20th April 2007While many country mayors are outraged at the State Government’s new process for shire amalgamation, Waggamba Shire Mayor Tom Woods is taking it in his stride.
While the Australian Local Government Association is angry that the process of negotiated reform under the Size Shape and Sustainability (SSS) program has been abandoned mid course, Mr Woods is confident the work conducted under that program so far will not be wasted by the new Local Government Reform Commission.
“The result is probably not going to be vastly different to where we were going,” Mr Woods said.
“We’re still going to be part of the process and we’re not going to be ignored by this new commission process.
“I think there are probably too many councils across Queensland and it’s time for reform. Change doesn’t frighten me but you’ve got to participate in it.”
Mr Woods said the move by Premier Peter Beattie to fast-track the reform process through an independent commission was understandable, given that many shires were failing to meet the SSS deadlines.
“As we went further into this process the less enthusiastic councils were saying, ‘why can’t we just leave things as they are?'” Mr Woods said.
“You can either be a willing participant or a reluctant one, and when reluctance was perceived it was inevitable what the Government has done.”
Waggamba and Goodiwindi Town Shire were two of just four shires singled out by Premier Peter Beattie as having made genuine progress towards amalgamation, with Mr Woods confirming they were on track to take an amalgamation proposal to a referendum at next March’s council elections.
The so-called ‘doughnut’ shires already have good resource sharing arrangements in place, and both were committed to investigating full amalgamation, according to Goondiwindi Mayor Tom Sullivan.
However, Mr Sullivan was worried that the plans to merge the two shires may now be thrown into disarray if the State Government forces them to become part of a ‘super shire’ with the four other Southern Downs local governments of Inglewood, Warwick, Clifton and Stanthorpe.
SOURCE: Extract from the April 19 issue of Queensland Country Life