Council amalgamation not on cards for 'sound' Bega Valley shire

BEGA Valley Shire Mayor Bill Taylor says forced local government amalgamation remains off the NSW Government agenda, despite the issue being raised last week by member for Bega Andrew Constance.

Mr Constance raised the issue of amalgamation in relation to the Eurobodalla Shire Council at a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Batemans Bay.

“I have spoken with Mr Constance who confirmed that he opened the issue for discussion at the meeting,” Cr Taylor said.

“Andrew has assured me, however, that forced amalgamation is not on the government agenda.

“The Treasurer is aware of [Bega Valley] Council’s sound financial position; he acknowledges that we operate well and are well managed with good strategic and financial planning in place.

“Since the reasoning for amalgamation and border adjustment is to boost poor performances within selected local government areas, I am confident that our high performance and our geographic location put us in a very strong position to continue to operate on the current boundaries.

“I am surprised that the issue was raised, but I understand Mr Constance believes the discussion is warranted.

“If further discussion is to occur we will not be shy about taking part in a conversation about amalgamation.

Both Bega Valley and Eurobodalla councils are members of SEROC – the South East Regional Organisation of Councils that incorporates 12 local government areas.

Both mayors said they value the cooperative nature already inherent in SEROC, but would remain open to any debate over amalgamations.

 “We value and support the current cooperative relationship we have with other councils, and in fact our decision to join the South East Regional Organisation of Councils will only enhance this cooperation,” Cr Taylor said.

 “We will of course participate in any future debate regarding amalgamation, and we’re always happy to hear what the community thinks regarding this matter,” Cr Taylor said.

Eurobodalla Mayor Lindsay Brown said he is also open to having a debate about the potential amalgamation with a neighbouring shire.

 “Any mechanism that we can use to drive efficiencies in any organisation should be looked at,” he said.

“We’re not walking away from a conversation on amalgamation.

“We’ll have that conversation. It hasn’t come up as a debate, because all the indications are that the Eurobodalla Shire Council will stand alone.”

Cr Brown pointed to the independent review of local government last year, which found both Bega Valley and Eurobodalla councils’ merger potential as “low”.

“Both Bega Valley and Eurobodalla Shire Councils (were recommended to) remain as standalone councils because of the way they have been seen as sustainable into the future,” Cr Brown said.

“Amalgamations can be very successful and some can be not so successful.

 “We need to be very careful what we achieve and what we are seeking in amalgamations.”

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