mega-councils formed by compulsory amalgamation, she said.
‘I think there’s a general acceptance that voluntary amalgamations, even with incentives, are not successful. So the mood I certainly gained from last week is that there will be recommendations for compulsory amalgamations,’ she told ABC local radio this morning,
‘I believe strongly that the local government independent review will come up with some wholesale recommendations that will mean significant change and significant amalgamations across the board,’ she added.
‘There are seven different types of councils identified and there are likely to be different models for different councils across the state depending on their level of need.
‘There are some enormous changes, right on our doorstep,’ she said. ‘Of course it is up to the state government whether they want to embark on these changes in this term or wait until after the next state election.’
Cr Dowell, who is also chair of NOROC (Northern Region of Councils), said this was a time that councils needed such bodies to be able to lobby effectively as well as jointly share resources.
Clarence Valley Council last month announced its withdrawal from NOROC and Richmond Valley Council will consider doing likewise at its meeting tomorrow.
‘This is the wrong time for a council to determine that it should leave, for everyone’s interest, including that particular council.’
Byron, Ballina and Tweed councils, as well as Lismore, have pledged their ongoing support for the joint body.
Early intervention feared
Cr Dowell is also concerned the state government is moving too fast to ram through legislation that would allow it to sack councils without the current mandatory 21-day notice.
She said the government’s Early Intervention Legislation had come ‘out of the blue’.
‘I didn’t know about this until an email from Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore on Wednesday,’ she told APN Media.
‘This bill would allow the minister unheard of power. It goes well beyond what’s needed.’