Council won’t support amalgamations

Cessnock City Council will not support amalgamations with any surrounding councils.

The NSW Government’s Independent Review of Local Government, and recent votes for four Queensland ‘super council’s to de-amalgamate, led Cr. James Ryan to raise the issue of amalgamation at last Wednesday night’s council meeting.

Cr. Ryan said he was pleased that council opposed the idea.

“Cessnock has its own unique character and proud history,” he said.

“We should be very protective of our local democracy and the ability of residents to participate and talk to their local councillor.

“There is no evidence that larger councils are more efficient than smaller councils.  We are generally very good at sharing resources with other Councils, sharing tendering for large expenditure items and sharing of services.

“Cessnock’s vote will send a clear message to the O’Farrell Government that he should think twice before breaking an election promise to return power to local communities.

“I was moved to bring this debate on in Cessnock as a result of the overwhelming vote in Queensland (on Saturday, March 9) for eight councils to de-amalgamate.

“Governments who try to amalgamate councils do so at their peril.

“Local councils may not be perfect but we do serve our local community and we are accessible,” Cr. Ryan said.

Deputy Mayor Graham Smith successfully moved an amendment that while council does not support forced amalgamations, it would support voluntary boundary adjustments if they are “in the best interest of the community for more effective use of council resources”.

“I acknowledge that there are anomalies along our borders such as in Branxton and Pokolbin. These should not be ruled out from being considered in the future, but this should be done through negotiation rather than from on high in Sydney,” Cr. Smith said.

Cr. Smith also moved support for Hunter Councils to further shared services across the region, and for the Mayor to seek the united support of Hunter Councils in opposing forced amalgamations.

“We need a unified campaign against this proposal,” Cr. Smith said.

“The towns and cities in the Hunter are too diverse to be successfully amalgamated.  We can get all the benefits of cost reduction and pooling resources through co-operation with each other and strengthening Hunter Councils, without the social dislocation of local government no longer being local but run from many, many kilometres away.”

Mayor Bob Pynsent said he was more than happy to lead the charge in the Hunter to oppose any forced amalgamations.

“I will lobby hard at the next Hunter Councils meeting to see that we have a unified voice in opposing any proposal from Sydney to amalgamate councils in the Hunter,” Cr. Pynsent said.

“The State Government went to the last election ruling out forced amalgamations and we are just holding them to their election promises.”

About 20 animal rescue supporters were in the gallery as Cessnock City Council voted to write to the RSPCA NSW regarding the use of animal rescue groups and kill rates of animals from the Cessnock local government area.

Cr. James Ryan’s motion also asked council for a report before June 30 regarding the answers provided by the RSPCA and how council is meeting its obligations.

The Society of Companion Animal Rescuers (SoCares) approached Cr. Ryan to raise the issue at council as it was aware that the RSPCA was not using animal rescue groups.

Under the Companion Animals Act 1998, councils are obliged to consider whether there is alternative action to that of destroying an animal.

A condition of council’s agreement with the RSPCA in July 2011 was that the RSPCA consider the involvement of animal rescue groups to assist in the rehoming of animals.