COROWA Shire has been left facing an uncertain short-term future with a potential partner Urana still resisting a merger and two other amalgamation options, Albury and Greater Hume, out of the mix.
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal report handed down on Tuesday ruled Corowa and Urana weren't fit for the future, but Albury and Greater Hume were given the tick to stay in their current form.
The long-awaited decision coincided with Corowa Shire's monthly meeting when general manager Chris Gillard hoped other councils would have a change of heart and embrace change.
A Corowa-Urana merger had been originally flagged, but Urana mayor Pat Bourke said his council wouldn't be rushing down the merger path.
"We can’t change the outcome as far as fit or not fit," he said.
“But we can try and mould it to fit us better."
Corowa and Urana were part of a block of southern Riverina councils deemed unfit for the future with the others being Jerilderie, Berrigan, Conargo, Deniliquin and Murray.
Cr Bourke said he expected his council to begin talks with another neighbour Lockhart and not necessarily Corowa alone.
“We were really hoping to go it alone,” he said.
“We have been very efficient in terms of running costs.
“It is a real pity because we don’t want to lose that community spirit from being our own entity heading into the future.
“We ticked all the boxes during the last two years and there looks like there has been an agenda for this part of the world.”
Corowa had been one of the most proactive councils in seeking a merger since the Fit for the Future reform process started.
The IPART report revealed Corowa and Urana were both facing challenges with declining populations.
"We consider a merger with Corowa as preferred by the (Independent Local Government Review Panel) would provide scale and capacity government in the area," the IPART report said.
The councils didn't satisfy the scale and capacity criteria, but were given the financial tick of approval.
Corowa’s population is forecast to decline by 0.2 per cent a year from 2011 to 2031 and Urana faced similar challenges.
Urana has proposed a cumulative special rate variation of 63.1 per cent above the rate peg over four years from 2016-17, but IPART said the burden on a declining ratepayer base was too much.
Mr Gillard said Corowa Shire would keep pursuing a merger in the next 30 days before a report has to be prepared for the government.
"We will be intending to have discusssions with Urana and our other immediate neighbours in due course as the council better understands the implications of the IPART report," he said.
"It is important to remember the reform process is much more than simple council amalgamations."
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