A peak body of Queensland ratepayers groups (QLGRA) has expressed strong support for Rob Pyne’s call for a corruption inquiry into Queensland Regional Councils. “The LGAQ would do well to stop the personal attack on Rob. He has taken up a courageous fight. His call stands as a warning to any government failing to address the state of local government in Queensland”: QLGRA spokesperson Colin Hewett said today. Click on the link below to read the release
Sydney Morning Herald article of 18 December 2015 tells us that NSW Premier, Mike Baird has staked his political authority on a radical overhaul of the state’s councils, but the Premier is already facing headwinds from opponents within parliament and across councils.
More than a quarter of NSW’s 152 councils would be cut – most of them in Sydney – under long-awaited plans unveiled by the state government on Friday. To hear the interview and read article click on the link below…….
16th Apr 2015 5:00 AM
Clifford Thomas presents a petition to Member for Maryborough Bruce Saunders calling for de-amalgamation of Fraser Coast Regional Council.- Alistair Brightman
- Mayor says de-amalgamation is dead but residents press on
- Almost 80% of online voters want to de-amalgamate
- Council accused of not doing anything for M’boro
A PETITION to de-amalgamate the Fraser Coast Regional Council by having Maryborough, Woocoo and Tiaro form its own council, leaving Hervey Bay on its own, has been handed to State member for Maryborough Bruce Saunders.
The petition has been signed by more than 8500 people who believe not enough is being done for the region outside Hervey Bay.
Mr Saunders said the petition represented an important aspect of democracy, allowing people to be heard.
But he felt that the cost of de-amalgamating the Fraser Coast Regional Council might prove prohibitive, saying it could reach up to $25 million.
Clifford Thomas, who presented the petition, questioned the suggested $25 million price tag of de-amalgamating, saying it had cost the Noosa Shire Council $2.62 million to do so.
He said trying to work out the cost of de-amalgamation would be irrelevant until a Transition Committee put a figure on it.
Mr Thomas said Maryborough, Tiaro and Woocoo residents were concerned about having to pay for projects centric to Hervey Bay, including the Hervey Bay CBD renewal, Nikenbah sports precinct and a function centre.
But Fraser Coast Mayor Gerard O’Connell said it was Maryborough and the outlying areas that were benefiting from amalgamation as, thanks to greater economies of scale, it meant bigger projects and more work could be carried out in areas across the Fraser Coast.
Petition To: The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, The petition of residents of the State of Queensland draws to the attention of the House that the recent forced amalgamation of the Maryborough Region to Hervey Bay has failed. Rural and tourism towns are never going to gel. Neighbouring rural towns Gympie and Bundaberg are surging to prosperity while Maryborough is slowly dying. Our Councillors are unable to represent the people because of the large areas they have to cover. Your petitioners therefore request the House to De-amalgamate Maryborough Region from Fraser Coast Regional Council to Maryborough Regional Council and Hervey Bay Council, run as two separate entities. Principal petitioner: Clifford Thomas 82 John St., 4650.
ABC News item reproduced in full below. … Editor
Perth council amalgamation process ‘on hold’ as Premier concedes reform agenda failed
Plans to almost halve the number of local government authorities in Perth have been put on hold for the foreseeable future, Western Australia’s Premier has conceded.
The WA Government was trying to cut the number of metropolitan councils from 30 to 16 as part of a policy more than six years in the making to overhaul the sector.
But with the WA Local Government Association (WALGA) yesterday withdrawing its support for the reforms and a poll at the weekend rejecting amalgamation plans, the Premier this morning said he had “run up the white flag” on the issue.
Minutes before walking into a party room meeting in Busselton, the Premier appeared exasperated by recent developments.
The system is broken. It does not work. It does not work. So very difficult to get sensible reform.WA Premier Colin Barnett
Mr Barnett said the weekend rejection of three amalgamations was a clear message from ratepayers and he had now put the entire process “on hold” for the foreseeable future.
“I don’t think local government is capable of reforming itself. I formed that view over the weekend. They are not capable of reform,” he said.
“I’ve spent an enormous amount of time and effort on this, as has the minister, as has various government departments.”
He said despite extensive consultation and engagement with councils, mayors and councillors, the process had ended in chaos.
“The system is broken. It does not work. It does not work. So very difficult to get sensible reform,” he said.
“Then, of course, you had situations where you had mayors and councillors supporting it one minute and opposing the next minute.
“So it became a shambles. It became a shambles. I accept responsibility but I don’t think I deserve the blame.”
The Premier this morning also cast doubt on whether the State Government would reimburse councils for the costs associated with preparing for amalgamation or boundary changes.
Kwinana and Cockburn city councils said the failed process cost them millions, and have indicated they will write to the Premier seeking compensation.
But the Premier indicated where councils had spent money opposing the reforms, the Government was unlikely to help.
“One shire spent money on a ‘no’ campaign. Another shire or council spent money on going to the Supreme Court,” he said.
“That’s to the account of those mayors. They are responsible for that money they spent.”
Mr Barnett said the Government would work with individual councils who wished to amalgamate on a case-by-case basis, but that no council would be forced to change.
He said his priority remained the drafting and passage of legislation to create the City of Perth as a true capital city precinct, with control of the major institutions of the state such as the QEII Medical Centre and the University of WA.
Earlier plans to amalgamate the cities of Perth and Vincent now appear doomed, with the two authorities failing to reach agreement on elements of the proposal.
WA Nationals, Labor and the Greens are all vowing to block the legislation in the Upper House.
Premier must apologise for ‘trainwreck’ policy: Opposition
State Opposition Leader Mark McGowan described the policy as a “trainwreck” that had cost ratepayers tens of millions of dollars without achieving an outcome.
“I expect they’re going to pursue the State Government, and it’s very unfortunate taxpayers look like picking up the bill that Mr Barnett and the Liberal Party have forced on them,” he said.
“They need to come out and apologise for what they’ve done to the people of Western Australia and pull back from further forced amalgamations.
“The message was overwhelming. We don’t like your plan, we don’t like being rode roughshod over and we expect local democracy.”
He reiterated calls for all councils to be allowed a referendum on any future amalgamations.
He also said Barnett had to pull back from forcibly amalgamating the City of Vincent with the City of Perth.
“Anything in which a council is abolished without the opportunity for a referendum, I’m opposed to,” he said.
Councils laud ‘voice of the people’ in merger backdown
Kalamunda Shire president Sue Bilich welcomed the Government’s shift.
“Finally we’ve been heard. The voice of the people is very powerful and when you try and suppress that, this is the outcome,” she said.
“I really think it’s wise that these Governor’s orders are rescinded and then he just goes back, and starts again years, years later.
“We’ve heard nothing but statements from the Local Government Minister and the Premier since day dot. We want to see it in the writing, we want to be assured that those Governor’s orders will be rescinded and when.”
City of Belmont Mayor Phil Marks said people were clearly interested in their local governments.
“Unless you are willing to override the people and a make a fool of the people, and the council, then you should stop,” he said.
“Until he can actually get legislation through the Parliament that enables the process then you always are going to have this type of unfair situation arise”.
Your Alliance contacted all known candidates in the forthcoming State election seeking their views on forced Council amalgamations. Responses have been received from some candidates across 27 electorates and collated into one document – click on the link below to check the views of the candidates from your electorate.
The Queensland ALP Policy Platform 2014, adopted at their recent State conference is the policy blue print for the upcoming State Election (31st January 2015).
Pages 64 – 67 sets out Labor’s policy on Local Government, in particular paragraphs 7.123, 7.124, 7.129, 7.130, 7.137, 7.139 and 7.146 are very interesting!
The document can be accessed by clicking on this link http://www.queenslandlabor.org/policy
This article was released to inform candidates in the January 2015 State election of successive State governments refusal to listen to the people regarding the need to address the damage caused by the 2008 forced council amalgamations.
In the leadup to the State election SOS and all members of QLGRA believe all Candidates need to clearly state their position on the forced amalgamations of councils and the subsequent problems that have arisen. The letter below has been sent to all candidates to give them an opportunity to do this and with your assistance to advise the public of the results.
In the 2007 plebiscite, a majority of enrolled voters in most of the ‘to be’ amalgamated councils in Queensland including both Warwick and Stanthorpe Shires voted overwhelmingly against the forced amalgamations of their councils. They knew that facts showed council amalgamations in Australia and elsewhere did not achieve sustainability, and resulted in diseconomies, higher costs and debt. Prior to April/May 2007, Queensland law required that voters should have a referendum on council amalgamations. Had the Beattie government not removed this provision from the act, we would have had a compulsory vote. The Government would have been compelled to obey the wishes of the majority! Morally whether it was a plebiscite or a referendum, the Queensland Government owed it to all those people in all those shires to obey their will. The Labor Government did not think so, and in 2008 amalgamated 156 local government councils into 73, more than halving community representation. This was the greatest onslaught on democracy and regional representation in the history of Australia and a travesty of democracy.
So then the LNP, God bless them, offered to let us de-amalgamate if they came to power , an opportunity to regain Local democracy. BUT what did they do in 2012? A new inexperienced minister devised a process that many believe was designed to fail; most submissions put to him in August 2012, all very professional, were marked ‘FAILED’. As a consequence in February 2013, SOS held in Stanthorpe a L G Reform Forum: ‘Re-empowering Communities’. People from across Qld heard from top Australian and International Local Government experts that in general such amalgamations do not work. Out of this, the State wide lobby group, the QLGRA, was formed.
QLGRA has since spent considerable time and energy trying to convince the Minister and the Premier that there is a democratic case for citizens to say how their Local government should be constituted, or to at least have an independent inquiry or review into the forced amalgamations. The Minister continues to espouse that “there will be no more de-amalgamations” in the hope that we will go away. We cannot go away as no one has yet explained to us why there can be no more. The Premier continues to voice his opinion that ‘he would prefer councils to remain constituted as they are because he does not want to put the people through more pain’. Ratepayers in Queensland are going through more pain now because of amalgamations. We know that the true costs of demerger will not be high – nowhere near the inflated Treasury and DLG estimates. We know that the extra costs incurred by amalgamations are costing ratepayers and are ongoing and increasing, and that Local government indebtedness has doubled since 2007 and will increase 10 fold by 2020. Communities are hurting financially and socially beyond their ability to cope while Councillor and senior staff costs seem excessive. Governments have cut back grants and subsidies traditionally available for roads, bridges, sewerage and water. This places an enormous burden on councils to service community on the State’s behalf. Hence community suffers by above cpi increases in Rates and Charges to deliver those services. The remainder of costs is paid for by increasing debt on which interest servicing becomes an extra cost.
The State government controls council boundary changes, amalgamations, de-amalgamations and referenda. Hence it is important that everybody knows where each candidate [and their parties] stand on these issues.
Save Our Shires, the Voice of Ratepayers and Residents Stanthorpe