local Government

Shire Almalgamation – Editors Opinion

If there is one thing that the IPART assessment proved, it’s that it’s all about the numbers. We are not a community. We are 6,700 now, and by 2031 we will be just 5,500. That’s the only number the NSW State Government cares about. And because that number is not judged as high or important enough, Lachlan Shire is in danger of becoming obsolete.
Now I don’t profess to always support Lachlan Shire Council, or its decisions on a regular basis. I am not always a fan of council, but our community matters to me. And I know one thing is for sure. If we are forcibly amalgamated with Parkes, then you can say goodbye to local representation and the upkeep of roads and infrastructure. We will be forgotten as quickly as they close the Lachlan Shire office doors.
Lachlan currently looks after 4,500 kilometres of Shire roads. Who will care if they are sitting in an office in Parkes? No one, that’s who. Who will travel the distance to check on a water supply at Lake Cargelligo or Tullibigeal? That’s over two hours out of their day. Now why is Parkes the be all and end all for Lachlan? Sure it has a bigger population, but did not satisfy one crucial area of the IPART assessments – efficiency. Now how does that work?
You’re not efficient but you’re fit because of your projected population growth? Let’s get real. Parkes is riding on the back of mining right now, but when operations inevitably wind down they will be looking at more than a gigantic hole underground, they will be looking at a gigantic hole in their population and economy. IPART has not mentioned how they will handle that. However Lachlan has been judged unfit on a projected falling population.
The State Government says amalgamations will save money, but then offers incentives under the Stronger Communities Fund for up to $15 million to invest in community infrastructure. I’m going to call if for what it is – absolute bread sticks (read between the lines on that one). If they have the money to literally throw ‘incentives’ away to amalgamating councils, why can’t they put that money into local government so they can provide better services and infrastructure? That might just make too much sense.
It seems funny to me (in a humourous way) that the Local Government Minister Paul Toole (Bathurst) and National Leader Troy Grant’s (Dubbo) local council areas are deemed ‘fit’. Just make everything bigger, and let even more services and representation slide away.
That brings me to our National Party representatives. Now where are they in this argument?
Not out fighting for our local councils, simply hiding behind one line responses and generic press releases. Come on. You were elected to represent our electorate. Get out here and explain why this is so good for us. Come to a community meeting and look us all in the eye, and tell us all why we need massive, amalgamated councils. We voted for you in good conscience, so that you would stand up for us and the issues that are important to this town. If you don’t fight for us, I think you don’t deserve our vote. You certainly won’t be getting mine at the next election, if you don’t support rural communities. I think you have lost sight of what true community means. I think you need to talk to your constituents.
Love them or loathe them, Lachlan Shire Council has earned the right to represent its community at a local level. They are committed to the Shire and steering the organisation in a better direction. I implore you all, to write a letter to your state and federal member. Tell them you don’t agree. If you think nothing gets done now, wait till Lachlan is part of a 21,000 plus mega council area.
People power can change this. Write a letter or start a petition. We may have to suck it up and accept some tough decisions, if it means we get to keep Lachlan local then so be it. If you don’t care, then do nothing. But do that at your own risk.
Have the courage to tell the state government what you think. Have the courage to tell the state government this is wrong. Have the courage to say NO to forced amalgamations.
Melissa Blewitt

Danger Zone

Lachlan Shire Council is in danger of being merged with a larger entity, after it was deemed unfit to stand alone by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) Fit for the Future assessments.

: IPART’s map of part of the state, showing ‘fit’ councils in green and ‘unfit’ councils in orange. The blue would be considered ‘fit’ with a merger process. More on IPART’s decision plus an editorial on page 4. Cont

By Melissa Blewitt

 

Lachlan Shire Council is in danger of being merged with a larger entity, after it was deemed unfit to stand alone by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) Fit for the Future assessments.

The report, released by the State Government last Tuesday, found Lachlan Shire “unfit” due to a forecast declining population over the next 20 years.

Lachlan Shire Council’s Fit for the Future proposal was one of 87 out of 139 proposals assessed to be unfit, with only three of 12 councils in the central west found fit to stand alone.

IPART has suggested a merger with Parkes would be the most beneficial course of action, but Lachlan Shire Council’s preference is to remain a stand alone Council within a Joint Organisation (JO).

Parkes failed to satisfy one crucial criterion – efficiency – but was still deemed “fit” by the IPART report.

Lachlan failed to meet the scale and capacity criteria (population under 10,000), but satisfied the financial criteria overall including sustainability, infrastructure and service management.

Lachlan’s population stands at 6,700 and is predicted by the NSW Department of Planning to fall to 5,500 by 2031. If merged with Parkes, the new entity would have a projected population of 21,000 by 2031.

According to General Manager Robert Hunt, Council is committed to standing alone.

“Lachlan Shire only fails to meet one criterion and that is scale and capacity. Councils had not been told beforehand that there was a minimum population of 10,000 which had to be met and that has been very disappointing after all the work that went into the submission,” he said.

Lachlan’s TCorp Financial Sustainability Rating (FSR) was assessed as moderate and they were given a negative outlook.

“This [the FSR] was completed a few years ago and the negative outlook is based on projections – we have since made many changes and we will be sustainable after the rate increase next year and we will have a positive outlook based on this.”

Mr Hunt added that after a discussion with Parkes General Manager, Kent Boyd, both Councils preferred to stand alone however, further meetings with neighbouring councils will be held.

In the meantime an independent telephone survey of residents will also be undertaken by Micromex Pty Ltd to see if ratepayers want to take the $15m incentive on offer to the merged entity by the State Government or remain an independent Council.

Council has until 18 November to respond to the findings.

 

 

Rifts over rate rises

A number of community members voiced their concern over Council’s proposed rate rises at last Wednesday’s community meeting.

By Lara Pearce

A number of community members voiced their concern over Council’s proposed rate rises at last Wednesday’s community meeting.

Among the most contentious were the water charges, which have already risen from $0.70/kl for the first 450kl in 2005/06 to $2.03/kl in this financial year. Next year, they will be $2.30/kl for the first 600kl used.

The Council says that these fees are necessary to cover the ongoing maintenance costs, which are higher than many neighbouring Councils due to the aging infrastructure and the distances that pipelines have to cover, due to the large distances between Lachlan Shire’s towns.

It also cites the development of a new water treatment plant for Condobolin, which has been costed at $10 million. The Council expects that the NSW Government will contribute $5 million.

“If the State Government contributes more than 50% of the project then there will hopefully be a levelling of water charges,” said John Chapman, Council’s Chief Financial Officer.

Council staff also noted that they are considering introducing a charge on Condobolin’s truck wash so ratepayers would not have to fund this service.

Condobolin nursery owner, Gary Venables, said that by increasing fees, he believes the Council could end up losing money as people will reduce their water usage.

“I consider that Council are walking down a false economy path,” he said. “If they believe that people are going to pay those new fees, I am here to tell that they won’t.”

“I am in a position both privately and business-wise to see that first hand.”

Maxine Staniforth presented a petition from a large number of community members, expressing their concern over the proposed water rates.

Concerns over the tip charges were also expressed, with rural residents noting that they already pay an annual waste management fee and do not have a curb side collection service.

One resident proposed that Council should include a number of free visits to the tip within the annual fee.

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