Mayor says state keeping councils in dark over amalgamation
THE mayor of a North Coast council facing possible amalgamation has hit out at the NSW Government for keeping councils in the dark about what their futures held.
Mayor Danielle Mulholland said Kyogle Council was financially viable, but it looked bad on paper because of a $48 million infrastructure backlog caused mostly by "chronic and historic under-funding by successive state and federal governments".
Ms Mulholland said the shortfall was also due to "the existing rate-pegging system, and shifting of assets which were costly to maintain and generally in a poor condition when foisted upon local councils without any ability to refuse".
"That's what affects our bottom line," she said. "For example, some of this backlog was cost-shifted to council by the state after two-thirds of the lifespan of the asset was used up, with over 26 timber bridges on regional roads fitting this description in the Kyogle local government area."
Kyogle has been recommended to either merge councils with Lismore or Richmond Valley, or to remain a separate entity and pool certain resources under a new Northern Rivers Joint Organisation.
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal will hand down its report with recommendations about mergers, to the NSW Cabinet in October.
But Ms Mulholland said any further details had proven impossible to track down. "Who knows how long this process will take, or what the next step will be?" she said.
"I understand there is no plan for what will happen once Cabinet makes a decision around the submissions, which they can't do until they see and fully consider the IPART recommendations."
Kyogle Council has undergone the same arduous journey as every other local government in the state to make its case for financial viability.
"We have gone through the process, developed a long-term financial plan to achieve greater efficiencies, but wouldn't it be lovely if the state could actually keep us informed as to what will happen post October 16?" Ms Mulholland said.
"Wouldn't it also be helpful if both State and Federal Governments stepped up to the plate, recognised that they have let the vital infrastructure of our region deteriorate and provided the necessary funds to correct the situation rather than expect the residents and ratepayers of our local government area to shoulder the full financial burden alone."
Ms Mulholland said Kyogle Council had completed a self-assessment against the IPART methodology and she was confident it would be deemed "fit for the future".