NOROC President Fears Merger Incentive Could be Lost

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The head of the region’s council collective says it would be a disaster if local councils are forced to merge without any financial incentive.

NOROC president Jenny Dowell attended a local government conference hosted by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal in Coffs Harbour yesterday.

She said IPART’s main focus is likely to be on Sydney when it comes to reducing the state’s 152 councils.

But Cr Dowell said an important deadline is also looming for councils such as Kyogle which have been directed to consider amalgamation.

“That is a real worry because we also know that the incentive to amalgamate, which for two councils is $5 million, will be off the table from midnight June the 30th,” she said.

“So that means we’re being told after that there will be no incentive money, so it could be that councils are forced to merge without any incentive.

“Now that would be disastrous.”

IPART has said any decision on potential council mergers lies with the State Government.

The tribunal will determine if councils are financially sustainable, as part of the Fit for the Future process.

But Chief Executive Hugo Harmstorf said the larger decisions lie with the Local Government Minister.
“No one has asked us to make decisions on mergers or anything like that – there is a separate body and process for that,” he said.

“All we’ve been asked to do is tell the Minister if we think a council is fit or not fit.

“After that it’s the Minister’s call with what happens next.”

But Mr Harmstorf said councils recommended for amalgamation must at least consider that option.

“If the councils have got a better idea, which might be merging with different partners or it might be standing alone, then we’d like to see the councils preferred option along with the preferred option of the review panel,” he said.

Source: ABC News

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