Make us ‘fit’
Berrigan Shire wants govt. to reverse merger ruling
The NSW Murray electorate’s by-election candidates are all being called upon to make an election promise that will help secure the viable future of Berrigan Shire Council.
Mayor Matthew Hannan said the council’s lingering ‘unfit’ status handed down during the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future local government reform process is one of the council’s biggest election issues.
Cr Hannan said attempts to have the status lifted to date have been ignored, and he’s calling on candidates to vow to help overturn it if elected.
Six candidates were confirmed at the close of nominations for the Murray byelection last Thursday.
Whoever is elected will replace The Nationals’ Adrian Piccoli, who retired from politics last month.
Neighboring Murrumbidgee Councillor Austin Evans is the The Nationals candidate, while Labor has pre-selected Michael Kidd and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party has pre-selected Helen Dalton.
The Greens have put up Ray Goodlass, and two independents have also nominated — Deniliquin accountant Peter Robinson and Griffith’s Brian Mills.
Cr Hannan said while ‘‘continued representation through our area’’ is the most important requirement of the successful candidate, the Fit for the Future ruling was the most vital localised issue.
‘‘To be deemed unfit for the future we missed only one of six criteria — for scale and capacity,’’ Cr Hannan said.
‘‘With Jerilderie Shire choosing to merge with Murrumbidgee Shire to form Murrumbidgee Council, we were left with no merger partner and became the only local council not to merge.
‘‘And while the government, in handing down its merger proclamations, deemed us fit to stand alone we’re still tagged with that unfit status.
‘‘It has the potential to affect our financial viability into the future, and reversing the unfit ruling would give our council more confidence.’’
Council director corporate services Matt Hansen said council’s ‘unfit’ ruling impacts on the council’s ability to leverage borrowed funding in the future.
He said there are also worrying concerns it would also negatively impact on grant applications.
‘‘We were only deemed unfit in the government’s review because it found out strategic capacity would be less if we were not merged — it had nothing to do with our finance or governance,’’ Mr Hansen said.
‘‘With the unfit ruling in place, we cannot borrow from TCorp (the New South Wales Treasury Corporation) and would have to go out into the open market if we did have to borrow.
‘‘And while they’re not saying as much, if and when we apply for grants they will see that we were declared unfit and this has not changed.
‘‘Being deemed unfit is an unwarranted slur on the council, and we are getting no traction to lift it.’’
Cr Hannan said water management and security is also a key election issue.
Voting will take place on Saturday, October 14.
Voting at the election is compulsory for all Murray electorate residents who are over 18 and an Australian citizen. For more information, head to http://www.elections.nsw.gov.au.