WAGGA City Council will refer a letter from the state government “threatening” it to name which neighbours it would amalgamate with or risk being sacked to a parliamentary committee.
At an extraordinary meeting called by Mayor Rod Kendall on Monday night to finalise its Fit for the Future submission after receiving a letter from the premier and local government minister, councillors resolved not to enter any merger preferences.
Cr Kevin Poynter compared the reform process to a totalitarian regime by “attempting to bully and coerce councillors into doing things”.
Cr Poynter slammed proponents mooting decreased rates and increased services under a merger, pointing out neither the local government minister nor a senior department official could provide a successful example during an upper house inquiry.
“I think it’s important that we indicate to the state government that it’s just not appropriate to try and bully, hector and coerce councillors into just doing whatever they want,” he said.
Cr Poynter proposed an amendment to the motion that would make no further submission to the Fit For The Future process, refer the letter to the Director of Public Prosecutions and implement legal action to oppose any forced amalgamation.
Cr Julian McLaren was one of the eight councillors to vote against his amendment because “it would be very poor of us to be wasting ratepayer money (on more legal fees).”
Cr Greg Conkey believed it was not in the interest of any council to merge with Wagga because they would lose identity, representation and employment.
“The state government has a size 16 boot between our shoulder blades,” he said. “I think the state government needs to know where we stand with this and we stand against forced amalgamations.”
Cr Alan Brown supported the original motion “in its entirety”, but believed funding the state government is offering to merging parties should extend to all councils. Councillors resolved to include a section of Cr Poynter’s lost amendment by referring the letter to the parliamentary standard committee questioning the behaviour of the premier and the minister for local government.
“This council does not, has not and will not support forced amalgamations,” Cr Kendall said, before all councillors present voted in favour of the motion. Cr Andrew Negline was absent.
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