Council merger still on the table

THE amalgamation of Cabonne and Blayney councils with Orange City Council is still on the table as a way to strengthen Orange’s role as one of nine regional centres across the state, according to the final report of the Independent Local Government Review Panel.

Three months since the panel handed the report to Local Government Minister Don Page the state government released the findings on Wednesday.

The merger of the three councils was first flagged in the panel’s Future Directions report released in April.

The final report suggests the councils could be amalgamated by 2017 serving a projected population of 73,100 by 2031.

But it recommends “sub-council” organisations dubbed community boards should be established “as required” in the former council areas to deliver functions delegated by the parent council. 

The report said Blayney could remain sustainable as a separate council for several decades, but was more negative about Cabonne’s future.

“Cabonne may well be sustainable into the long term, but its recent and projected growth is overspill from Orange. Some areas on the northern and western fringes of Cabonne are seeking to move to adjoining councils,” the report said. 

It also recommends the three councils be part of the central west “joint organisation” - a rebadged version of the country councils the panel proposed earlier and designed to replace the functions of regional organisations of councils like Centroc.

The panel’s draft report was opened up to comments from the public and councils, but few were received from the central west.

Ten respondents wanted Cabonne to remain independent, six respondents objected to an amalgamation of Lachlan Shire Council with Orange, Parkes or Bland Shires and eight respondents were against the amalgamation of Blayney Shire Council with Orange.

Mr Page has given the public and councils until March 7 to comment on the final report while the government decides what to implement from the plan.

The organisation representing the state’s 152 councils, Local Government NSW, has slammed the move and called for the deadline to be extended until the end of April, saying most councils would not meet for the first time in 2014 until February giving them little time to respond to the major changes proposed.

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