FORCED mergers aren’t all they are cracked up to be, a University of New England report finds.
The Clarence Valley, on the NSW Mid North Coast is far worse off financially – one of the only 19 mergers to go ahead after the NSW government abandoned the controversial process.
“We have had forced amalgamations across Australia, with the exception of Western Australia, and in every local government jurisdiction the financial claims just don’t stack up,” UNE Centre for Local Government professor Brian Dollery said.
“State governments commonly say it will lead to improved financial sustainability and lower rates for ratepayers, but bigger doesn’t mean cheaper, better or more efficient.”
It’s the point Guyra Amalgamation No Thank You members Rob Lenehan and Gordon Youman have been since the merger of Armidale Dumaresq and Guyra Shire Councils.
“We are not anti in the sense of being against everything – we’ve been stating this right from the start, even before the merger took place,” Mr Youman said.
“We’ve been saying it does not work, there is no evidence it works.”
The group has been campaigning to have Armidale Regional Council de-amalgamated.
Gordon Youman said there weren’t enough residents questioning the motives of the state government.
“They’ve got their heads stuck in the sand just like a mob of ostriches,” he said.
In the 2004 Clarence Valley merger of Copmanhurst, Maclean, Pristine Waters and Grafton shire councils was compared to 11 similar councils in the study.
It found that a decade down the track, Clarence Valley Council was in far worse financial shape than many of its peers.
Guyra ANTY member Rob Lenehan said he felt it was evidence bigger isn’t always better.
“Whether there’s another agenda there or not I don’t know,” he said.
“The effect it’s had on rural communities and how divisive it’s been – you cannot get away from that.
“It’s ripped the guts out of communities.”