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COUNCIL COLUMN – 7 September 2021

Sep 7, 2021

For Immediate Release 7 September 2021
Authorised by Councillor Matthew Stadtmiller

The merger of our former Councils in 2016 by the Baird Liberal National State Government was opposed by many in the broader community and a majority of elected members of their respective Councils.  Five years on the merger remains a cause of dissatisfaction and conflict within our communities and a continuing source of distraction and disunity within our current Council as it labours to consolidate and complete, the complex requirements, both social and economic, of the merger process.

A motion to hold a poll should be supported by current Councillors before the next election.

The motion will provide clarity for the incoming Councillors concerning the views of constituents on this fundamental issue of community support and allow them to make informed decisions around how the Council positions itself to best serve the community.

The communities of Tumbarumba and Gundagai have fought and won the right to a Boundaries Commission review of their merged councils. The merged Council of Gundagai Cootamundra have unanimously resolved to support the demerger of their own Council.  Community members in the former Young, Harden and Boorowa Councils, and those in Guyra, Sydney’s Inner West, Holroyd and Northern beaches, among others, are all active in seeking to demerge.

The Local Government ACT 1993 -Section 14 states that “A Council may take a poll of electors for its information and guidance on any matter.”

The results of a poll are not binding but will provide our new Councillors with a current understanding of the views of the community.  Under the legislation the poll questions must be answered by a Yes or No. It is understood that a Council resolution is required by end of October to allow for the timing of the election processes.

There will be a minimum financial impact to Council if the poll is held in conjunction with the Council elections. This small financial impact is minor when compared to accumulated deficit over the last 5 years of more than $45 million dollars.

Residents and ratepayers must be allowed their say and Councillors should take note.

The Motion at an upcoming meeting could be as simple as “That Council conduct a poll concurrent with the December 2021 council elections and that the poll questions are:

Do you support the demerger of the former Young Council?  Yes No
Do you support the demerger of the former Harden Council? Yes No
Do you support the demerger of the former Boorowa Council? Yes No

It is easy for those involved in government to get stuck listening to their own rhetoric in their own echo chamber. An echo chamber refers to situations in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system and insulated from rebuttal.

It’s time the people got to have their say. If they think that we should demerge this Council, Councillors should be able to hear that voice via the statistics at the ballot box.

We haven’t been able to afford the forced merger over the last half decade, do the residents and ratepayers want to have another try and see for the next half decade?

If I run at the next election and am provided the opportunity to represent in local government, I hope we have a team that can be brought together through strong and collaborative leadership. Leadership that listens to the people who voted them in and a Council which is accountable for the outcomes they provide residents and ratepayers.

Councillor Matthew Stadtmiller