Ballina Shire Council has agreed to write to the local government and planning ministers calling on them to rule out an amalgamation with any other LGA.
The motion at last Thursday’s council meeting follows the announcement that a NSW government endorsed review panel is looking at council restructures and mergers, ‘even outlining which ones should be amalgamated,’ according the mover, Greens councillor Jeff Johnson.
‘Mr Page has said he will take the plan to cabinet for approval, despite the government promising that there would be no forced mergers,’ Cr J Johnson said.
‘Well it appears that less than two years in it is clearly on their agenda’.
The motion was seconded by Cr Keith Williams and was passed six to four: councillors Wright, J Johnson, Cadwallader, Williams, Meehan and Johnston voted for; and councillors K Johnson, Worth, Hordern and Smith voted against.
As well as expressing its opposition to forced amalgamation, the council resolved to seek confirmation in writing from NSW planning minister Brad Hazzard and local government minister Don Page, ‘that they will not approve or initiate the forced amalgamation of Ballina Shire Council’.
The motion also calls for a plebiscite of existing Ballina Shire ratepayers before any amalgamation is proceeded with.
Cr Johnson said that issue is particularly important for Ballina ‘due to the council’s strategy of diverting ratepayer money into commercial property investments’.
‘If there are forced amalgamations in the northern rivers, these properties could be sold to fund infrastructure needs in areas outside the Ballina Shire’s current boundary.
‘This would be disastrous for the ratepayers of the Ballina Shire,’ he said.
Cr J Johnson used the opportunity to restate his strong opposition to Council’s policy of directing ratepayer money into commercial property investments, although a number of those who supported his motion are also supporters of the commercial portfolio policy.
‘My position is quite clear,’ he told Echonetdaily. ‘Ballina Council has a $30 million black hole in our infrastructure delivery program. We should be investing in much needed, and long overdue, community infrastructure and not continuing to divert ratepayer money into additional commercial property investments.
‘Each additional dollar spent on purchasing property, is another dollar that won’t be spent on infrastructure,’ he added.