The NSW Government will not proceed with the demerger proposals for Snowy Valleys and Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional councils, Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock said today.
In February of last year, Ms Hancock announced that she’d tapped the Boundaries Commission to examine the merger and a proposal to reinstate Tumut and Tumbarumba councils, alongside the Cootamundra-Gundagai de-amalgamation.
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu was also asked to provide a financial analysis of the merged councils, and examine what may happen in the event of a demerger.
“The reports do not provide a clear consensus on the issue of demerging and do not provide me with the necessary confidence to make these important decisions,” Ms Hancock said.
“This provides both councils with certainty and a plan for the future.”
Both Snowy Valleys and Cootamundra-Gundagai councils were formed in May of 2016 following forced amalgamations.
Snowy Valleys was a result of a union between Tumbarumba Shire Council and Tumut Shire Council.
The Tumbarumba and Gundagai communities have waged fierce battles to have the mergers unwound, with both towns forming groups to take up the cause.
In February this year, the Boundaries Commission announced it had completed its examination of the demerger proposals. Soon after, the government released a summarised version of the Deloitte financial reports.
There has been growing frustration in Tumbarumba and Gundagai recently about the time it was taking for the Minister to release the Boundaries Commission report.
Save Tumbarumba Shire’s Neil Hamilton called the decision “the greatest piece of bastardry of all time.”
“It clearly doesn’t reflect the views of the community.
Far from giving up, he vowed to keep the campaign for a demerger going.
“We’ll keep fighting, don’t worry; this is far from over.
“It’s not just Save Tumbarumba Shire, it’s the community.”
Snowy Valleys Mayor James Hayes said the council would continue to go about its business.
He indicated he would run at the council election, now that a government decision had been made.
“We have our plans – our advocacy plan, our operational plan, our long term financial plan,” Cr Hayes said. “We’ll continue working towards those until the election.”
Like Mr Hamilton, Cr Hayes said the demerger push was not necessarily over.
“In May, the Local Government Amendment Act 2021 was passed by the State Government, leaving the door open for Councils’ to resolve to undertake a process to de-amalgamate,” Cr Hayes said.
“The Minister’s decision means that any further work to progress a de-amalgamation could be addressed by the new Council.
“As a Council, we need further direction from the Minister and Office of Local Government about how this process would work in order to make informed decisions.”
He said the council had to respect the Government decision and work within whatever guidelines they may issue.
“The reality is, we need to have an ongoing working relationship with the State and Federal governments for the benefit of our community.
“We need to ensure that we are able to work together to lead a strong, functioning Council, facing up to its challenges in a proactive, sensible and sustainable way.
He acknowledged “there is still a lot of work to do and challenges to face”.
“Decisions and discussions about a Special Rate Variation and new Community Strategic Plan will be some of the very first decisions of the new Council,” Cr Hayes said.
“The information collected as part of these two projects will be critical for any future council model.”