Merger pain looming

Lockhart, Urana and Corowa councillors and general managers could depart by July 1 if the merger goes ahead.Lockhart, Urana and Corowacouncillors and general managers could depart by July 1 if the NSW Government presses ahead with a merger of the three shires.

The scenario of councillors being replaced by administrators and a replacement general manager appointed to the merged entity has emerged in the wake of a public meeting in Corowa on Wednesday night.

The three-way merger is being fiercely opposed by all three shires and could force the hand of the state government to sack the councils and replace them with administrators.

Also, general managers, Corowa’s Chris Gillard, Urana’s Adrian Butler and Lockhart’s Rod Shaw, aren’t afforded the same job protection of three years under the merger arrangement as remaining staff members including directors.

Corowa mayor Paul Miegel said nothing could be ruled out in the existing climate of uncertainty.

“If it gets pushed together any general manager that has been involved in the process would find it difficult,”he said.

“We are assuming the administrators would be in place in July because councils could close their books and the entity formed and council elections held the following March.

“Otherwise they will have one set of books for the old councils and one set of books for the new council.”

Administrators would decide whether future councils would have wards or ridings which would be a deviation from the existing undivided nature of Corowa Shire.

Cr Miegel said Corowa and Urana councils were running below full strength in anticipation of a merger between the two shires goingahead.

But the addition of Lockhart has thrown all previous discussions between Urana and Corowa out the window.

“The ratepayers are having to put up with a slightly reduced level of service because we were expecting amalgamation,”he said.

“It is putting a lot of stress on the staff of all three shires because no one knows what is going on.

“We were being pro-active and thought we had an agreement so you can understand our frustration.”

Corowa and Urana shires remain committed to a merger and Lockhart will also push to remain standalone in line with the original IPART recommendations.

Subsequently, Lockhart also nominated Urana as a potential merger partner which led to the NSW Government proposing the three-way merger in the lead-up to Christmas.

Albury MP Greg Aplin and Wagga MP Daryl McGuire have backed the opposition to the three-way merger following a recent meeting with mayors from Corowa, Urana and Lockhart.

Government-appointed delegate Mike Eden will meet with residents of all three shires on February 4 to listen to their feedback on the three-way merger.

He will be at Corowa Golf Club from 9am to 11am before meeting Urana residents from 2pm to 4pm and Lockhart residents from 7pm.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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