Costly split in Mans­field but ...

... ratepay­ers reckon they are hap­pier

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

RATES for Vic­to­ria’s Mans­field Coun­cil rose 72 per cent in just five years af­ter de-amal­ga­ma­tion in 2002.

The de-amal­ga­ma­tion of the De­latite Shire Coun­cil into the ru­ral City of Be­nalla and Mans­field Shire is cited as the best ex­am­ple of de-amal­ga­ma­tion of coun­cils in Aus­tralia.

The Mans­field Shire fought a long and sus­tained push for de-amal­ga­ma­tion cit­ing a lack of iden­tity and dis­en­fran­chise­ment from the larger coun­cil, with more than 70 per cent of the re­gion’s 7900 res­i­dents march­ing in protest against the forced amal­ga­ma­tion.

Af­ter the Bracks La­bor Govern­ment fi­nally lis­tened to the com­mu­nity’s calls for de-amal­ga­ma­tion, an independent re­view panel was es­tab­lished to de­ter­mine the cost to ratepay­ers and over­all im­pacts.

While the re­view panel con­cluded the cost to ratepay­ers would be a 34 per cent in­crease over five years, the fi­nal fi­nan­cial bur­den was more than dou­ble this amount.

Former Mans­field Coun­cil mayor Tom Ing­pen was a driv­ing force be­hind the de-amal­ga­ma­tion and only stepped down last Fri­day af­ter serv­ing five terms and be­lieves the ben­e­fits have out­weighed the fi­nan­cial costs.

“Make no mis­take, if peo­ple want to do this they must all work to­gether tire­lessly for the com­mon goal of dea­mal­ga­ma­tion,” Mr Ing­pen said.

“At the time of the pro­posed Mans­field de-amal­ga­ma­tion there was a res­i­dent pop­u­la­tion of 2500 and ev­ery­one had to join the fight­ing com­mit­tee, which cost just $5, and sup­port the com­mit­tee and all that that en­tailed in their push to win back their town coun­cil.

“At our very first meet­ing we had 1250 peo­ple turn up out of our 2500 res­i­dents.

“If the res­i­dents of Port Dou­glas and Moss­man want to win the de-amal­ga­ma­tion fight - and it is a fight - it took us three years of fight­ing ev­ery­day to get our coun­cil back they too must have the numbers to show politi­cians they are fair dinkum, be­cause that’s the only thing they (politi­cians) will take no­tice of.

“This comes back to the real test for the res­i­dents and that is, is the ’com­mu­nity of in­ter­est’ suf­fi­cient for ev­ery­one to be­gin the long, hard and slow fight.”

Mr In­pen be­lieves the de-amal­ga­ma­tion has proven to be the right move for us.

“It has been very suc­cess­ful for the past 10 years and ev­ery­one takes a real pride in the coun­cil and in the town,” he said.

“Our rates are cer­tainly not higher than any other shire in the district, but even if they were slightly higher peo­ple gen­uinely would not mind be­cause we have our own voice back and we make de­ci­sions for our­selves that af­fect only our­selves and we are all much hap­pier for it.”

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