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Canberra Today 14°/16° | Wednesday, October 20, 2021 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Back to the future: Greens councillor moves to unwind QPRC

GREENS councillor Peter Marshall is seeking council support to start unwinding the Queanbeyan-Palerang Council with a poll in the December local government elections.
Greens councillor Peter Marshall.

He has put a motion before the next meeting of the council on Wednesday (September 22) that it “take a poll of electors on the question of whether the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council local government area should be de-amalgamated, so as to restore the former local government areas of Queanbeyan City and Palerang.”

The Queanbeyan City and Palerang Councils were controversially merged in May, 2016, when the NSW government sought to reduce the number of councils across the state to 19 with the creation of larger super council areas.

Under the leadership of mayor Tim Overall, the Queanbeyan-Palerang merger was seen to have set the standard for the state.

However, with regional murmurs of discontent that Bungendore and Braidwood are in lockdown because of the covid cases in Queanbeyan, some residents believed something like Cr Marshall’s move was bound to happen.

The councillor argues that the merger was against the wishes of the voters.

“Polls at the time suggested that the majority of voters favoured retaining the two distinct councils, although there was some interest in boundary adjustments. The two councils were merged with no change in boundaries,” he says.

“Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council is struggling financially. More than five years on, the promised savings from the merger have failed to materialise. The methodology by which the claimed savings were predicted by the NSW government remains a closely guarded secret.

“In 2020-21 and projected for 2021-22, QPRC is running a substantial deficit. Council is considering numerous ways to address these deficits in the future, including special rate variations of a variety of different forms (‘Environmental Levy’, ‘Infrastructure Levy’, increases in rates attributed to population increase… dividends from the water and sewer funds, and cuts to services. Ratepayers will look in vain for any genuine consideration of their ability to pay increased rates and charges.

In May 2016, then Premier Mike Baird is quoted as saying: “But I’m pretty clear, I think having smaller head offices and more money that goes towards childcare, parks, sporting facilities, frontline services, I think that’s a great thing for the state.”

“QPRC is still waiting for its share of the $2 billion in savings over 20 years, or $100 million per year across 19 new councils,” says Mr Marshall.

“A poll held at the same time as a council election is not binding. It simply gives the elected council an indication of the sentiment of voters. The newly elected council will need to decide what, if any, action to take if the voters favour demerger – take no action, proceed towards a demerger, or proceed towards boundary adjustments.”

 

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