Albury Council to review mergers

ALBURY Council has reserved judgment on a report released yesterday that recommends a partial merger with Greater Hume Council.

Albury released a statement late in the day saying it was reviewing proposals contained in the Independent Local Government Review Panel final report Revitalising Local Government.

Proposals listed included merging Berrigan Council with Jerilderie, Corowa with Urana and Wagga with Lockhart.

Mayor Kevin Mack said Albury was in the early stages of examining the report’s recommendations for new governance structures in regional areas.

The panel says in its final report that some amalgamations must be considered, but they “are not a panacea for local governments’ problems”.

“No change is not an option,” panel chair Professor Graham Sansom said.

“Already too many councils face serious financial problems. Far-reaching reform is essential to make NSW local government sustainable and fit-for-purpose.

“We have respected the government’s policy of no forced amalgamations and suggested various ways to promote voluntary mergers.”

Its 152 councils spend about $10 billion annually and employ 50,000 people.

Cr Mack said Albury would review the report “in full detail” before formalising a position and responding to the Division of Local Government.

“It’s premature to comment in detail on any of the proposals contained in the report at this stage, particularly in regards to the suggested amalgamations.”

Cr Mack said the panel, along with the state government, was giving “a strong indication” that change was required.

“It’s important that councils and communities across the state continue contributing to the process so we reach the best possible outcome,” he said.

“We’re also encouraging all residents to review the report and make a submission to the Division of Local Government.”

Cr Mack supported calls from Local Government NSW to extend the submission deadline, which has been set for March 7.

“Albury, like many other NSW councils, will not have its first full council meeting until February,” he said.

“A March deadline puts a huge amount of pressure on local government to respond to a report that is recommending large-scale changes to the sector.”

Local Government Minister Don Page said councils would be consulted about any possible changes.