Merger to be reviewed in 2017

THE PROPOSED amalgamation of Queanbeyan City and Palerang Councils will not happen in the immediate short term future.

The NSW Independent Local Government Review Panel will review their suggestion that the two councils merge in 2017. The panel's report is currently with the Minister for Local Government Don Page.

The panel has previously recommended the two councils amalgamate resulting in an expanded Queanbeyan-region LGA responsible for some 88,100 people by 2036. It would cover an area stretching from the ACT border in the west to Braidwood and Nerriga in the east.

Queanbeyan City Council recently a carried a motion stating they would enter negotiations with Palerang Council to ensure a seamless transition once a decision is made.

Mayor Tim Overall said he was neither opposed nor in favour of the possible amalgamation.

"My position is in line with that which council resolved, in that I don't have a strong view either way," he said.

"I've publicly said before that across NSW, in my view, there needs to be radical reform to improve efficiency and effectiveness across the board."

Following a presentation from a member of the public at the ordinary council meeting in March, the council also agreed to hold a public forum if the amalgamation goes ahead. The Panel received nine submissions from the public during the consultation period with eight respondents against the amalgamation of Palerang with Queanbeyan and one who supported it.

Palerang mayor Pete Harrison was in favour of the panel's decision to revisit the merger proposal in 2017. He said Palerang Council were not currently supportive of an amalgamation believing that they can still work efficiently as a standalone council.

"To be perfectly honest we'll do what we have to do. We were never fighting against amalgamation but never supporting it. We felt we could do a better job and represent our constituents better if we didn't amalgamate," he said.

"The situation that we have in Palerang is that we have a very diverse demographic out here. It's quite different to the demographic in Queanbeyan.

"We also have a population differential so that were you to merge the two - the Palerang population, which I maintain probably has five demographic groups - would be represented by one or at most two councillors."

Both mayors were supportive of strengthening the network of councils on a regional level with the establishment of Regional Joint Organisations.

They also both believed the panel should recognise the unique cross-border relationship between the ACT and the councils that surround it.

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