I am extremely disappointed with the recommendation from Minister Toole that Oberon will merge with Bathurst Regional Council. A partnership neither council has indicated they want or need. Bathurst has clearly indicated that their merger preference is Blayney and they will continue to pursue that aim. Oberon emphatically indicated we wished to stand alone and had the capacity to do so.
One wonders why other councils who were deemed unfit on scale and capacity by a flawed IPART process have been left alone but Oberon targeted. You could ask - was this whole costly Fit for the Future (FFTF) process predetermined? The outcome of the independent UTS study on Scale and Efficiency commissioned and submitted to the Minister by Oberon Council in November clearly indicated that our best option was to stand alone. Why “scale and efficiency” rather than “scale and capacity” The answer is simple; councils provide “goods and services” not “people”. It has been proven that Oberon Council offers a high level of service to its community and the community strongly indicates a high level of satisfaction in regard to that level of service.
It has come through very strongly that it has disturbed the Oberon Community that throughout this whole FFTF process they have received little or no support from their local representative Minister Toole, which at the very least shows a lack of concern and respect.
The NSW State Government does not have the numbers in the Upper House to push any legislation to force mergers but has to revert to the current option available to them of the Boundaries Commission. The Boundaries Commission will be reformed early in 2016; the merger proposals will be referred to the CEO Local Government. Delegates will be nominated to carry out a public enquiry into the position of each affected council. An assessment of these councils including the disadvantages/advantages of the proposed merger and council’s viability will be examined; representation and communities of interest will also be considered as well as residents and ratepayers attitudes. Written public submissions will be sought. Sometime around April 2016 the delegate will submit a report to the Boundaries Commission for comment, they in turn will report to the Minister. A final decision is expected around June 2016. The Local Government Election scheduled for September 2016 will be delayed until possibly March 2017 to allow the implementation of any mergers. I need to be reassured that the appointed delegates will be completely independent and open minded throughout their enquiries and the Boundaries Commission likewise. I have not felt that assurance through the FFTF process.
Apart from the “face value” rhetoric currently available, affected councils have received little useful nuts and bolts information from the Minister which has been a problem for councils over the past twelve months. For councils to make informed decisions they need to be conversant with all aspects of the issue at hand. The minister has committed to providing more information early in the New Year. I look forward to that being forthcoming.
On behalf of the Oberon Community I reaffirm our position to stand alone and we will be compiling a strong submission for the Boundaries Commission to support that position. There is much water to flow under this bridge yet. I call upon the Oberon community to prepare for a strong response over the coming months...many voices make a roar.
Mayor Kathy Sajowitz