Narrabri Shire has officially joined the New England Joint Organisation, despite resistance from two councils, who were concerned about Narrabri’s heavy focus on mining and coal seam gas.
Narrabri was accepted in a four-two vote, with Uralla and Inverell councils voting against the motion, following decisions made in their respective council meetings.
The NEJO business papers stated the concerns about Narrabri joining included “the perceived community of interest around Tamworth ahead of Armidale, travel distances, renewable energy development versus extractive industries, and agricultural land versus extractive industry priorities”.
Inverell mayor Paul Harmon said there was a lack of synergy between the two councils, but insisted Inverell was prepared to work proactively with Narrabri.
“We were concerned around the fact Narrabri had a lot of extractive industries such as coal and coal seam gas,” Cr Harmon said.
“In our part of the world, we’ve got a strong focus on renewables.
“We also thought ‘what’s the connectivity between our shires?’ Every other member we share something – a catchment area or a highway.”
Uralla Shire mayor Michael Pearce, who was elected NEJO chair, said his council would have to live with the decision.
“Our council resolution related to Narrabri having different interests as in mining-related issues, and just from looking at a map, council felt they really did not fit in all that well,” Cr Pearce said.
“I can’t perceive it creating any drama. We live in a democratic society, so council will have to accept the outcome.”
Narrabri mayor Catherine Redding addressed the NEJO before the vote to address the concerns.
“I’d spoken to all the mayors prior to this, and given Uralla and Inverell had already voted against it, we didn’t expect it to go any differently,” Cr Redding said.
“We understand some of the concerns they may of had, but we can’t see that being an issue going forward.
“As far as renewables go, Narrabri already has three solar farms at various stages of approvals, so we’re just as much in to renewables as any where else in the New England.”