Lockhart shire residents came out in force to show their anger over the NSW government’s decision to merge Lockhart with two other councils.
More than 200 people spilled out of the council office on Green Street at Lockhart during the two-hour meeting on Monday night.
Residents accused the government of bullying and bribery after money was offered to councils who decide to merge.
“Have you thought about bribery? Is it legal?,” one resident said during public comment.
The three-way merge between Lockhart, Urana and Corowa was never considered by Lockhart.
The first any councillor or resident heard of the proposed amalgamation was when The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) released a map of proposed mergers.
“I feel as though the NSW Government has bullied us, we should stand up and say enough is enough,” Lockhart resident Chris Mackey said.
“The merge with Corowa came from left field and is totally wrong.”
Another resident questioned if “Fit For Failure” might be a better name for the changes rather than Fit For the Future.
Amidst the anger and frustration directed towards the government for making what has been described as a “ridiculous” merger proposal, residents were questioning the council's decision to put Urana as a first preference at the last minute.
Council had one month to make a final decision about merging preferences but neglected to hold a public meeting stating “there wasn’t enough time”.
With the offer of millions of dollars if councils agree to merge Mayor Peter Yates said the offer was “too big to ignore”.
However, councillor Jim Morgan was mortified by the decision and fought for Lockhart to select stand alone in the final stage.
“I wasn’t prepared to sell to sell our shire for five million, that’s just half a year's operating budget,” he said.
“I don’t believe it’s lost, it’s not like there has been this huge reduction in council numbers, 109 has come down to 87 and we are just mixed up in it all.”
A unanimous decision was made at the public meeting to establish a steering committee.
The committee will be made up of members of the public who will push for Lockhart to stand alone with the guidance of council.