Coffs Harbour councillor Keith Rhoades
Coffs Harbour councillor Keith Rhoades Trevor Veale

Merger plan under debate

TWO Coffs Harbour councillors have questioned the State Government's plans to push ahead with its contentious forced council amalgamations.

The NSW Government's Fit for the Future reforms came under debate on Monday during a public meeting in Coffs Harbour hosted by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.

Coffs Harbour councillor Nan Cowling said she was worried that the process could force amalgamations if a determination found a council "unfit".

The main criteria the reforms will use to assess this fitness is "scale and capacity" and Cr Cowling said there was little consideration for what residents wanted.

"There are three options for council - we got it alone, we go to a joint organisation or the third option is a merger, and the general consensus is that nobody wants to merge," Cr Cowling said.

"I think what would happen is that services would be spread further."

Under the reforms, councils that decide to join forces with their neighbours would have additional State Government funding to provide services and facilities for their community.

Coffs Harbour councillor Keith Rhoades, however, cited last week's comments by the Minister for Local Government, Paul Toole, that the State Government was firmly committed to the reforms.

"It really does suggest that the whole process is simply tick-a-box, with the government firmly committed to diluting local democratic representation for purely ideological reasons," Cr Rhoades said.

Councils have until June 30 to make submissions.



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