Wodonga Council has dumped a plan to push for a broad committee as part of its hospital advocacy, amid concerns it could hinder campaign momentum.
Councillors voted 4-3 in favour of not pursuing the creation of a regional cross governmental infrastructure and services co-ordinating committee at their meeting on Monday, November 20.
However, the same resolution saw a March 2024 health summit and plans to put more pressure on the Victorian and NSW governments for greater information receive support.
The dropping of the co-ordinating committee proposal, which would have been pursued through cross border commissioners, followed lobby group Better Border Health writing to the council with concerns.
They included the time needed to establish the committee, given Victoria's cross border commissioner Luke Wilson is being replaced, and it potentially diluting the case for a new hospital and site via overreach.
Mayor Ron Mildren, deputy mayor Libby Hall, Olga Quilty and Danny Chamberlain supported jettisoning the committee idea, while Kev Poulton, Graeme Simpfendorfer and Danny Lowe argued for it.
Cr Mildren said there could be a place for the committee, which would consider requirements beyond a redeveloped hospital site, in the future.
"But right now it would be fundamentally opening the door for the politicians that don't want to pursue the course of action that we're trying to achieve, to defer and to delay and to deflect and that's the fundamental reason why I can't support it," Cr Mildren said.
Cr Chamberlain pointed to the council having NSW Greens MP Amanda Cohn, Liberal member for Benambra Bill Tilley and independent member for Indi Helen Haines "all on our side".
"The setting up of this committee does have the potential to put the slowdown on what we're trying to do right now," Cr Chamberlain said.
He suggested state governments would use such a committee as a "handbrake for what we're trying to advocate".
But Cr Poulton theorised that a committee could provide the council with leverage, while Cr Simpfendorfer said it offered the chance to put pressure on cross border commissioners.
Councillors Hall and Quilty argued having a committee removed the opportunity for the council to be nimble in its campaign and would add an undesirable layer of bureaucracy.
Cr Mildren said the planned summit, involving three levels of government, should be central to the council's planning.
"The summit is the thing that we should absolutely focused on and we should be forcing the issue to get ... the Commonwealth and the two state (governments) and all the councils and a number of other groups that are party to this process around the table here in Albury-Wodonga or, if it has to be, in Canberra," Cr Mildren said.
"We have to get that to happen, the summit must be our focus."
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