Poll confirms unease over rural council mergers

26th June 2007Further evidence of country Queensland’s rising distaste for Premier Peter Beattie’s push for forced rural and regional council amalgamations has surfaced in a just-released survey.

People living in south-east Queensland, but excluding Brisbane city and the Gold Coast, were canvassed by the Morton Consulting poll for their views, alongside 200 provincial and 200 rural residents.

Key results were:

• Less than 20pc of the respondents now approve of the plan to amalgamate Qld rural and regional councils.

• In contrast, a similar survey taken shortly after the plan’s announcement in April indicated almost 50pc of respondents were supportive.

• A total of 76pc are calling for a referendum on the issue before any decisions are taken on implementing Commissioner Bob Longland’s recommendations on boundary changes, due to report in August.

Local Government Association Queensland (LGAQ) executive director, Greg Hallam, says the survey of 600 people was undertaken to ascertain “community fairness” associated with the State Government’s Local Government Reform Process.

He says the Qld Government can take little solace from the underlying message of this survey.

It reinforces continuing state-wide objections to the amalgamation of councils, or major boundary changes.

In a bid to defuse tensions over the issue, Qld Local Government Minister, Andrew Fraser, last week extended the jobs guarantee to council staff across the state.

The guarantee now includes employees at senior executive level but excludes mayors, councillors and chief executive officers.

SOURCE: Extract from full report to be published in Queensland Country Life, June 28.