Regional local council mergers on hold
COFFS Harbour City Council has been temporarily declared safe from forced amalgamations after a meeting today between NSW Premier Mike Baird and all state mayors, lord mayors and council general managers.
Surrounding councils, including Bellingen, Nambucca Heads, Clarence Valley, Kempsey, Port Macquarie and Greater Taree, are also safe for now.
Regional councils will be reduced from 109 to 87, with 20 new councils to be created by merging the 42 councils.
The Premier said the amalgamations would provide about $2 billion in savings across 20 years.
Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight said she hoped the councils would see the full benefit of the savings.
"We would hope and expect more funding coming down from the Federal and the State government," Cr Knight said.
Cr Knight said no time frame had been confirmed for the regional council mergers.
She also said next year's local government elections 'are in the wind' with elections pushed back to a proposed date of March 2017.
The delay, Cr Knight said, leaves local council members in limbo about their ability or inability to be re-elected.
"It is difficult because as an elected member you do sign up for the four years ... so for a lot of mayors and councillors that actually don't want to run again it's going to make it quiet difficult," she said.
After four years of amalgamation talks, President of the Local Government Association Cr Keith Rhoades, of Coffs Harbour City Council, said he's pleased with today's outcome.
"I think common sense has prevailed, I'm sure that the government would of liked to have gone further but there's been some very nervous government MPs out there how have been very nervous about their own electorate," Cr Rhoades said.
"There are forced amalgamations going to happen, the councils will not be dismissed, administrators will not be appointed and councils will be able to get on with their daily business as usual."