Amalgamation: divided opinions on uniting

Amalgamating Orange, Cabonne and Blayney could make the most successful grouping of councils in the state or spell the end of local representation and services depending on which mayor you speak to.

Orange mayor John Davis said the push for a merger would provoke passion from all three councils, but he believes it would have enormous benefits for Cabonne and Blayney.

“I’m quite excited about if it happens but I’m not losing any sleep,” he said.

“It’s not a case of us wanting to take them over.

“We’re not predatory we’re just trying to look after our bit.”

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But Cabonne mayor Ian Gosper said rural country councils and city-based councils were vastly different and Cabonne’s towns and villages would lose representation, services and jobs if the amalgamation went ahead and council departments were taken away.

“The biggest employer in Cabonne is probably local government,” he said.

Blayney Shire mayor Scott Ferguson said the council and the community were opposed to amalgamation because the shire would miss out on funding.

He said the review panel had not made the advantages of council mergers clear and Blayney would lose its social capital if the council building was closed under an Orange-centric council.

“Loss of self determination is the number one issue, he said.

“Orange doesn’t want rural roads, they don’t want the liability of timber bridges.”

Cr Davis admitted the prospect of Orange inheriting a large rural road network was a concern that could not be fixed by higher rates.

But he believes a larger council could buy cheaper materials to get better results.

“We’re going to spend approximately $7 million on roads in Orange if we had a bigger council area you could do a deal and do a $10 million project,” he said.

Cr Davis said it was hard to argue against the state government’s policy for more financially sustainable councils.

He said Blayney and Cabonne could be powerhouses for a larger local government area but had been handicapped by the sheer volume of roads and smaller populations.

“They work together in an alliance and I think it could be stepped up one grade further as a bigger council,” he said.

“If it’s run effectively and efficiently you could actually increase the staff.”

But Cr Ferguson said with some rate increases Blayney would be sustainable within 10 years.

“The success of Orange shouldn’t be built on the surrounding region going backwards,” he said.

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