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January update on proposal to split Palerang between Queanbeyan and Goulburn

Palerang office

• Palerang shelves its special rate variation

• Proposes that if a merger must happen, go wholesale with Queanbeyan

• Queanbeyan councillor asks where are the state members in all this

The late December unheralded NSW government proposal (Merry Christmas) to split Palerang between Queanbeyan and Goulburn – roughly on an east/ west divide with some bizarre boundary lines has gathered  resistance during January,  particularly from Palerang Council.

This is not surprising since Palerang as an entity would cease to exist under this proposal and no-one knows what the financials, ie. costs and benefits, will look like for any of the affected councils or their ratepayers.

During a series of council ‘extraordinary’ meetings since NSW delivered its pre-Christmas  bombshell, Palerang councillors resolved to shelve the special rate variation that has been the official message to ratepayers as the only way to be able to ‘stand alone’.

(Bombshell because, as councillors have pointed out, a boundary division was explicitly ruled out by the state authorities during the time-consuming and goal-post shifting ‘Fit for the Future’ exercise local councils were obliged to undertake in 2015).

Palerang Council also resolved that if it cannot have its preferred position to stand alone, it proposes to go as a whole entity with Queanbeyan. This is now the counter proposal that may go, if the Minister forwards it, before the state’s two ‘delegates’ charged with reviewing  the  boundary change proposal, ( ie one looking at the Goulburn proposal and one looking at Queanbeyan) .

At yet another extraordinary meeting (more of which will follow on February 11 and 26th) Palerang also resolved to workshop with Queanbeyan and Goulburn for a common response, and partner with Goulburn Mulwaree Council on a survey of the areas affected by their end of the proposal. “Showing some leadership” was how councillor Belinda Hogarth-Boyd put it. She joined Peter Marshall to put up this pro-active motion.

Also rankling some Palerang councillors is the perceived lack of visibility or advocacy by state representatives Pru Goward (Goulburn Mulwaree) and John Barilaro (Monaro), except possibly for a party political preferred outcome. Many observers suspect the state merger proposals to be more along these lines than about saving local ratepayers money. Palerang has resolved to seek meetings with both members at the earliest opportunity.

Queanbeyan  still to decide support either boundary split or full merger proposals

At the time this was posted, Queanbeyan had not yet had a council meeting to respond to any of this.  Unofficially a number of councillors have told the Bulletin they fear that rate increases will be the inevitable upshot for Queanbeyan residents to help service Palerang infrastructure. Conversely, Palerang councillors have noted that Palerang residents would be paying for expensive and controversial projects like the proposed Ellerton Drive road extension, or the necessary Queanbeyan sewerage upgrade.

Several Queanbeyan councillors were in the gallery at the last Palerang extraordinary meeting and Councillor Kenrick Winchester spoke. He is one of the majority on Queanbeyan Council that last voted to stand alone and reject the idea of a partial boundary division as championed by Mayor Tim Overall and his supporters on council.

As we reported last month, the state’s ‘bombshell’ nevertheless gave the Overall faction exactly what they had been asking for – the western (richer in rating terms) residential areas of Palerang, with impact on jobs and services unclear.  A perception of backroom discussions with local state member John Barilaro was mentioned by a number of Queanbeyan councillors.

Winchester told the Palerang  council meeting:  “I personally would be happy to attend a joint meeting of the three councils and I certainly hope that Mr Barilaro and Ms Goward attend said meetings, so that they can explain exactly how the proposed borders were developed, explain when the perplexing decision to split Palerang was made, and advise whether they will represent the interests of their communities or their political parties when final decisions are made,” he said.

Councils unable to verify economic benefits so far: summing up the Palerang, Queanbeyan and Goulburn dilemma

Palerang councillor Richard Graham (who can apply a strong business background to analysing a business case) told some constituents:

“There are no material benefits for Palerang residents from the state’s proposals, aside from grants the state has offered to give to merged councils which could just as well be granted to non-merged councils but for the state’s political agenda.

“My view and that of many others is that the current state government’s agenda is to shrink local government representation.  While the state’s proposals make many grand claims about economic benefits for ratepayers, no affected council has been able to independently substantiate them. In addition, the state has not offered detailed material that would substantiate their claims either, despite that being requested by all councils on behalf of their residents.

“Residents are now looking beyond the state’s ‘fit for the future’ hype and asking their State Members (Ms Pru Goward and Mr John Barilaro) in writing to substantiate their Premier’s and Local Government Minister’s advantage claims with real and independent substantiation, and if not, why not.

“How does merging Palerang’s rates into what the state claims are two “unfit” local government areas  (Queanbeyan and Goulburn) bring better outcomes to Palerang? Will those LGAs find money from thin-air to improved our roads, our pools, our bridges? Will their [Queanbeyan and Goulburn] ratepayers volunteer to go with less so Palerang residents can have more for their assets and services?  That’s ludicrous.

“No. The reality of these mergers will be Less For Everyone as the state’s proven track record of ‘cost shifting’ their obligations onto local government to be paid for from local rates, will be easier to do, and have less local resistance.

“It needs to be understood, that without clear and unambiguous directions by residents in this very important matter to the contrary, the state will devolve and dissolve your shire into the Queanbeyan and Goulburn urban centres.”

Upcoming opportunities to make your voice heard: need to register

Find links below to the specific pages for the two proposals and registration details at the bottom of pages to speak to the delegates.  You can also register to attend or speak at the meetings via telephone – 1300 813 020 and if you want to take a holistic view you must speak to both delegates.

Public Inquiry Registration

Council Boundary Review: Goulburn Mulwaree and Palerang* councils

Residents and organisations can make also written submissions to the delegates.  Deadline for all written submissions is 28 February 2016

Public Meetings with delegates
Regarding Palerang – Goulburn Merger Proposal

Braidwood Services Club
Tuesday, 9 February 2016
9:00am – 12 Noon
Corner Coronation Ave and Victory St
Braidwood NSW 2622

Goulburn Golf Club
Tuesday, 9 February 2016
2:00pm – 6:00pm
Blackshaw Rd
Goulburn NSW 2580

Public Meetings with delegates
Regarding Palerang – Queanbeyan Merger Proposal

Braidwood Services Club
Thursday, 11 February 2016
1:00pm – 4:00pm
Corner Coronation Ave and Victory St
Braidwood NSW 2262

Comfort Inn Airport International
Thursday, 11 February 2016
7:00pm – 10:00pm
57-73 Yass Road
Queanbeyan NSW 2620

One thought on “January update on proposal to split Palerang between Queanbeyan and Goulburn

  1. “This is now the counter proposal before the state’s two ‘delegates’ charged with reviewing the boundary change proposal, ( ie one looking at the Goulburn proposal and one looking at Queanbeyan) .”

    Not quite – to my knowledge, the full merger Proposal is still with the Minister. It is up to him to send it one or both Delegates, or another Delegate, or the Boundaries Commission. Again, to my knowledge, he has not done so at time of writing. Frankly, I don’t expect him to. He may will just sit on it until it becomes irrelevant.

    Of course it may have happened and Councillors may not have been informed…

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