NSW PREMIER Gladys Berejiklian’s decision to walk away from council mergers in regional areas was met with a mixture of joy and disappointment, from two of the region’s mayors.
The proposed merger between Orange, Cabonne and Blayney councils was one of seven regional proposals to be abandoned on Tuesday, while metropolitan proposals will remain on the table subject to court action.
Cabonne mayor Ian Gosper was ecstatic, saying the decision vindicated the legal action the council took.
“Our communities indicated they are worried about the lack of rural or small town representation an amalgamation with a city council may deliver,” he said.
He thanked Cabonne residents who had supported the council’s fight, particularly the Amalgamation No Thank You (ANTY) group and also paid tribute to Nationals leader John Barilaro.
Orange mayor John Davis Cr Davis said it was positive to have a decision but the term frustrating was an understatement.
“It’s disappointing from my point of view of not making Orange a bigger area,” he said.
“If you put three broke councils together, you’ll finish up with one broke council, but I think Blayney, Cabonne and ourselves in partnership could have been a powerhouse in the future, we could have gotten more grant funding, bigger projects.
“I’ve always said if you’re in the far reaches of Blayney, the far reaches of Cabonne or the middle of Orange, you would have been treated the same.”
VIDEO: Mayor John Davis speaks about the announcement:
Cr Davis did not rule out a voluntary merger between Orange and Blayney councils if they supported it, but any discussion on boundary changes, whether they be communities at Canowindra wanting to join Cowra or Eugowra joining Forbes, would need to be driven by those communities.
“We will adapt to whatever that decision is – Orange is not running a program basically to dismantle councils, that’s never been the case,” he said.
With the $20 million the councils would have received to merge possibly off the table, Cr Davis said it was the council’s job going forward was to fight for its share.
“I think that will be negotiated out and I would think the new leadership of the National party will probably be talking to our new premier I would think something would come out of that,” he said.
“I think everybody in this area always wanted it to be marginal – if it’s marginal, I think the parties will fight for it tooth and nail and that’ll be a hell of a good thing for this region.”