FEAR is mounting in Lockhart as the fight to resist a controversial council merger forges ahead with a public meeting in the new year.
In one of the most disputed amalgamations of the region, the farming-heavy shire of Lockhart is proposed to merge with Corowa and Urana under the state government’s Fit For the Future reforms.
Lockhart Shire Council mayor Peter Yates is taking the fight to remain a standalone council public, encouraging community members and business owners to attend a meeting on January 11 to determine a course of action.
“(The community) is not very happy about it,” Cr Yates said of the merger.
“They’re deflated because a lot of hard work went into wanting to remain standalone.
“Certainly from the calls I’ve had, they want us to fight hard.”
Cr Yates questioned if the mooted annual savings of $800,000 generated by the merger from 2020 is worth stripping the identity of towns in the shire.
“It’s the fear of losing their independence and identity,” Cr Yates said.
“People obviously want us to fight to remain standalone.”
Cr Yates said promising $20 million to meet the costs of merging offered little assurance of what would happen to Lockhart council workers – the largest employer in the shire – and its subcontractors in the future.
Cr Yates questioned the logistics behind merging with Corowa, as people at The Rock would have to travel up to two hours – and through Greater Hume Shire – to arrive there.
“There’s nothing wrong with Corowa – they’re just a different town,” he said.
“They’re a river and tourist town. It’s the tyranny of distance. You nearly have to take a caravan or tent if you want to go there.”
The council, which comprises the small townships of The Rock, Yerong Creek, Pleasant Hills and Milbrulong, has the backing of state MP Daryl Maguire.
“We’ve spoken to him and he’s going in to bat for us,” Cr Yates said.
Hundreds are expected to converge on Lockhart’s council chambers on Monday, January 11 for a special meeting on the proposed merger.
“I’m expecting a good number to turn up,” Cr Yates said.
“It could be the death of Lockhart if it goes ahead. We’re going to fight.
“I’m gearing myself up for the fight.”