WAGGA City Council (WWCC) has dug its heels into the ground and vowed to remain independent in the wake of smaller councils expressing interest to merge with one another.
While WWCC agreed not to amalgamate with Lockhart earlier this year, nearby councils like Cootamundra and Harden have expressed interest in merging with one another to remain viable.
But WWCC and Lockhart councillors have reiterated it’s in neither party’s interest because it would give Lockhart less autonomy and increase Wagga's scope of service delivery.
Despite opposing the proposed merge with Lockhart, WWCC Councillor Andrew Negline fears the state government could follow suit of Queensland by forcing amalgamations down the track.
Cr Negline said merging would mean less representation, using rural ratepayers under the current city-centric WWCC as an example.
Councillor Yvonne Braid believes amalgamating dilutes community representation.
“We need to own our areas,” she said. “I don’t think we should be big brother taking over everything.”
She said it was important to have a good relationship with neighbouring shires but there were other ways to help one another.
Councillor Kerry Pascoe feared forced amalgamations could “gobble up” smaller towns.
“(Lockhart) does extremely well with their revenue,” he said.
“It’s all about sharing resources.”
Councillor Dallas Tout echoed the sentiment, saying there were other ways to benefit from a working relationship without having to amalgamate.
“(Lockhart) is a very strong community and the last thing we want is to swallow it up by big brother,” Councillor Greg Conkey said, adding WWCC could help Lockhart with outsourcing services like engineering.
Councillor Garry Hiscock didn't oppose amalgamations, while Alan Brown, Kevin Poynter, Julian McLaren and Paul Funnell saw no benefit to either shire if they were to amalgamate.
Mayor Rod Kendall said Wagga was subject to amalgamation in the late 1970’s and that there was “no discernible advantage for Wagga to be amalgamated with any other shires”.
Lockhart residents last week unanimously voted to remain a rural council and not amalgamate with Wagga, despite independent reviews in 2012 and 2013 recommending the merge.
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