JUST half-an-hour up the road from Armidale in Guyra, population 2000, there are growing rumblings of discontent.
The two towns were forced to merge in 2016 under the state government's Fit for the Future reforms and since then, Guyra's Anti-Council Amalgamation Group, ANTY, has looked for a way out.
The group plans to make a submission to Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock to create a new local government area after a tug-of-war three years ago saw Tingha moved into Inverell's LGA.
A separation of the council area would allow Guyra to acquire land with better rates, which it can later use to convince Ms Hancock of its viability to stand alone as a council, ANTY member Rob Lenehan said.
"Tingha was actually a cost-burden on the council so we have an advantage there in that we can prove viability," he said.
"[The merger] has been an absolute debacle and a complete failure, we have always said that in the Guyra area and we fought tooth-and-nail to avoid amalgamation to remain as an autonomous Guyra Shire Council.
"We were completely ignored on all of that and forced down the hill to Armidale."
Armidale Regional Council (ARC) was rated in the top 10 worst-performing merged councils in the state in 2020, in an independent report by LSI Consulting.
The report shows it accumulated financial losses year-on-year since the 2016 merger between the old Armidale Dumaresq and Guyra Shire councils.
The council was suspended for six months after fighting broke out between councillors and has been under administration twice in four years.
At this stage the proposal isn't to demerge, just to change the LGA boundaries, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said.
"There is no 'push to demerge' and any submission of a proposal must be made to the minister, not to the Boundaries Commission, who has discretion as to whether to refer it to the commission for consideration," he said.
"I fully support the Guyra community, and will do everything I possibly can, to ensure that any properly formulated proposal put to the minister by the community is referred to the Boundaries Commission for a full, rigorous and independent assessment.
"Everyone deserves to be heard and have their 'day in court' and this proposal should be given its due consideration in my view."
Mr Marshall said the commission would make its own assessment of whether the proposal "stacks up".
"We'll all have to accept the umpire's decision, but the proposal should definitely be referred and I will be urging the minister, upon receipt of the proposal, to exercise her discretion and refer it to the commission for proper consideration and scrutiny," he said.
Even if the change was considered it would take months beyond the September council elections to be decided.
It's the first Armidale mayor Ian Tiley had heard of the proposal.
"I'm not aware of the particulars of the matter and the council hasn't discussed it," he said.
"I think in many respects Guyra has achieved more since the merger, for example it secured 25 per cent of the $9 million merger fund with a sixth of the population.
"I have been out on eight councillor tours and the request to demerge wasn't raised at any of those meetings - the anti-merger group has been around since the amalgamation and in my view they are a small minority of the people of Guyra."
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