7 July 2023

Snowy Valleys councillors meet Minister for demerger support

| Edwina Mason
Start the conversation
town meeting

About 350 Tumbarumba residents attended Professor Joseph Drew’s draft report presentation at the Tumbarumba RSL Club in April. Photo: Save Tumbarumba Shire.

NSW Local Government Minister Ron Hoenig has given Snowy Valleys Council a contingent blessing to proceed with efforts to demerge.

It’s the closest thing to a green light the community has had in its seven-year battle to see the former shires of Tumut and Tumbarumba restored after being forcibly amalgamated by the Coalition NSW government in 2016.

Thanks to a meeting brokered by Wagga Wagga MP Joe McGirr, the Minister met Snowy Valleys Mayor Ian Chaffey and his deputy, Cr Trina Thomson, in Sydney on Wednesday (5 July), allowing them to personally represent community and council sentiments around the forced amalgamation.

Dr McGirr said concerns the promised savings and efficiencies as a result of merging the two former shire councils had not eventuated were behind efforts to separate the councils and this was voiced at the meeting.

“Rates have increased, operational efficiencies have not improved, staff morale is low and ultimately, it is ratepayers who are paying the price of the former government’s actions,” Dr McGirr said.

He said the Minister expressed his empathy and reiterated the importance of a viable, competent local government sector and the critical role played by councillors.

Mr Hoenig noted the government policy that decisions on demergers must be made with the support of residents, who he acknowledged were strong supporters of a Snowy Valleys split.

He has asked SVC to use the statutory pathway provided by the current Local Government Act if it wishes to proceed.

READ ALSO Newcastle Uni to prepare business case for demerging Snowy Valleys Council

He said any final decision would depend on the outcome of the process and the council should now continue its work.

Dr McGirr said the meeting had been positive and constructive.

protest sign in rural area

Community protest group Save Tumbarumba Shire has long battled against the forced amalgamation of Tumut and Tumbarumba shires, raising an “orange army” to publicly protest against the 2016 state government directive. Photo: Save Tumbarumba Shire Inc.

“I believe the Minister understands the situation and the key is to map the way forward and he recommended pursuing the process outlined in the act,” he said.

Cr Chaffey said the council needed the support of the NSW Government to achieve the demerger.

Cr Thomson said she was terrified the local community was losing confidence in local and state government because the imposed merger had failed so dramatically.

“I want our councils to be role models and leaders and we just want our communities to have faith in local government,” she said.

READ ALSO Concerns bubbling around Coota-Gundagai demerger raised in parliament

The Minister also accepted a mayoral invitation to visit the local government area and meet the council.

In June, the council supported a five-point motion to split the Tumut and Tumbarumba shires and agreed to formally receive the report it commissioned from Newcastle University academic Professor Joseph Drew into the advantages and disadvantages of a demerger.

Presented to the Tumut and Tumbarumba communities at public meetings in April, Professor Drew’s report recommended, on the balance of evidence, that Snowy Valleys Council should be de-amalgamated as quickly as possible.

He said the continued risk posed to the mental and physical wellbeing of staff, representatives and the community – arising from the unsuitable configuration of the local government area – demanded urgent redress.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Do you like to know what’s happening around your region? Every day the About Regional team packages up our most popular stories and sends them straight to your inbox for free. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.