Senior NSW Nationals MP Katrina Hodgkinson has spoken out against the possibility of forced council amalgamations.
Ms Hodgkinson has gone on the record to support councils in her electorate of Cootamundra and their bid to standalone rather than be forcibly amalgamated.
But while welcoming her stand, Local Government NSW (LGNSW) says the parliamentary secretary for southern NSW ‘appears to have been misinformed about the rural model for local councils.’
Ms Hodgkinson complained that it was unfair that her local councils were prevented from embracing a structural rural council model as part of IPART’s Fit for the Future assessment process.
But LGNSW President Keith Rhoades AFSM said the Cootamundra MP had confused a rigid, one-size-fits-all rural council model with the option subsequently available to councils, such as those in her electorate, to submit more flexible longer-term improvement plans.
‘The original rural council model removed decision-making powers and many functions from rural councils,’ Cr Rhoades said.
‘It would essentially turn them into a kind of sub-council who had ceded power and responsibility.
‘The model was rejected outright by our rural members, who felt it would diminish them and their communities.
‘LGNSW lobbied successfully on members’ behalf, and this “non-council” model was replaced by the Rural Council Template, which maintained the structure, powers and responsibilities of councils seeking this option, while recognising the challenges they faced.
‘This was an extremely popular decision amongst rural councils, and a clear example of LGNSW working with government to achieve a better outcome for residents and ratepayers.’
Cr Rhoades said Ms Hodgkinson had made a simple mistake, which should not overshadow her courage in speaking up against forced amalgamations.
‘It’s encouraging to see a very senior local MP prepared to back local democracy and the stand-alone wishes of residents and ratepayers in the councils of her electorate,’ he said