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Byron Shire
December 1, 2021

More money for river and weeds after merger

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An extra $130,000 a year would be available to eradicate weeds and improve the health of the Richmond River with the merger of three north coast county councils.

Rous Water chairwoman Sue Meehan said the merger of Rous County Council, Far North Coast County Council and the Richmond River County Council into Rous Water would create a more efficient body.

Cr Meehan said the three county councils had voted to merge after seven years of debate and discussions.

She told Echonetdaily however that it would be another 12 months before the merger was finalised so it would be business as usual for the county councils until that occurred.

‘For the time being the councils will stay as is until governance issues are sorted,’ she said.

She said the current review of local government had helped speed up the merger talks.

‘The review of local government is hanging there in the background,’ she said.

‘We haven’t got a timeline on what is happening there and it’s quite open-ended.

‘So we felt it was important to be on the front foot and show that we are making reforms necessary on our local footprint right now.’

Cr Meehan said because the footprint of Rous County Council was different to the others, negotiations had taken place with neighbouring councils.

Rous County Council is responsible for water supply while the Richmond River County Council (RRCC) is responsible for the health of the Richmond River.

Cr Meehan said RRCC helped ensure that historic floodgates and farming practices, which held water up until a significant flood event occurred, did not release toxic water into the river system.

She said that RRCC was the smallest council, yet it had six councillors and six staff working in it.

The Far North Coast County Council (FNCCC) has been responsible for weed eradication.

Cr Meehan said both the RRCC and FNCCC had struggled financially for some time but the merger into Rous Water would bring about savings of $130,000 plus each year, which would be pumped back into both those council areas.

She said it was not anticipated that there would be any job losses as a result of the merger.

Weed control ignored

Meanwhile, the NSW Greens say the NSW government could squander an important reform opportunity when it came to stopping the spread of environmental and agricultural weeds.

They say the Baird Government is ignoring key recommendations made by the Natural Resources Commission’s review of weed management in NSW.

NSW Greens spokesperson on agriculture Jeremy Buckingham said ‘It is alarming that, despite the annual cost of weeds to agriculture and the public being about $1.8 billion in NSW alone, the NSW government has refused to provide the independence and regulatory teeth necessary to ensure that we have an effective approach to preventative weed control’.

‘The Greens are calling on the government to reconsider their refusal to implement a ‘permitted list’ approach to the sale of plants in NSW, as this is an essential step to ensuring that new and potentially devastating weeds do not infest our agricultural land and fragile ecosystems,’ Mr Buckingham said.

‘Numerous reviews, including this latest, have made it clear that for a biosecurity regime to be effective it must be independent of government and scientifically based.  So it is concerning that the government has chosen not to establish an independent State Weeds Committee with statutory powers to enforce compliance.

‘The Greens have long campaigned for both public and private land managers to have equal responsibilities when it comes to weeds and we are pleased that the government has adopted this approach.

‘We cannot continue to tinker at the edges, the Natural Resources Commission have recommended wholesale reform and the government should not squander this opportunity to stop the spread of invasive weeds,’ Mr Buckingham said.

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