By Darren Coyne
Richmond Valley councillors will consider merging with Kyogle Shire Council but would want the state government tp stump up at least $20 to $30 million to tackle Kyogle’s infrastructure backlog.
RVC general manager John Walker has told Echonetdaily that RVC would not be interested in a merger unless there was ‘more money on the table’.
‘If there is a merger Kyogle would be better off with us than Lismore,” Mr Walker said.
Lismore City Council agrees.
At last night’s meeting, councillors reaffirmed their position to remain a stand-alone council, and reject any merger with Kyogle.
Staff had warned that a merger would benefit Kyogle ratepayers at the expense of Lismore ratepayers.
Kyogle has also voted to remain a stand-alone council, with mayor Danielle Mulholland telling Echonetdaily this week that the council would be putting further arguments to the state government about ‘scale and capacity’.
But if the state government proceeds with forced amalgamations, it’s likely that Richmond Valley councillors might decide next week that they would be better being on the front foot by requesting a merger.
Mr Walker said his final recommendation to councillors would be available on the council’s website tomorrow night (Thursday), in preparation for next Tuesday’s meeting.
‘Our position is that we are fit and able to stand alone and that is council’s preferred option however the debate is really deciding whether the government will go head with forced almalgamations and what our attitude to that is,’ he said.
‘We are trying to determine whether to say nothing and let the state make our decision for us or decide to put forward a preferred merger with Kyogle as a precursor to ensure if it happens we will not be disadvantaged.’
Mr Walker said the $10 million being offered by the state government for merged councils was not enough.
‘There is $5 million to be spent on the merger and $5 million for the merged entity to spend on community assets,’ he said.
‘We think it needs to be more because Kyogle has major infrastructure problems with all of its timber bridges.
Mr Walker said at least $20 to $30 million would be needed to make the merger option attractive to RVC.
RVC will meet next Tuesday.