Qld councils to hold merger plebiscites

24th September 2007Some 87 Queensland councils will defy the State Government and hold plebiscites on whether or not shire amalgamations should go ahead.

But holding plebiscites on forced council mergers in areas not affected by local government reforms would be a stupid waste of money, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says.

The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) said 87 councils have stated they want local residents to have a say on the State Government’s controversial mergers after Prime Minister John Howard promised to pay for the polls.

The plebiscites will be conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission and could be held on October 27.

The State Government in July announced the number of Queensland councils would be cut from 156 to 73 following a review of local government boundaries.

Ms Bligh said the LGAQ figures showed “a number” of councils who were not affected by the mergers would still go ahead with plebiscites.

“It would appear that there are at least some councils who are unaffected by amalgamations that may be holding plebiscites,” Ms Bligh said.

“Frankly, I think that’s a stupid waste of money and their ratepayers should be punishing them for that.”

LGAQ president Paul Bell said 37 councils were not affected by the mergers.

“I don’t know of any of that 37 who aren’t being amalgamated who are actually holding a poll,” he said.

“I don’t know what she’s (Ms Bligh) talking about.”

Mr Bell said the LGAQ’s legal representatives would be meeting with the AEC early next week about when to hold the polls.

“As far as we are aware, there are no outstanding issues preventing the plebiscite process starting almost immediately,” he said, flagging October 27 as the poll date.

Ms Bligh said the results of the plebiscites would not affect the amalgamation legislation, which has already been passed to pave the way for mergers to occur at the March 15 council elections.

“We’ll have a look and see what it says, but frankly we are moving ahead,” she said.