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To amalgamate or not?

And let’s think creatively about economic development

Public meetings were held at the end of May in Braidwood and Bungendore regarding the state government’s Fit for the Future review of the long-term viability of councils.

 

Under this program, Palerang and Queanbeyan had been earmarked for a possible amalgamation.

 

Local government amalgamations are, of course, not new. In 2004 Tallaganda and Yarrowlumla Shires ceased to exist when they were merged and amalgamated with parts of Cooma-Monaro, Mulwarree and Gunning to form Palerang.

 

Unsurprisingly, a ‘gut feeling’ in far-spread Palerang (prior to community consultation) is that there is general opposition to amalgamation. An online discussion among Braidwood residents elicited comments such as:

 

“When a Shire Council becomes larger, people easily become invisible in the new administrative and logistical structure. Simply having a shire office a great distance away from the centre of [one’s] town can even be a major problem, disallowing some people from being able to participate in local government.”

“I am definitely against party politics in local councils… For Councils it is about local matters. We get enough centralised thinking (or one solution fits all) at state and federal level.”

 

A brochure recently distributed by Palerang Council to local residents indicated that the council’s preferred position is not to amalgamate. Similarly Queanbeyan Council is not enthusiastic and a merger would not add to ‘fitness’ (as reported in the May Bulletin cover story).

 

Palerang’s brochure states that its financial position, as assessed under the Fit for the Future program, is ‘moderate’, defined as, “as good as, or better than 75% of NSW councils”.

 

 

Council, here are some ideas for kick starting the Palerang economy

Palerang Council in its brochure seeks input from residents about how to kick start and maintain economic growth in the region.

 

A public meeting in Braidwood on 16 June will discuss the future of the Braidwood and Villages Tourism Association and how to market Braidwood as a destination rather than pie stop on the way to the coast. One suggestion already being thrown around is a caravan park in or nearby the town.

 

A recreational rail trail feasibility study has raised a fair bit of interest on the Bungendore Captains Flat side area.

 

There are numerous opportunities in such a large shire to become a model of sustainability. Sustainable farming demonstrations, renewable energy, transition towns, farmers markets, wildlife sanctuaries and eco-tourism are just some areas.

 

Council could encourage residents through incentives to adopt sustainable practices in water conservation, more waste minimisation and sustainable housing rather than throwing up the usual range of obstacles that faces anyone doing anything ‘unusual’.

 

Rather than agonising about economic growth, Palerang could become a sustainable local government and let economic growth follow.

With  Robin Tennant- Wood

 

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