Winning the battle against amalgamation

May 1, 2015

If we all support Gwydir Shire’s attempts to remain independent, I think we have a good chance of winning this time around.

Gwydir Shire is in National Party heartland and is represented in the NSW Parliament by the indefatigable Adam Marshall, who has recently secured an electoral triumph. Mr. Marshall has pledged his support for Gwydir Shire. “I have Gwydir’s back”, he said before the election.

The Minister for local government Mr. Paul Toole is a member of the National Party and he needs to be told by people from here, that amalgamation is not wanted. I think there are some things we could do which would strengthen Mr. Marshall’s hand, without embarrassing him too much.

The broadcaster Allan Jones has immense influence in Sydney and beyond. Mr. Jones, who grew up in rural Queensland, retains a strong interest in rural Australia and rural people. I think Mr. Jones should be invited to Gwydir and fully briefed on the situation and asked for his support.

I think a big gathering at the Warialda Showground with Mr. Jones as guest speaker would in itself become a big city media event. This might be followed by an evening event at the Roxy Theatre Bingara, where Mr. Jones might be entertained by a dramatic event in his honour with, perhaps, him participating. Another step we could take would be to approach the Reverend Fred Nile and other cross benchers in the NSW Upper House of Parliament. The decision to amalgamate Shires does not need to go through Parliament. The Minister for Local Government can make the decision.

However, the Reverend Nile and the cross benchers have the balance of power in the Upper House and if it were known they opposed forced amalgamation, it might add strength to our arms. Governments need to work with cross benchers.

I know that the Reverend Nile has some very dedicated and highly respected supporters in this Shire, and I hope they would assist in approaching him.

I think steps such as these need to be taken urgently, as we need to build momentum and let decision makers know the depth of the opposition they face if they wish to force amalgamation. There is a school of thought which argues that the amalgamations would not take place for some time; that existing Councils will see out their terms until August 2016. I think that is doubtful.

More likely, amalgamations would have been finalised so that elections could be held in August 2016, with other local government elections. If the unpopular amalgamation is to take place, Government will want it out of the way as soon as possible.

It is timely to remember that the amalgamation of Yallaroi and Bingara Shires was forced by the NSW Labor Government of the day. There are people in all parties of Parliament who believe that big is better and when the Government changes again, Mr. Marshall will not be in such a good position to help us.

As I said at the outset, I think we can win this battle if we are bold enough. What I am more worried about is winning the war.

We need to take steps now that see us on a path to a stronger future. Having a vision of where we want to go and how to get there, will help us in our battle now. Having moved towards that vision will help us next time around.

I believe that the Mayor is investigating some possibilities that will assist Gwydir’s economy and population to grow. This is very encouraging.

The Warialda Chamber believes that our town and district have what it takes to attract people to settle here and enjoy the lifestyle. We want to attract people to purchase homes here and live here and participate in the community. Also, we want to encourage businesses to come to this very central situation and service the towns and districts which surround us.

These will provide some employment and bring extra enrolments to our schools. We believe the NSW Government and Mr. Marshall will support our belief.

We have started to promote this vision by organising a supplement which will appear in the Border News in next week’s papers. Chamber members have written and gathered material and have been well supported by advertisements.

Also, visitors who come to Warialda for the June long weekend festivities will be offered a show bag of novelties which will include brochures promoting Warialda which have been prepared and printed by the Chamber. Visitors will be asked to distribute these to friends when they return home. Our visitors will become our ambassadors.

It is widely believed that small towns in Australia are doomed. Warialda District Chamber believes that our town does not have to be one of them.

 

Ted Stubbins
President
Warialda District Chamber Inc.