Orange-Cabonne-Blayney merger officially scrapped by premier

IT'S OVER: NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced a new approach to the government's beleaguered council mergers policy. Photo: DANIEL MUNOZ

IT'S OVER: NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has announced a new approach to the government's beleaguered council mergers policy. Photo: DANIEL MUNOZ

THE proposed amalgamation of Orange City Council, Cabonne Council and Blayney Shire Council is officially dead and buried after the Berejiklian government on Tuesday morning abandoned the proposed mergers in regional parts of the state.

Premier Gladys Berejiklia made the announcement but refused to back down on its council mergers in Sydney.

All 20 existing mergers will remain in place in Sydney, while the remaining five merger proposals will proceed subject to the decision of the courts. 

In May 2016 the NSW State Government announced the forced amalgamation of more than 40 local councils into 19 new councils, but what are the legalities of this contentious issue?

None of the pending merger proposals for regional councils will proceed. 

Elections for the pending councils are to occur as soon as possible after the mergers take place, with the government hopeful residents will got to the polls next year. 

The decision was reached in an extraordinary meeting of cabinet, convened for the express purpose of resolving the council mergers issue. 

The decision is set to inflame anti-merger advocates who have persistently called for a reversal of the policy, including the de-amalgamation of already merged councils. 

Last May, 44 councils were sacked and replaced with 19 larger councils, helmed by an administrator until council elections in September 2017.

Tuesday's decision follows more nine months of legal action waged by a string of councils across the state after the policy was announced by the Baird government last May. 

Pressure mounted on the Berejiklian government to determine its commitment to the policy after Nationals leader and deputy premier John Barilaro vowed last month to end local government mergers in the bush.

Mr Barilaro's commitment came the day after Mike Baird announced his resignation as premier on January 19, and before the Liberal partyroom had anointed Ms Berejiklian their new leader. 

Since taking up the premiership, Ms Berejiklian signalled she would reconsider the policy, promising to listening to the community and, after chairing her first cabinet meeting, declaring "I will fix this".

The option of plebiscites was initially canvassed as a solution to determine whether mergers in the pending council districts should proceed, but Tuesday's decisions shows this path has been abandoned. 

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