Wagga City Council has received a largely clean bill of health in the latest report into the future of local government in NSW.
However, the report did not paint such a glowing picture of several of the Riverina’s other councils, with many deemed not to be fit for the future.
The assessment of fit for the future proposals from the state’s councils by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) found Wagga City Council was fit to remain as a stand-alone council, meeting assessment benchmarks in all categories except for infrastructure and service management.
The IPART report noted Wagga City Council’s submission acknowledged the difficulty in maintaining its assets and its infrastructure backlog, citing the council’s large road network and flood damage in 2010 and 2012.
Mayor Rod Kendall said council would look to go it alone heading towards the future after receiving a positive assessment from IPART, but remained committed to keeping an open mind should neighbouring councils come forward with alternate proposals.
“We will have a very careful look at that report and …. my personal invitation is if (any adjoining council) wants to talk, come and have a discussion with Wagga,” he said.
“At this stage Wagga City Council is free to go it alone if we wish, but there may be an adjoining council who wants to have discussions.”
The mood elsewhere in the region, at councils deemed not to be fit for the future, was one of anger however.
The report stated both Gundagai and Tumut councils had not only fallen short of its assessment criteria, but noted a merger of the two bodies had been identified as the preferred option by the Independent Local Government Review Panel.
Reacting to the report’s determination his council was unfit for the future, Gundagai mayor Abb McAlister said it was a “very disappointing” outcome and questioned whether the outcome had been preordained long before the report’s release.
Gundagai Shire Council will meet next week to consider the report’s determination, with Cr McAlister determined to fight against being forced to amalgamate.
“I think we’ve got to stick with what our community wants,” he said. “In my opinion, if we’ve got to be merged, it won’t be voluntary.”
In Griffith, another council deemed to be “unfit”, mayor John Dal Broi labelled the decision a “kick in the guts”.
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