Never has so little time meant so much to the people of Tumbarumba, who are hellbent on getting their shire back.
With just three weeks remaining until the public inquiry into the demerger proposal affecting Snowy Valleys Council, the call has echoed far and wide for residents to not only make a submission but be heard when November 3-5 rolls around.
The NSW Local Government Boundaries Commission recently announced the dates and venues for its public inquiry, which will take place at Tumbarumba Bowling Club on 3 November, and Tumut Golf Club on 4-5 November.
The commission is an independent statutory authority which examines and reports on matters referred to it in relation to the boundaries of local government areas.
In February 2020, NSW Minister for Local Government Shelley Hancock referred two elector-initiated proposals affecting the boundaries of the Snowy Valleys Council and Cootamundra Gundagai Regional Council.
In relation to Snowy Valleys Council, the proposal seeks to re-establish the area of the former Tumbarumba Shire and reduce the local government area of Snowy Valleys Council so it corresponds to the former Tumut Shire Council.
In the Cootamundra Gundagai local government area, the proposal seeks to re-establish the area of the former Gundagai Shire and reduce the local government area of Cootamundra Gundagai Regional Council so it corresponds to the former Cootamundra Shire Council.
In effect, these proposals seek to reverse the mergers that were put in place in 2016.
Cootamundra Gundagai Regional Council’s hearings are to take place in Cootamundra on 25 November and Gundagai on 26 November.
The Save Tumbarumba Shire (STS) community group has told its residents to rally.
“This is it – Tumbarumba’s last chance to make its case for the long awaited demerger that the community has fought for with such determination for more than four years,” said the group.
And with a permanently manned table set up on Tumbarumba’s main street, The Parade, anyone with concerns or queries, submissions or wanting to speak at the inquiry is able to get the answers they need.
“It is in the hands of each and every member of the community to make a submission and have their say to get this over the line,” said STS. “Without that level of commitment, this opportunity could be lost.”
NSW Local Government Boundaries Commission chair Bob Sendt said that due to COVID-19 restrictions, numbers at each venue will need to be limited and prior registration by residents and ratepayers wanting to attend will be required.
Priority will be given to people seeking to address the public inquiry.
Mr Sendt said inquiry proceedings will also be webcast for people unable to attend in person.
The commission has also appointed professional services company Deloitte to provide advice on the financial aspects of both proposals.
Mr Sendt explained that financial considerations were only one of nine factors the Local Government Act requires the commission to consider in its independent examination of the proposals and its recommendations to the minister.
The remaining factors cover issues such as the community of interest and geographic cohesion, the attitude of residents and ratepayers, requirements of the area concerned in relation to elected representation for residents and ratepayers at the local level, any impact on council operations and staff, and any impact on rural communities in the areas concerned.
“A proper analysis of the financial advantages or disadvantages of any proposed change to council boundaries is key to understanding councils’ ability to provide services to local residents and ratepayers while remaining financially viable,” said Mr Sendt.
Current commissioners are Mr Sendt, Councillor Rick Firman (Temora), Councillor Lesley Furneaux-Cook (Burwood) and Grant Gleeson (NSW Office of Local Government).
Written submissions for the Snowy Valleys proposal close at 5 pm on 13 November, 2020, while written submissions for the Cootamundra Gundagai proposal close at 5 pm on 4 December, 2020.
After those dates, the commission will prepare a report for the minister on each proposal with recommendations as to whether the proposal should be implemented.
Further details regarding the inquiries, including session times and the attendance registration process, can be accessed here.