THE decision to force Lockhart to merge with Urana and Corowa was made with no common sense, according to Lockhart mayor Peter Yates.
Cr Yates fears autonomy and independence will be lost under the state government’s Fit For the Future reform package, announced on Friday.
“We’re devastated and gutted,” Cr Yates said.
“We can’t see any common sense in the decision.”
The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal released its assessment of every council in NSW in October and deemed Lockhart fit as a rural council.
Forming a super council in joining Lockhart, Urana and Corowa is a blow to the Lockhart community, who passionately rejected talks of forced mergers throughout the reform process.
“We were deemed fit as a rural shire, so it was a shock,” Cr Yates said. “We thought we might have been pushed Wagga way and we fought tooth and nail to resist that.”
Cr Yates questioned why an agricultural town like Lockhart would be forced to merge with Corowa – “a river and tourism town” – with which it has little in common.
“Autonomy and independence will be left by the wayside,” Cr Yates said. “How is a bigger council (going to ensure) The Rock or Lockhart grow in the future. We’re going to fight tooth and nail.”
Meanwhile, Jerilderie will merge with Berrigan, Tumut with Tumbarumba, Gundagai with Cootamundra, and Young with Harden and Boorowa.
“Change is inevitable, things cannot stay the same,” Tumut mayor Sue Bulger said.
“(The decision) was a little unexpected.”
Tumut originally intended to remain standalone, but later indicated they would merge with Tumbarumba or Gundagai if mergers went ahead.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, who holds a longstanding interest in local government, questioned the amalgamations.
“The proposed merger of Lockhart, Urana and Corowa is a very curious mixture, along with Tumbarumba and Tumut,” Mr Fischer said.
Junee vehemently opposed amalgamations throughout the reform process, so learning it would remain standalone was welcome news to mayor Neil Smith.
“As a shire and a community, we are delighted,” he said. “It will be business as usual because we are of the opinion we’re already fit for the future.”