Berrigan Shire chooses joint option over local merger
Berrigan Shire Council will fight to remain a stand alone council that aligns itself with a Joint Organisation at Albury.
Council’s resolution under the Fit For The Future local government reforms was supported by 30 people at its public meeting last Wednesday.
Council explained that a JO would involve a regional group of councils — similar to Riverina and Murray Regional Organisation of Councils (RAMROC) — that can deal with issues over a larger area.
‘‘There would be no merger with Albury, just an arrangement to co-operate on certain items,’’ Berrigan Shire director of corporate services Matt Hansen said.
‘‘If Berrigan Shire was in a JO with Albury, it may include neighbouring councils such as Corowa, Urana and Greater Hume.’’
The original proposal was for the local JO to include Berrigan, Jerilderie, Deniliquin, Murray, Conargo and Wakool council areas.
Exact models and functions of JOs has still not been determined.
Wednesday’s meeting was originally called to discuss, again, a potential merger of the Jerilderie and Berrigan Shire Councils.
The two-way amalgamation was suggested by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, which determined that both councils were not ‘Fit For The Future’ after failing to meet some of the set benchmarks.
The NSW Government gave councils one last chance to come to a decision on their future, with the deadline closing today.
Despite IPART’s ruling, Berrigan Shire general manager Rowan Perkins said the council can still see no strong or long-term benefits of merging.
He and Mayor Bernard Curtin have also made that message clear to Minister for Local Government Paul Toole at a recent meeting.
Mr Perkins said although Jerilderie Shire Council area might experience marginal benefits if they merged with Berrigan, the new merged council would experience a gradual yet significant decline financially.
‘‘The new council would be $20 million worse off in a decade, and unable to continue (Berrigan’s) current program of town improvements and investment in economic development projects,’’ Mr Perkins said.
Cr Curtin said he stands by early studies on the reform proposals conducted by Berrigan Shire.
He maintains a merger is not the preferred choice of its councillors or ratepayers.
‘‘Our analysis of the government’s proposed amalgamation shows the new council with an underlying cash deficit of $1.5 to $2 million per year,’’ he said.
‘‘My council is not anti-reform, but we consider that an amalgamation would require an additional $1 million to $2 million every year to maintain existing levels of service to continue to improve our infrastructure. We have requested the minister consider this.
‘‘Without this additional funding, the proposed amalgamation is not an arrangement that we can, in good faith, put forward to our residents and ratepayers.’’
Berrigan’s Maree Ryan, Clara Way and NSW EPA’s director of recovery Steve Beaman at the Keep NSW Beautiful Blue Star Sustainability awards.