NSW’s peak body for councils has called for a commitment that the process of determining council boundaries “remains independent, unbiased, and uninfluenced by political opinion” following the NSW Government’s announcement of a review into the Local Government Boundaries Commission.
The review follows the NSW Government’s ruling that the demerger of Snowy Valley Council and the Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council, both proposed by their local communities and reviewed by the Commission, will not proceed.
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) President, Linda Scott said the NSW Government must ensure that any review of the Commission must not reduce its independence.
“Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock says the review is being conducted because the Commission’s final recommendations on the latest demerger proposals were conflicted,” Cr Scott said.
“However, more than four years after the forced amalgamations, communities remain conflicted about the benefits or otherwise of being forced together.
“The Local Government Boundaries Commission provides an essential service advising the Local Government Minister on boundary issues and is designed to ensure these communities have their say.
“The boundary commissioners, made up of local and State government representatives, give 100 per cent to their role and act with honour, integrity and decency in all the work they undertake.
“Any review into the processes of the Commission must not threaten its ability to provide frank and fearless advice and not defang this important independent body.”
Cr Scott said local government was the closest form of government to its community and a vital source of local leadership, and that local communities did not want their ability to govern in the interest of residents threatened by forced mergers.
“You only have to look at the level of passion surrounding the most recent calls to demerger in Snowy Valley and Cootamundra-Gundagai to realise how important this issue is, no matter what side of the fence you fall in on the issue,” she said.
“Boundary reviews are so important to local communities and are about more than what is most expedient. They are complex issues because they go to the heart of a community’s identity, a council’s ability to provide local leadership and rulings have lasting impact.”
Cr Scott said she would be writing to Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock seeking a commitment that the local government sector would be involved in any review process.
“I will also be asking to Minister for an assurance that the review process will not jeopardise the Commission’s ongoing role as an independent umpire in local government area boundary decisions,” she said.