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Byron Shire
February 28, 2021

IPART not fit, say Greens

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Greens MP David Shoebridge.
Greens MP David Shoebridge.

With the state government set to make decisions about the future of local government based on decisions reached by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, the Greens say IPART itself is not fit to make the call.

Last week local councils including Kyogle, Clarence Valley and Tweed were declared to have failed the government’s test, as applied by IPART, and told to come up with alternative plans within the month to stave off possible amalgamation.

But Greens local government spokesperson David Shoebridge says the body itself had been saddled with a task it lacked the capacity to perform.

‘IPART is really a financial accounting organisation. Its skillset is to work out the cost of electricity or… cold water. [It doesn’t] have any at all in assessing the fitness of democratic organisations like councils,’ he told ABC radio this morning.

And he has called on the body to show how it went about its assessment.

Mr Shoebridge earlier told media the government had ‘undertaken a bloody-minded political campaign against local democracy and local communities.’

‘IPART’s report found that almost every submission they received from communities and resident groups supported their local council and opposed amalgamations. This democratic feedback was ignored by IPART,’ he said in a media release

‘The entire IPART assessment process was designed as little more than a rubber stamp for the government’s ‘bigger is better’ ideological agenda to bully local councils into amalgamations.

‘IPART did not look at the democratic responsibility of councils and failed undertake any proper engagement with the residents of communities impacted by proposed amalgamations.

‘The fact that the government took less than two business days to ‘consider’ IPART’s report shows just how perfunctory the entire assessment process was.

‘IPART was put in a strait-jacket that forced them to fail almost every financially sustainable council because they refused to merge. They refused to merge because they listened to their residents.

‘Councils didn’t fail IPART’s ridiculous test because of financial reasons, they failed to meet government’s ill-defined and discretionary test of ‘scale and capacity.’

‘With more than 50 regional and rural councils facing the chopping block, there are many smaller towns and communities across the State who will be rightly concerned at the loss of essential and steady local council jobs.

‘In much of regional and rural NSW, keeping council jobs can mean all the difference between keeping teachers, banks and other essential services in local communities.

Mr Shoebridge said the government would have a difficult time getting its bill through the upper house.

The premier can abuse and bully councils all he likes but at the end of the day he doesn’t have the numbers to forced unpopular amalgamations through the NSW Parliament.

‘The Greens will continue to stand with local councils in their campaign to strengthen local democracy and keep local government genuinely local,’ Mr Shoebridge said.

*An earlier version of this story said Richmond Valley was not found Fit for the Future. That comment was incorrect and has been removed.

 


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1 COMMENT

  1. No surprises here, given the power grabs already pulled off by the State Government with regard to development proposals & local planning (and much else – the list of interference in local issues & the concurrent off-loading of costly responsibilities onto the Local Government sector is quite appalling). Just another example of city-centric/ urban based planning values (with a view to an easy income stream) and the concentration of power into the hands of a disinterested few. I am frequently gob-smacked by the ridiculous directives from Sydney – ranging from 100km speed zones on winding single lane roads connecting ridge to valley, to environmental assessments that seem to reflect computer modelling (with most relevant variables excluded or wildly inaccurate) not actual landscape. CSG mining looms large as an area where the ease of giving the green light to industrial landscapes being imposed upon prime agricultural land & tourism destinations is breath-taking in it’s nonchalance (city chappie goes “I didn’t know – I couldn’t see it” – not how they respond when a city suburb rises up in anger). There has been a definite move toward disenfranchising voters. Larger Local Government Areas means the numbers can be more easily rigged (what does it matter that they are placing eggs & potatoes in the same basket? – all care no responsibility for breakages it seems). Out bush & out of mind. Thank heavens for the Upper House & the Greens.

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