WHILE we have heard strong views from Mayor Bob Stewart on the amalgamation being recommended for the Bombala Council, it seems the community is only now starting to talk about the issue.
The proposal to merge the Bombala Council with neighbouring shires was first revealed in the NSW Independent Local Government Review Panel’s discussion paper ‘Future Directions for NSW Local Government: Twenty Essential Steps’ in May.
The discussion paper recommended that the Bombala Council merge with one or more surrounding shires to strengthen its viability, or that Bombala, Cooma-Monaro and Snowy River Shires should link together as a county.
Following this a public hearing and a Council session on the paper were held in Cooma on June 5 to discuss the paper, and of course the merger recommended in it.
We reported that few local representatives were able to attend the public hearing due to the location and time of the meeting, although the Bombala Council was well represented at the Council session.
During these sessions, the Panel indicated that it preferred a merger between all three shires, and that the Councils themselves would set out how they would like it to work in order to suit the region as a whole.
The Panel indicated that the idea is to strengthen the combined area’s overall regional advocacy, and its ability to negotiate with State Government on a regional level.
It believes that with the larger numbers of a region, the overall area could attract more benefits than is possible with the existing small, separate Councils.
The Panel is not suggesting forced amalgamations or immediate job losses as a result, but suggest a voluntary merger that would be set out by the Councils themselves to improve viability.
But Mayor Bob Stewart and the other representatives present at the Cooma sessions fear that Bombala risks losing its autonomy as part of a county, and needs to stand alone to continue to deliver services to our area.
There are also concerns over maintaining jobs in the Bombala area should we be amalgamated, and how much power the Bombala representatives of the proposed county would actually have.
Mayor Stewart says that the Council is currently managing very well despite its low population, is strong financially, and already utilises a regional approach with neighbouring Councils where beneficial.
The Bombala Council is working on a submission to the Panel before its final report goes to the State Government, and we hope to run this submission, or an excerpt of it at least, in next week’s Bombala Times.
“The Bombala district are the ones facing the most negative consequences of a merger and we need to keep fighting to prevent the government from going ahead with the recommendations,” Mayor Stewart said.
“Council will continue to make sure we are only working towards beneficial reforms.”
Have your say
This ‘Future Directions for NSW Local Government: Twenty Essential Steps’ discussion paper is a very important document for the community to read and comment upon.
It can be downloaded at www.localgovernmentreview.nsw.gov.au or a copy can be arranged through Council.
Once you’ve read the pieces relating to Bombala, we encourage everyone to submit their comments to the Panel by June 28.
You can either click on ‘Have Your Say’ to send an online submission, email email@example.com, or post your thoughts to Independent Local Government Review Panel, c/- Locked Bag 3015, Nowra 2541.
Comments on this paper are welcome until Friday, June 28, 2013, and are vitally important.