Earlier this week Council was approached by Walcha Council with an invitation to join a group of rural councils including Walcha and Cabonne in a legal action to support the current Woollahra Land and Environment Court challenge against the forced amalgamation process. This challenge, scheduled to be heard on April 21st, is based around the claim that the Minister for Local Government misused Sections 218F of the Local Government Act to implement proposed forced amalgamations and that the subsequent Boundaries Commission process was procedurally unfair.
Eminent Sydney Barrister Peter King has offered to act for Walcha and associated rural councils, an extremely generous commitment. As a result legal costs for Oberon to join will be minimal. Should other rural councils decide to also join the action costs could further reduced.
After seeking our own legal advice a recommendation was put to an extraordinary Council meeting held on Wednesday April 13 that Oberon Council join with the Walcha Council Action. This recommendation was passed unanimously by Council and became an adopted resolution which is available on councils website www.oberon.nsw.gov.au.
It is councils view that with the deadline for the Ministers/Premiers decision on proposed mergers fast approaching. Given the reticence of our Local Member being the Minister for Local Government Paul Toole to either speak to Council or visit Oberon to discuss why he thinks a merger with Bathurst Regional Council would have any benefit for Oberon, we feel we are left with few options. The concerns of the Oberon community are neither being heard nor acknowledged, to be treated with such distain by our elected representatives is demeaning. Our community has overwhelmingly and consistently indicated its opposition to a merger with Bathurst Regional Council and as such Council feels comfortable with endorsing this course of action.
Walcha has the support of its Federal Member Barnaby Joyce and Local Member Kevin Anderson in this action. Although this is a NSW State Government issue many Federal MP's are realising that the fallout has the real potential to impact strongly in the upcoming Federal Election. This was apparent to me whilst chatting with the Federal MP's that were part of the Pollie Pedal Group who visited Oberon recently.
I commit to keeping the community updated as the legal process progresses.
Mayor Kathy Sajowitz