Nationals MLC Wes Fang has slammed local government minister Shelley Hancock's decision not to demerge Snowy Valleys Council, after an independent review recommended three-to-one that it happen.
"If a minister is unable to make a determination from a report of an independent body that has a three-to-one support for a demerger, it would be right to question the decision making ability of that minister and whether that person should even be a minister," Mr Fang said.
"If the minister can't make a determination given overwhelming data like that, perhaps the government should look to pass that task over to another minister, perhaps the deputy premier ... who knows regional and rural NSW better."
On Tuesday, Ms Hancock announced that the boundaries of both Snowy Valleys and Cootamundra-Gundagai councils would remain in place after they were forcefully amalgamated in 2016.
IN OTHER NEWS:
She tasked the Boundaries Commission to examine proposals to demerge each council area last year. The commission recommended that Snowy Valleys demerge, with a dissenting report from one commissioner, and that Cootamundra-Gundagai remain as one entity, with a dissenting report from two commissioners.
In announcing that neither council would demerge, Ms Hancock said the reports "did not provide a clear consensus on the issue" or provide her with "the necessary confidence to make these important decisions."
Mr Fang said he "cannot fathom how the minister, with a three-to-one determination, is able to indicate that that's inconclusive."
"We cannot have a situation where we set the ground rules, we appoint an umpire, we have a determination, and then we ignore it," he added.
"That is not good government on any level."
The National Party met virtually on Wednesday to reaffirm their position on the council demergers, he added, acknowledging that the issue "is not going away".
"If the independent umpire supports a demerger, then the National Party supports those communities to be able to demerge," he said.
"The question now for members of the Liberal Party in regional and rural areas, are they going to stand with the Nationals ... or are they going to back the city-centric decision."
Liberal MP Justin Clancy, who's Albury electorate includes Tumbarumba in the Snowy Valleys, has declined to say if he will fight the decision.
Mr Fang said the issue is something the Nationals will "look to advance once we're all back in parliament".
Meanwhile, NSW Labor is advocating for a referendum on the matter. Shadow local government minister Greg Warren has written to both Ms Hancock and the deputy premier, and said "allowing the demergers to proceed would at least offer a glimmer of light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel."
Both councils are in difficult financial situations associated with the cost of merging, and ratepayers are facing large rate hikes.
Mr Fang doesn't believe a referendum will reveal anything "that we don't already know", and that "what we really need to do is accept the verdict from the umpire and get on with it."
Ms Hancock's office has knocked back a second request from The Daily Advertiser for an interview with the minister about her decision making process.
The DA previously requested an interview on Wednesday, and also sent a number of written questions to Ms Hancock, however her office said she would not be commenting beyond an initial press release.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: