Merger opposition goes on

Gundagai mayor Abb McAlister

Gundagai mayor Abb McAlister

Gundagai mayor Abb McAlister is standing resolute in his opposition to his council being amalgamated with Cootamundra despite one former councillor speaking out about the benefits of the proposal.

Former councillor Bill Maslin, who served on council from 2008 to 2012 and has since relocated to Sydney, believes a union between the Gundagai and Cootamundra councils would deliver numerous economic and tourism opportunities for a combined entity.

“In terms of economic opportunities, I think you can tap into the national strategic freight corridors – Gundagai having the Hume Highway and Cootamundra having the freight and passenger rail network,” Mr Maslin said.

The state government proposed last month that Gundagai should be merged with Cootamundra as part of its Fit for the Future council reforms – despite Gundagai expressing its wish to stand alone and Cootamundra exploring amalgamation options with Harden.

Cr McAlister said Gundagai council was still determined to stand alone and claimed there were no benefits to merging with Cootamundra.

“We can’t see any tangible benefits at all,” he said.

“We’ve got no infrastructure backlog and Cootamundra’s got over $5 million. Looking at the whole 10-year plan, as a standalone council we’ll save a lot more than the government are saying we will in a proposed merger.”

A public meeting has been organised for January 28 at the Gundagai RSL Club to assess Gundagai’s position with the reforms.

Cr McAlister has challenged Mr Maslin to attend if he believes he can present a compelling case as to why the merger should proceed.

Mr Maslin believes the strong opposition to council mergers in Gundagai has been borne out of self interest among councillors and senior staff who are worried about their futures.

“They’ll never admit that they’re concerned about their jobs as councillors and I think they fear there’s the potential to lose that local identity and local representation,” he said.

“You’ve got senior staff advising councillors that aren’t doing it in an impartial manner because they’re concerned about their jobs and the emotional attachment to the decision.”

Cr McAlister, however, rejected those suggestions out of hand.

“That’s a load of garbage,” he said.

“We’ve got a council that runs extremely well, a great financial plan that’s sustainable into the future and no infrastructure backlog. We can’t see any tangible gain for our community with this merger and there’s certainly no self-interest from the councillors.”

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