Councils united against mergers

A GROUP of Mid-Murray councils in the firing line for possible mergers want this idea ditched in favour of greater co-operation.

The councils agreed at a meeting in Deniliquin this week that this was a better way to deliver improved services to their communities.

The meeting was held in response to the 138-page Independent Local Government Review Panel final report, released by the NSW government early last month.

The reported proposes the merging of Berrigan council with Jerilderie, Wagga with Lockhart, and Deniliquin with Conargo or Murray.

It was also proposed that Corowa merge with Urana and Greater Hume merge with Albury.

In a joint statement released yesterday, the councils said there was “general concensus” that mergers and boundary changes suggested in the report for the Mid-Murray region “are not appropriate”.

Further, the councils said mergers “would not provide long-term solutions” and “would be strongly opposed by the vast majority of residents and ratepayers in the region”.

The statement, released by Jerilderie general manager Craig Moffitt, said there was much discussion on the opportunity for co-operative arrangements to enhance service delivery.

Berrigan mayor Bernard Curtin said this would be best achieved through further developing successful arrangements between councils that were already in place under the Riverina and Murray Regional Organisation of Councils (RAMROC).

“We believe that ... if (RAMROC) can be given more autonomy then it can do the job that is being proposed under this new system of organisations,” he said yesterday.

“We have 18 councils that have been in this organisation now for some years and they have worked successfully.”

RAMROC takes in councils across both the Murray and Murrumbidgee region.

The Mid-Murray councils agreed that RAMROC should ask for state recognition and for funding to carry out a comprehensive review.

The councils decided to recommend to the next RAMROC meeting that there be a pilot study into the best form of legal structure and functions for the group.

That was based on “proactive and progressive” co-operative arrangements between councils “that can work into the future for these councils”.

Councils across the state have until April 4 to make submissions on the review panel report.