Queenslanders condemn forced council mergers

18th December 2007Queenslanders have overwhelmingly rejected the Bligh Labor Government’s
forced council amalgamations with almost 300,000 people voting against
the move in 85 voluntary plebiscites right throughout the state.

Shadow Local Government Minister Howard Hobbs said only an arrogant and
out of touch Government would ignore such a comprehensive result.

“Queensland communities have sent the Bligh Labor Government a crystal
clear message they don’t want their councils forcibly amalgamated,” he

“This was a voluntary vote, yet response rates were as high as 80 per
cent in some shires, which is extraordinary when you consider voluntary
voting in countries like the United States and Canada draws turnouts of
barely more than 50 per cent.

“Residents from Douglas in the far north to Stanthorpe in the south
west, and in urban areas like Noosa and Redcliffe through to outback
communities like Tambo and Blackall, have all voted strongly against
forced council amalgamations. The average no vote throughout the 85
council areas was 77 per cent and was as high as 99 per cent in some

“The State Labor Government must now go back to the drawing board and
ensure communities are properly consulted and genuinely involved in
deciding the future direction of their local governments.”

Mr Hobbs said the State Government also needed to come clean on the true
costs of their forced council amalgamations plans with the Local
Government Association of Queensland estimating the administration costs
alone could top $200 million.

“Amalgamated councils will have to merge or buy new financial management
IT systems, develop new communications systems and bring together
planning schemes and rating systems, to cite just a few issues,” he

“The State Labor Government has so far given Queensland’s 157 councils
just $9 million towards the cost associated with forced amalgamations.
Ratepayers should not be forced to pick up the rest of the bill for
changes to their councils that they clearly don’t want.

“In addition, while Labor has tried to spin a line these forced
amalgamations are about delivering ‘economic efficiencies’, a recent
Price Waterhouse Coopers report found that, 15 years down the track,
wholesale amalgamation of councils in Victoria, South Australia and
Tasmania didn’t improve their financial viability.

“The Queensland Labor Government must now acknowledge forced
amalgamation isn’t the financial silver bullet they think it is and they
should start listening to the message Queenslanders have sent in this
month’s plebiscites.”

Media Contact – Howard Hobbs 07 46 22 88 88