26 January 2017
By Paul Mullins
Consider this. Regional Councils, their staff and citizens have been put through years of work and angst over the threat of forced mergers.
All because, as it is now apparent, that such was the authority and determination of Former Premier Mike Baird for his amalgamation agenda that no one in Cabinet was prepared to speak up against it.
• No forced amalgamations was a Coalition promise before the election;
• By the Government’s very own merger criteria Cabonne, Orange and Blayney were found to be financally sound and “fit for the future”.
• All three Councils stated that they wished to remain as is.
• Standing behind a still secret but patently flawed KPMG report and just as flawed public inquiries, Baird’s Sydney centric Government used the black-letter-law process to ignore its regional citizens.
• Despite an assessment by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal that council mergers could save $2 billion over 20 years — a figure embarrassingly thin when spread across the State — the case for mergers has always been on shaky ground and clearly a political “big government” ideology.
The people were affronted that they had been forced to accept mergers – by a government, and its National party members – who they saw as taking away their right to be heard, and ignoring them when they spoke out – on basic issues that they cared for.
In regional NSW, Nationals heartland, the anger was intense and widespread right from the start.
The Nationals paid a heavy price for seemingly going along with – even strongly defending – ideological policies such as greyhound bans and council mergers.
It made no sense then. It makes no sense now.