Councils and communities do not want to lose their identity nor do they want to lose their opportunity to shape their owndestiny, but local government amalgamations may be necessary for their long-term viability.
With an independent report about the future for local government in NSW due in the new year, there is already talk of forced amalgamations. If this happens it will be contrary to the government’s pledge leading up to the last election.
But to be fair, it is important that the report is seen before there is any speculation about what the future holds.
While it is understandable communities do not want to lose what they have, there is also an economic reality.
That is what forced Manilla, Nundle and Barraba shire councils to decide to merge with Tamworth City and Parry Shire Council.
The merger has been a success. Each town has not lost its identity and the council has ensured the smaller communities are very much part of the council’s agenda.
Nundle Shire Council could not have survived, with a very limited rate income and few other revenue opportunities. Costs would have consumed it and it would have become unable to meet its obligations to its ratepayers.
If there are to be amalgamations in the future, the government is more likely to look at city councils in the first instance, particularly in Sydney and on the Central Coast.
But smaller councils can not avoid the issue of their long-term viability. And while resource sharing might save some dollars in relation to costs, it does not solve the revenue issue. All councils need an adequate number of ratepayers.
Communities should not simply say no because they don’t like the idea of being part of a bigger organisation.
Ultimately this will be a dollar-and-cents equation borne out of necessity.