"We're not planning a merger"

IN 2000 Bellingen Shire's general manger Mike Colreavy held the equivalent position at Nymboida Shire Council, where he oversaw the merger of his council with Ulmarra Shire Council to form the Pristine Waters Council.

“At the time seven councils were discussing the possibility of the creation of a Clarence Valley Council,” Mr Colreavy said.

“The idea was not viewed favourably by my council, and the merger with Ulmarra was a way to frustrate that larger merger.”

“Once the decision was made, I was appointed to make it happen.”

During his time as general manager at Muswellbrook Shire Council no merger occurred.

In spite of this history, rumours that Mr Colreavy has a hidden agenda to see Bellingen Shire amalgamated with Coffs Harbour persist.

Mr Colreavy describes them as nonsense.

“The majority of this council is committed to the shire maintaining its own separate identity. It's my job to deliver that.”

He cited the recent local government enquiry into water utility reforms where he advised the council that losing control of their water utilities would result in a loss of viability as an example.

“If one had an agenda, one would have stood back and not asserted this position.”

Another furphy being bandied about is the idea that the general manager's salary is tied to the amount of money spent on projects.

“There is no connection between my salary and the amount of expenditure or the number of employees. My remuneration was fixed under contract three years ago when I began my term. Increases have only reflected CPI.” Mr Colreavy said one would have to question the motives of someone putting 'that kind of mischief into the public arena'.

“It's not the first instance of misinformation being put out about the council,” he said.

“Occurring during an election year, it might be popular to say these things but in fact my contract extends to November 2009.”

Although funding options for the Raleigh Depot upgrade are still to be finalised, Mr Colreavy said having a highly publicised price tag ($2.6 million plus $400,000 for cost increases and work place interruptions over the two-year life of the project) was not a scenario that would see the council paying excessively for the job.

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