Save and Grow Guyra (formerly the Guyra Anti Council Amalgamation) held its de-amalgamation meeting at 7pm in the Guyra Bowling Club on Thursday, November 15.
Save Our Councils Coalition campaigner and retired barrister Philip Jenkyn OAM spoke about how Guyra could successfully de-merge from Armidale Regional Council, and gave reasons why he thinks it was justified in Guyra’s case.
Gordon Youman thought well over 100 people attended the meeting and said they had been told from different quarters that it was going to be very hard to have Guyra Shire Council reinstated.
There is money there for the government to de-merge councils and to then pay for it.Gordon Youman
“Phil was able to point out how easy it is and how the government has got the funds there to pay for it,” he said.
“So this argument they’re putting up, that it’s going to cost ratepayers money and all this, is rubbish.”
Mr Youman said UNE studies had shown no evidence whatsoever that forced amalgamations worked, on the contrary, he said they had sent towns backwards.
“Barraba is a very, very good example. It was force merged in 2004 with devastating results on the community there,” he said.
Mr Youman said the future looked bleak for Guyra if the present merger continued, whereas a de-merger to put the shire back the way it was (including Tingha), would give Guyra back its autonomy.
Aberfoyle resident Simon Murray was also at the meeting and thought there was some misinformation being provided.
... I would also like them to look at what the long-term sustainability is ...Simon Murray
“Phil Jenkyn insinuated if the Labor Party was elected, then the government should pay for a de-merger,” he said.
“That to me is a bit of misinformation because there was a Labor Party representative there who didn’t give an indication that the Labor Party would support that.”
Mr Murray said Save And Grow was pushing people not to vote for the Coalition in next year’s election because it would not support a de-merger.
“They have a signed document from Luke Foley and Peter Primrose to say that if the Labor party was elected, then Guyra would be given the option of having a plebiscite to see if they want to de-merge,” he said.
“I will always stand by the fact that they have the right to do that. But I would also like them to look at what the long-term sustainability is for a council that’s only got three and a half thousand people.”
Labor candidate for New England Debra O’Brien said the meeting was divided between those affected by the amalgamation and those who wanted more information. She said she could not make funding promises from opposition.
So, they’ll be in a much better position to make an informed decision.Debra O'Brien
“But there are millions and millions of dollars put aside for the amalgamation of all those councils that didn’t end up amalgamating,” she said.
“I think if a Labor government was willing to support this, personally, I think they would have to support it all the way. So they would have to support them financially to de-amalgamate.
“It was forced upon them, so I think it’s their responsibility to give assistance.”
Ms O’Brien said after the issue went to the boundary commission it would become a local government election
“People then must be fully informed of the ramifications, if it’s going to cost more, if there’s anything about rates that might cost more,” she said.
“They may end up saying, ‘No, we don’t want to.’ But at least they’re given the opportunity to make a decision.”