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Decision on merger made

Monday 16 November 2015

Bega Valley Shire Councillors today resolved to move forward with a voluntary merger proposal in which the Bombala Shire would amalgamate with Bega Valley Shire Council.

The proposal will be forwarded to the Minister for Local Government for consideration by Wednesday this week.

Bega Valley Shire Mayor, Michael Britten said the resolution to push ahead with the Bombala merger proposal came with a number of important conditions that would maintain BVSC’s economic stability and identity.

“This is not a decision to be taken lightly, and since resolving to consider Bombala’s proposal that the two councils merge, we have been working hard to establish a position that will be of benefit to the Bega Valley Shire,” he said.

“Our decision to move ahead with the proposal has a number of conditions to ensure that Council’s Fit for the Future status is not compromised in any way.

“These include our continued access to a range of benefits available to all ‘fit’ councils, such as access to the Local Government State Borrowing Facility and priority assessment in applications for State borrowing.

“We will also require a funding commitment of more than $22 million in which State funds are utilised for the upgrade of key infrastructure assets such as Mt Darragh Road and the Six Mile Bridge.

“The Bombala sewer project will also require underwriting, including a State contribution of $1.7 million. Other key projects will require State support, including the Delegate potable water system, the increase of the Bombala weir height, critical bridge works and the continuation of an annual country roads funding.

“Importantly, we would also require a commitment from the State government to formalise and develop Imlay road as a main route from Eden Port to the highlands.

“By entering into a voluntary proposal, we gain access to a combined $10 million for merger implementation and local infrastructure projects.

“Councillors and senior staff have visited Bombala in the past week to undertake an assessment of the Council’s services, assets, scale, capacity and finances.

“This is the biggest decision this Council has made, and if our proposal is agreed to, the outcome will benefit our standing and service delivery for all local residents,” Cr Britten said.

The merger proposal is subject to Bombala Council passing an identical resolution at their meeting tonight.

The NSW Government will announce the outcome of all proposed mergers in December this year.

Mayoral statement from today’s meeting

I would like to commence today with a few comments as to why we are here:

  1. The reform of Local Government has been underway since 2009 and in particular since 2013 all councils have been asked to respond to a Fit for the Future assessment.
     
  2. The NSW State Government has put money on the table to encourage voluntary mergers between neighbouring councils , whether fit or unfit.
     
  3. Bega Valley Shire Council has spoken to both neighbouring councils. In the case of Eurobodalla , as both councils have been found fit to stand alone, an agreement has been reached to establish a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for better co-operation, which will be reported to Council in December, 2015.  The MOU will be a precursor to establishing a Joint Organisation in our region , as is required by the NSW State government in the coming year  . The composition of that organisation has yet to be determined.
     
  4. Initially, Bombala Council discussed merger opportunities with us as well as with Snowy River Shire Council and Cooma Shire Council.  Bombala Council then proceeded to examine the possibility of becoming a rural council or merging with Snowy River Shire Council and/or Cooma Shire Councils.  Both of those councils have been found “unfit” and with Bombala Council fit except for scale and capacity, which refers to their population size; Bombala Council has again approached us to explore a voluntary merger taking into account the recent parameters set by the NSW State Government.
     
  5. The report and attachments tabled for debate and resolution today relate to the considerations needed by both Councils to determine whether or not to move forward and express support for a voluntary merger and have been workshopped this morning and discussed with representatives from Bombala Council and the results of today’s meeting will be discussed by Bombala tomorrow , with both Councils required to complete a return to the State by the close of business on Wednesday the 18th November.
     
  6. Attached to the business paper is a copy of a letter recently issued to every Mayor which clearly encourages voluntary mergers and offers Government guarantees to assist those councils participating. Both Bombala Council and Bega Valley Shire Council representatives met last Tuesday with three NSW State Government Ministers in Sydney and the issues and costings referred to in the report were discussed in principle.  It was acknowledged a conditional resolution to merge voluntarily could be submitted if councils so desired.

The motions as carried:

Fit for the Future – Merger Bombala Council and Bega Valley Shire Council

Motion 1:

RESOLVED on the motion of Crs Tapscott and McBain

A motion was moved by Cr Tapscott and seconded by Cr McBain

That Council endorse the General Manager to complete the Fit for the Future template merger option and that Bega Valley Shire Council agree to enter into a voluntary merger with Bombala Council subject to the following terms and conditions:

  1. That Bombala Council resolve to enter into a voluntary merger with Bega Valley Shire Council on the same terms and conditions at are set out within this motion.
     
  2. That Bega Valley Shire Council (merged with Bombala) retain all the status of a stand-alone, fit for the future Council, and with all the benefits available to a Council of that status.
     
  3. That upon the State Government of NSW consenting to the merger and accepting the terms and conditions of this resolution , Bombala be merged into and form part of the Bega Valley Shire Council and from that time until 30 June 2016 :
  1. the General Manager of the Bega Valley Shire Council shall assume control and responsibility for the operations of the Bombala and complete the merger with the Bega Valley Shire Council.
     
  2. the seven (7) Councillors of Bombala shall be appointed  to a section 355 committee of Bega Valley Shire Council with such continuing remuneration and benefits  as they received prior to the merger, and
     
  3. that committee shall until 30 June 2016 meet as required and advise the Bega Valley Shire Council on all relevant matters that arise concerning the former Bombala Council pertaining to the administration of that Shire and overseeing implementation of the currently adopted Bombala Council, Delivery Plan, Operational Plan and Budget; and the transition process to establish the new entity, and
  4. on or before the 30 June 2016 the merger of the Bombala with the Bega Valley Shire Council shall be completed and the Bombala section 355 committee of the Bega Valley Shire Council shall from the 1 July 2016 continue as a committee of the Bega Valley Shire Council.
  1. That the funds offered by the NSW Government for funding of councils and communities through the Merger Implementation Grant of  $5m  and Stronger Communities Fund of $5 million available for proceeding to a voluntary merger of two councils be paid to the Bega Valley Shire Council.  The Stronger Communities Fund be distributed across the two Shires with a minimum of $1 million committed to the Bombala area.
     
  2. That the assets and funds of both Councils, as at the date of the merger be retained  and committed for the benefit of each Shire separately, and
     
  3. That further funding detailed in the following schedule be committed to and made available to the Bega Valley Shire Council with due diligence by the NSW State Government to ensure the voluntary merger results in a fit and economically viable Council for the benefit of the residents and ratepayers of both Shires as they merge into the Bega Valley Shire Council.

Funding Commitment:

Commitment from State Government to the upgrade of Mt Darragh Road of $22 million which includes realignment and upgrade of the Six Mile Bridge with the RMS upgrading the Princes Highway intersection at a cost of approximately $500,000.

State Government commitment to underwrite the Bombala sewer project subject of National Stronger Regions Funding (NSRF) Grant total value $3.7m NSRF application, expected State contribution $1.7m.

Commitment of funding for the following key projects in the Bombala area

  •  Provision of Potable water system to Delegate $750,000
  •  Bombala weir height increase $1.5 million
  •  Critical Bridge works - $4.8 million
  •  Continuation of an annual Country Roads funding allocation of at least $1.4 million

Critical economic driver commitment:

Commitment from State Government to formalisation and development of Imlay Road as a State road developed to service and grow the potential of Eden Port and commit to the promotion and expansion of use of the multi-purpose wharf facility in the southern part of the Port of Eden Harbour.

  1. Should Bombala Council or the NSW State Government not consent to all or any of these terms and conditions as part of a voluntary merger, then Bega Valley Shire Council retain its stand-alone position.
  1. That the Office of Local Government provide funding for an independent assessment on any community benefits and opportunities provided by this voluntary merger.

In favour: Crs Taylor, Britten, McBain, Tapscott and Seckold

Against:   Crs Hughes, Allen and Fitzpatrick

Absent:    Cr Mawhinney

Motion 2:

RESOLVED on the motion of Crs Allen and Fitzpatrick

  1. That the Office of Local Government provide funding for an independent assessment of the financial implications of this proposed voluntary merger,  for the Bega Valley Shire and Bombala residents, and also of any community benefits and opportunities or otherwise of this proposed voluntary merger.
     
  2. That the terms of reference be determined by each Council.

In favour:  Crs Britten, McBain, Hughes, Tapscott, Seckold, Allen and Fitzpatrick

Against:    Cr Taylor

Absent:     Cr Mawhinney

END


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