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Delay on council merger information packages

INFORMATION from the State Government to assist councils and communities in their response to proposed Local Government reform was now overdue, the State Opposition said last week. “People from across Local Government were expecting their ‘consultation packs’ as part of the Liberals Local Government Review on Monday [last week],” Opposition local government spokesperson Luke Edmunds said. “Now they’re being told to expect them at the end of the month. As one mayor told me, ‘the goalposts have moved again’.”

Mr Edmunds said the union representing council workers was now demanding that Local Government minister Nic Street stop his plans of forced council amalgamations. As part of the review, the Local Government Board has divided the state into nine “community catchments” but the minister said this does not necessarily mean there would be nine councils at the end of the review.

The Derwent Valley municipality has been placed into two of the “community catchments” for further discussion:

  • Central and Midlands Consultation Group: Central Highlands, Derwent Valley, Brighton, Southern Midlands, Northern Midlands, Meander Valley.
  • Western Shore Consultation Group: Hobart, Glenorchy, Brighton, Kingborough, Derwent Valley.

“Labor is firm in our position: we do not support forced council amalgamations,” Mr Edmunds said. “The Liberal Government lacks any sort of transparency as Tasmanians wait for their opportunity for consultation,” he said.

Mr Edmunds said the minister had buckled to pressure last week when he announced an extension to the consultation period. “That time extension was supposed to help councils do proper engagement, not cover up how unorganised the Minister is.

“Minister Street has held up the latest round of Local Government Review engagement at every turn, including taking three weeks to read the report before releasing it to councils and the public. It is becoming clear that the latest delay was to buy the Minister more time rather than give councils appropriate time to do their work.

“The process councils are being asked to participate in is complex and comes at a time when councils are developing their own budgets for the next financial year. Minister Street’s attitude towards those within local government is causing much angst and unease. With the Liberals now plunged into minority [government], the minister must again rule out using his powers in the Local Government Act to force council mergers and give a guarantee he will bring his plans for forced amalgamations before Parliament.”

The Planning Matters Alliance will hold public meetings at 5.30pm on Tuesday, May 30 at the Ouse Community Country Club and 5.30pm on Wednesday, May 31 in the Bothwell Town Hall to discuss the proposed changes to local government.

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