26 January 2017
Last Friday, welcome news came through that the Nationals, under new leader and Deputy Premier of NSW, John Barilaro, had decided to get tough with the NSW Liberals – calling off support for forced council mergers.
Declaring 12 regional councils (including Cabonne, Blayney and Orange) would not be forced into merging – the tough new Deputy Premier from the equally tough Monaro region suggested that when parliament returns this year the Nationals change of mind regarding council mergers would be one of the “first orders of business”.
The NSW Nationals have publicly spilt with Coalition partners, the Liberals, over the politically toxic issue of forced council mergers. It came just a day after former Premier Mike Baird announced his resignation.
“The policy of local government amalgamations has impacted 20 councils, 12 of which are in regional NSW causing uncertainty and anger, and others are locked in costly legal action – that all stops today” said Barilaro last Friday.
If agreed to by the NSW Cabinet, it will lead to a reversal of the policy.
The future of Local Government Minister Paul Toole in this portfolio would also be in doubt.
Both Toole and fellow National, Troy Grant, strongly defended Baird’s stance on forced council mergers and greyhound racing bans, ultimately leading to the Nationals losing the seat of Orange to the Shooters, Fishers & Farmers Party and Grant, his position as Nationals leader and Deputy leader.