Residents unite in push against amalgamation

TWO well-attended meetings in the Central Highlands municipality have resulted in the first plans to resist the State Government’s council amalgamation plans. Meetings at Ouse and Bothwell this week decided to petition state parliament against the move and called on the local council to conduct further community meetings.

Sophie Underwood of the Planning Matters Alliance said about 44 people had attended the meeting at Ouse on Tuesday night. There were about 25 people at tonight’s (Wednesday) meeting at Bothwell which was attended by New Norfolk and Derwent Valley News.

Ms Underwood said the Planning Matters Alliance had held several similar meetings around the state and it was particularly concerned that the amalgamation process was intended to remove councils and the community from planning decisions. She said the group was opposed to forced amalgamations and compulsory sharing of services.

Ms Underwood told the meeting that studies of forced amalgamations in New South Wales in 2016 had found council costs had increased by more than 11%; property rates had significantly increased (citing the example of 53.5% in the merged Cootamundra-Gundagai municipality); and forced amalgamations had contributed to councils financially failing.

This information was welcomed by Bothwell elder statesman Richard Bowden, who expressed the view that there would be no savings for councils in a forced amalgamation scenario. Ms Underwood said it was no coincidence that Local Government minister Nic Street was now saying cost savings were not one of the government’s reasons for reforming Tasmania’s 29 councils.

Ms Underwood said the government had not explained what problems it wanted the Local Government Board to solve. She encouraged those present at the meetings to write to state politicians and their local councillors to express their views. The Ouse meeting resolved to start a petition to State Parliament and the Bothwell meeting decided to call on the Central Highlands Council to convene a public meeting/brainstorming session to oppose any forced amalgamations.

The Bothwell meeting heard that all Derwent Valley and Central Highlands councillors had been invited to this week’s meetings. It was reported that Central Highlands Council deputy mayor Jim Allwright and councillors Tony Bailey, John Hall and Yvonne Miller had attended the Ouse meeting and councillors Robert Cassidy and John Hall were at the Bothwell meeting. No Derwent Valley councillors were seen at either meeting, nor were the mayors of the two municipalities.

Read more in the next print edition of New Norfolk and Derwent Valley News.

Picture: Sophie Underwood of the Planning Matters Alliance Tasmania speaking at Bothwell tonight.

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