Backlash grows against forced amalgamations

21st May 2007AgForce is calling on the State Government to halt its forced shire amalgamation process and give the community a meaningful say, in the wake of a comprehensive AgForce member survey and more grassroots protests.

In a rare political irony, angry council workers chanted union slogans in protest against a the actions of a Labor MP, when State Minister for Local Government Andrew Fraser visited Toowoomba last week.

Council workers across Queensland are worried they will lose their jobs if amalgamations go ahead as part of a policy of making shires more financially efficient.

It follows recent protests in rural areas where angry farmers have also raised concerns about access to representation and service delivery in remote areas.

This has been reflected in an AgForce survey which revealed 98pc of members are against forced mergers and almost 100pc against the way it is being implemented.

AgForce vice president John Cotter says the government must stop the forced process so the community has the opportunity to provide proper input into the future direction of local government.

“More than 1000 AgForce members across Queensland have responded to our survey and their message couldn’t be clearer – they are overwhelmingly opposed to the fact they have had no say in what is being done to them,” Mr Cotter said.

“It is this very process which has galvanised opposition across all parts of Queensland.

“It does not give communities any fair or reasonable input to allow government to fully understand the implications of its decisions.

“Communities are about more than just lines on maps and their future cannot be solely determined by George Street in Brisbane.

“It’s essential the Premier intervenes and provides the people in our communities with a voice in this process.”

Local communities and individuals had less than two weeks to make submissions to the Local Government Reform Commission and what was making matters worse was the commission’s refusal to engage personally with organisations or individuals.

“Many local shires have been in place for more than 100 years, yet the current process is trying to redesign the fabric of those communities in just 100 days,” Mr Cotter said.

“This is not how sustainable policy should be developed, particularly which it comes to something as critical as local government structures.”

SOURCE: Queensland Country Life, weekly rural newspaper, posting news updates daily on FarmOnline.