The merger between Tumut and Tumbarumba councils into the Snowy Valleys Council has been fraught with conflict, but Local Representative Committee Chairman Scott Stevenson said the air is starting to clear.
Mr Stevenson attended a series of meetings between Snowy Valleys Council administrator Paul Sullivan and the towns of the new local government area, with the exception of the Tumbarumba town meeting. He said the focus of the meetings wasn’t on the merger, but rather on ways the new council would be able to serve the region.
“There were not a lot of questions about the merger, I’ve got to say, which surprised me a bit,” he said. [Attendants] were just wondering what the structure will be, which was explained to them, but I didn’t see a lot of angst. I think it’s business as usual. Being a larger shire will have a lot of positives for both shires.”
“I think they were probably a little disappointed that they don’t get the opportunity to vote on council representation until 2017, but the strategic plans put into place by both the councils have been adopted, so they stand as is.”
Former Tumut Mayor Trina Thomson said that the meetings helped address misunderstandings about the consequences of the merger.
“I had one member of the Tumbarumba community tell me that they were going to lose their business if the merger went ahead. Well I don’t see how that’s going to happen,” she said.
“The feedback that I got from Tumbarumba was that while it started off a bit negative, by the end of the meeting it was quite constructive.”
“I think people began to realise that some of the information they’d had prior to the merger was not necessarily correct. People are starting to see that there are synergies between the local government areas, and that [the merger] is providing more opportunities than threats.”
“People [believed] they would lose their jobs and lose their communities; that all the high powered directives would have to come and be in Tumut – that Tumut was trying to strengthen itself and take away from the smaller communities. [They believed] the former Tumut Shire Council was financially unsound. All of that is so not true.”
However, the Save Tumbarumba Shire Facebook page suggests not everyone has come around on the benefits of the merger.
“The outrage is far from dead Mr Sullivan,” Tumbarumba resident Judy Szymoniczek said in a comment regarding the meetings.
“We are still angry and don’t wish to be forced into this amalgamation. This man is dreaming if he thinks we are all accepting of this outcome. Wait til we have our vote, then see how many people vote for Baird. We don’t forget,” Pam Frost said in another comment.
Mrs Thomson says Tumbarumba and Tumut residents will soon be able to see the benefits of the merger.
“One of the greatest economic drivers in the region is tourism,” she said. “Well, Tumut had its own tourism drive; Tumbarumba had its own tourism drive. When people are coming for tourism, they really don’t care which Local Government Area they are in. It’s not about taking from one or the other, it’s about value adding onto each. It’s about people going onto the website for the Snowy Valleys and seeing an amazing variety of things they can do here. It’s about being smarter about the way we do things.”
“Within the new Snowy Valleys Council there is an enormous percentage of the Softwoods Working Group [for timber]. We have the nurseries, we have the plantations so we have harvesting, and we have production – so with the combination of Tumut and Tumbarumba, and the Softwoods Working Group, it gives us an opportunity to work so well to ensure the economic viability of our region well into the future.”