MURRUMBIDGEE shire residents have stood arm-in-arm and sent a deafening “no” to calls for their local council to merge with Griffith.
An independent local government review panel last month released a discussion paper labelling Murrumbidgee Shire Council as being in the “high threat” category to merge with Griffith City Council.
Close to 150 residents attended emotion-charged public meetings in Coly and Darlington Point last week, unanimously rejecting calls for their council to be swallowed up by Griffith.
“The message from the crowd was unanimous – why should we suffer to prop up Griffith
council,” Murrumbidgee shire general manager Carolyn Upston said.
“My community has been prudent and well-managed over the years and saved more than $10 million to pay for future infrastructure.”
A contingent of residents also attended last night’s massive regional public forum on amalgamations at Leeton.
At last week’s Darlington Point meeting, former council general manager Paul Goodsall urged residents to fight any amalgamation threat, saying a loss of council jobs from the shire would have a devastating impact on the local economy.
Point resident Tammyleigh Chirgwin said being an outpost of Griffith City Council would put the shire on a par with Yenda, which she claimed had become a “poor cousin” of Griffith since joining the council.
Resident Robert Guest took aim at the state government for raising the spectre of amalgamations, saying it was only doing so because it had mismanaged its own finances.
Meanwhile at the Coly meeting, former councillor Margaret Sheppard suggested the shire could increase its size and become a lesser takeover threat if it took over the southern part of the CIA, currently part of Jerilderie Shire Council.
The people speak ...
Darlington Point meeting (edited comments):
Geoff Diesel: We refuse to amalgamate with Griffith.
Mona Finley: A comparison with UK and New Zealand is ridiculous because of their size – the vastness of Australia and the geographic size of rural shires in NSW is just not comparable with the situation in the UK or New Zealand.
Linda (new arrival in Darlington Point from Qld): I moved to NSW to get away from the place where I lived before, which had amalgamated with Hervey Bay and as a consequence they were no longer getting the same services.
Paul Goodsall: Council must fight to prevent the amalgamation. If jobs are lost in our shire the economy will suffer and real estate prices will fall.
Tammyleigh Chirgwin: Yenda has become the poor part of Griffith since it amalgamated with Griffith – limited services and no money spent in the area.
Robert Guest: The state government is looking for an easy way out. They have not managed their finances that well and are forcing local governments to amalgamate.
Motion moved and accepted unanimously: That we remain as we are or expand to include the southern part of the CIA.
Coleambally meeting (edited comments):
John Wilkinson: Coly irrigation are to merge with Jerilderie
Keith Burge: Is MSC sustainable without grants, can the state withhold the federal grant money?
Geoff Edwards: If we were to merge with Griffith it wouldn’t take very long to use our cash reserves.
Margaret Sheppard: CIA to be in one local government area – Murrumbidgee not Murrumbidgee and Jerilderie. Why sacrifice two well managed councils to prop up Griffith?
Sharon McCalman: Is there an opportunity to quarantine funds?
Penny Sheppard: Will the grant funding structure change and could they use that to make us unsustainable?
Jacqui Noack: How do west ward councillors feel about the proposal to merge with Griffith when they are very close to Griffith?
Paul Clarke: Will rates increase? Will services be of a comparable level?
Lynn Stuckings: Council should investigate other amalgamation options with neighbouring councils.
Eddie Rooks: We spend money in Griffith to support their facilities. When neighbouring councils were amalgamated with Wangaratta all the smaller towns missed out on services and money being spent on their towns.
Terry Inglis: If the main purpose of these changes is funding of infrastructure why don’t they look at setting up a national infrastructure body (Australian Regional Institute –Infrastructure Australia)
Ray Jones: Amalgamations haven’t necessarily worked in either Victoria or Queensland, why would it be any different in NSW?