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Byron Shire
March 4, 2021

Richmond Valley considers merger as CEO quits

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Richmond Valley Council GM John Walker has resigned. Photo Valley Watchdog
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Richmond Valley Council is meeting today (Tuesday) to discuss a potential merger with Kyogle … a merger rejected by Lismore City Council and unwanted by Kyogle.

The options have been put forward to council by chief executive officer John Walker who resigned yesterday and will be taking up a post in WA in February.

Mr Walker yesterday announced his resignation saying he had made his decision for family and personal reasons and would be moving to Western Australia.

He will leave his role at the end of January.

Mr Walker thanked mayor Ernie Bennett, councillors, staff and the community for supporting the council’s reform agenda, which he said had placed Richmond Valley Council in a fit state for the future.

Evans Head Memorial Committee president Dr Richard Gates, a critic of Mr Walker, has disputed the claim Richmond Valley is fit.

“The options (on a merger) appear to revolve around a letter sent by the Premier to Mayors on 11 November in which he asks them to nominate who they might merge with even if they have been shown to be fit for the future and want to stand alone.

‘The Premier offers some meagre carrots to encourage mergers and the opportunity for councillors to have a say in what happens in the future but also takes off the table those opportunities should councils not comply with the government agenda,’ Dr Gates said.

Dr Gates, a long-standing critic of amalgamations said Mr Walker should now stand aside from any continuing involvement with a merger process because of his pending departure from council.

‘The CEO has ‘no skin in the game’ and should disqualify himself from any further involvement.  He will not be here to see and feel the consequences of his advice,’ he said.

‘The whole process of Fit For the Future was nothing short of a joke.

‘Tcorp’s financial analysis of Councils was based on information provided byCouncils without any validity checks to confirm what they were being toldwas accurate.

‘And the IPART assessment was based on criteria which have no demonstrated validity about the future success of councils.”

‘The evidence shows that ‘Fit for the future’ and mergers are all about cost shifting from State to local government.

‘For Richmond Valley Ratepayers this means above peg rates increases every year to 2025 bringing total cumulative rate increases to 82 per cent, a fact which the current council has not bothered to raise with the public.

‘Current councillors were not elected on an amalgamation platform and have no right to be representing us on this important question.

‘Council has been secretive in its discussions with Kyogle as happened with the forced amalgamation between the former Richmond River Shire Council and Casino where the public was locked out of discussion.

‘And Richmond Valley Council has not made public it’s secretly commissioned business case about both Councils.  There is no reason for this to be kept from the public. We should know.

‘Council must have honest discussion with ratepayers about what is happeningand ratepayers must be part of the process.

‘From where I stand this all looks like the secretive amalgamation processes of 1997 to 2000 where amalgamation was imposed by the Minister for Local Government who subsequently lost his seat as a result.

‘And the ratepayersof Evans Head are paying rates which are at least approx 73 per cent higher on average than those who live in Casino.  Some benefit!’



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