Council to oppose merger

MURRUMBIDGEE Shire Council will vehemently oppose a merger with Griffith City Council despite Griffith giving in-principle support for the amalgamation.

Council is in the process of preparing a submission to the Independent Local Government Review Panel, which released its final report suggesting Murrumbidgee and Carrathool shires merge with Griffith in January this year.

While Griffith mayor John Dal Broi has previously indicated his support for the merge, Murrumbidgee Shire mayor Phillip Wells said his community was fervently opposed to it.

"Our submission will be along the lines what was said in early community consultation," Cr Wells said.

"The community was very vocal about retaining the identity of Murrumbidgee Shire."

Cr Wells is also concerned about reports from the Department of Planning, which indicated the shire's population could drop to as low as 1300 by 2030 a decrease of at least 1000 people.

"Council does not believe these are realistic figures," Cr Wells said.

"Our population has decreased over the years, especially in the rural areas, but we believe our population will remain constant."

Residents were especially concerned that they would lose vital services if the councils amalgamated and Cr Wells said there was simply no need.

"We are in a very strong position to service the community at the present time," he said.

"Ratepayers are very adamant they wish to be serviced by the Murrumbidgee Shire and retain that council boundary.

"Over the years, council has been very responsible in the budgetary process we have been able to retain council-owned assets, upgrade the roads network and provide services at a very reasonable price."

Cr Dal Broi said while Griffith has not specifically endorsed the merger, council has moved to adopt the local government report, which recommended the amalgamation.

"There shall be no forced amalgamations," Cr Dal Broi said.

"Murrumbidgee and Carrathool shires have indicated they're not interested.

"I envision there will be more cooperation between various councils in various areas, even sharing staff members that the other councils can't justify employing for a 12 month period.

"We acknowledge that local government has to lift its game and do things better if we don't in the next few years, we could be looking at forced amalgamations."

The closing date for submissions is March 7.

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