Mayor calls for merger bal­lot

The Gazette (Derwent Valley) - - NEWS - JAMES KITTO and SHAUN McMANUS

DER­WENT Val­ley mayor Mar­tyn Evans is call­ing for a ref­er­en­dum on coun­cil amal­ga­ma­tion.

He says ratepay­ers should be asked to vote for or against a merger on bal­lot pa­pers at the Oc­to­ber lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions.

Coun­cil amal­ga­ma­tion has been hotly dis­cussed within lo­cal govern­ment cir­cles this year, with Lo­cal Govern­ment Min­is­ter Peter Gutwein pub­lish­ing an Au­gust report en­cour­ag­ing the Sorell and Tas­man coun­cils to merge to de­liver fi­nan­cial and strate­gic com­mu­nity ben­e­fit.

De­spite both Sorell and Tas­man may­ors sup­port­ing an amal­ga­ma­tion, the Tas­man Coun­cil voted 4-3 against a union af­ter the Sorell Coun­cil unan­i­mously voted in favour of the merger.

Both coun­cils needed to vote in favour for the amal­ga­ma­tion to go ahead.

Tas­ma­nian Chamber of Com­merce and In­dus­try chief ex­ec­u­tive Michael Bai­ley said it was time for the govern­ment to “step up to the plate and to make some tough de­ci­sions”.

“For lo­cal govern­ment re­form to hap­pen in Tas­ma­nia, the pol­icy of let­ting lo­cal govern­ment de­ter­mine their own fu­ture has failed,” Mr Bai­ley said.

Cr Evans has sug­gested coun­cil amal­ga­ma­tion could be de­cided by the pub­lic.

“Maybe there should be some­thing on bal­lot pa­pers when they go out this year, ask­ing ‘do you sup­port amal­ga­ma­tion’,” Cr Evans said.

“Maybe the ques­tion needs to be asked like a ref­er­en­dum or a plebiscite.

“The Lo­cal Govern­ment Act that coun­cils are gov­erned un­der dates back to 1993. Per­haps it’s time that gets relooked at.”

Cr Evans said giv­ing the op­tion to the pub­lic could also in­crease voter num­bers at the non-com­pul­sory postal elec­tion.

“It may pro­vide one of the best re­turns we’ve ever got,” he said.

“The Der­went Val­ley Coun­cil saw 58 per cent of the com­mu­nity vote at the last elec­tion which is great but it could be a lot higher.”

Sorell mayor Kerry Vincent said there was “some merit” to Cr Evans’ pro­posal.

“It’s an idea I’ve heard floated be­hind coun­cil doors in the past which I think could be ben­e­fi­cial,” he said.

“But only for com­mu­ni­ties that are in the frame for amal­ga­ma­tion. I don’t think it’s as easy as set­ting it up as a blan­ket vote statewide. It’s a caseby-case sce­nario.”

Cr Evans said gaug­ing pub­lic in­ter­est on a pro­posed amal­ga­ma­tion would fur­ther open up the mat­ter for de­bate among lo­cal coun­cil bod­ies.

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