Great Lakes Council will be holding information sessions on the proposed three-way merger between Great Lakes, Taree and Gloucester Councils.
Presented by Great Lakes General Manager Glenn Handford, the purpose of the meetings is to present details of the proposal to ratepayers.
A NSW Government report on the proposed merger released last week, shows the new council would cover an area of over 10,000 square kilometres with a combined population of 90,500 residents, experiencing “the impacts of an ageing population over the next 20 years.”
Great Lakes currently have an infrastructure backlog of only 6 percent with an expected rise to 20 percent if merged.
In contrast, Gloucester with 43 percent infrastructure backlog and Taree with 20 percent will see improvements.
The new ‘Super-Council’ area would have more than 6,500 businesses with the largest employment sector being Health Care and Social Assistance whereas retail trade is currently the largest sector in Great Lakes.
The proposed new council has the potential to generate an estimated net financial saving of $30 million over 20 years through streamlining roles and redeployment of administration.
Under the new administration, the merged council could be represented by only nine Councillors, down from the combined 25 currently serving the three separate shires.
Mr Handford said the report will be discussed at this week’s council meeting.
The proposed merger has brought mixed reactions from the three councils.
At last week’s Taree Council meeting it was deemed that the merger “will not solve the financial sustainability issues facing these councils.”
Gloucester would prefer to stand alone but suggested the merger, while Great Lakes was deemed fit to continue as a stand-alone council.
Great Lakes Deputy Mayor Len Roberts said with other councils pushing for the merge, it would be difficult for Great Lakes to stand alone.
“It is vital that our council, the fit council who has worked hand-in-hand with ratepayers, should not be penalised for that good work and the unfit ones rewarded,” he said.
“I urge all residents to make a submission to Dr Tiley calling on those councils to be sacked if a merger goes ahead and allow Great Lakes to drive the process.”
Residents are invited to attend Great Lakes Council’s information sessions and the Public Inquires with Local Government’s delegate Dr Ian Tiley.
“I encourage all rate payers to look at the information on the website, attend the public meetings and make a submission,” Mr Handford said.
Council Information Session Dates:
Bulahdelah School of Arts
Tuesday 29 March- 6pm
Tea Gardens Baptist Church
Wednesday 30 March- 6pm
Stroud School of Arts
Thursday 31 March – 6pm
Forster Council Chambers
Friday 1 April – 10am
Public Inquiry Dates:
Bulahdelah Bowling Club
Tuesday 5 April – 3pm
Tuesday 5 April – 9am
Monday 4 April – 4pm
Gloucester Soldiers Club
Wednesday 6 April 9am
You must register to attend the public inquiries, either online at the Council Boundary Review website, or by calling 1300 813 020. If you wish to speak at the inquiry, this must be indicated when registering.
Registrations close at 9am the day prior to the inquiry or earlier of the venue reaches its capacity.
The public can make written submissions commenting on the proposed three-way merger until 5pm on Friday 15 April, either online or in writing and posted to: Council Boundary Review, GPO Box 5341, Sydney NSW 2001.
NOTE: On Tuesday this week, Great Lakes Council have announced their position on this proposed merger. See below.
As recent as 2.30pm on Tuesday, Great Lakes Council has resolved to acknowledge, and is prepared to support the NSW Government’s merger proposal for Great Lakes, Gloucester and Greater Taree City Councils subject to a blueprint for the merger being developed.
Council will engage independent consultants Morrison Lowe to assist with the preparation of Council’s submission and suggested merger blueprint.
“Council has held a long term position to stand alone and has been found to be fit under the NSW Government’s ‘fit for the future’ program. We were also found to be financially sustainable by the NSW Treasury Corporation. Whilst we could have stood alone, that option was not realistic or pragmatic in the current political climate. Council understands and has considered the NSW Government’s direction on local government reform and mergers,” said Mayor Cr Jan McWilliams.
Council’s General Manager, Mr Glenn Handford said “We are confident that our strategic direction and management practices are sound and in accord with the NSW Government’s vision for the future of local government.”
“Council believes that, should a three-way merger proceed, it is vitally important to develop a strong strategy for a merger blueprint that will ensure the new council is appropriately structured for success and the delivery of efficient and effective services to the communities of the combined councils,” said Mr Handford.
“Council believes we can bring our successful strategic management experience to a merged entity which would be a good thing for the whole region.”
Council will be holding community information sessions across the Great Lakes next week to provide information to our community about how a merger may affect them and how they can have a say on the Minister’s proposal. Please contact Council or check Council’s website for dates and venues for our update meetings.
“We will also be keeping everyone updated via our website, media and social media platforms on all issues related to the merger proposal,” said Mr Handford.
“We urge our community to get involved in this vital issue for their community and make their views known to the NSW Government by attending a public enquiry meeting or making a submission to the boundary commission,” said Cr McWilliams.
By Daniel Sahyoun