Super council would see an end to states
NORTHERN RIVERS councils should be dissolved and replaced with a super council that would stretch from the Clarence Valley to the Queensland border, Kyogle councillor Peter Lewis has said.
Cr Lewis made the comment to lend support to his colleague and long-time foe, Kyogle Mayor Ernie Bennett.
Cr Bennett was last week reported as saying, in his capacity as president of the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils, that Australia's states should be dissolved and replaced with a two-tier system of regional governments and a commonwealth government.
Cr Lewis backed that idea, suggesting an amalgamation of the Kyogle, Richmond Valley, Lismore, Ballina, Byron, Tweed and Clarence Valley councils as a starting point.
The individual identities and voices of North Coast communities could be protected by installing a series of advisory councils within existing council boundaries, while the larger body would deliver improved services to residents by virtue of a larger budget and savings from shared expenses.
Allowing the existing structure to continue would mean councils con-%tinuing to struggle with inadequate resources and "parochial" decisions that did not benefit the region.
"Our administration budget (at Kyogle) is the same as our rates base; it's crazy," Cr Lewis said.
And while council amalgamations are rarely well-received by ratepayers and residents, Cr Lewis said he believed this one would be welcomed if it were explained properly.
"If people understood they weren't going to lose control they would go with it," he said. "If they just thought they would be swallowed up and%ignored, they wouldn't."
Cr Bennett said he was surprised and pleased at Cr Lewis' support, although they were unlikely to start travelling the country spruiking the plan.
Cr Bennett said his proposal, which would set up 20 regional governments across NSW, would give the Northern Rivers a local government about the size of Cr Lewis' super council.
He said the process of building the new governments and scrapping the states would need to be done very slowly to ensure a smooth handover of services, predicting no currently serving state MP would still be in office by the time the process were complete, even if it were begun now.
Cr Lewis challenged Cr Bennett to actively push the idea and make it happen, but Cr Bennett said the idea was building its own momentum, something he said was proved by the fact he and Cr Lewis were singing from the same songbook on this issue.
"That shows something," he said. "Here's two people that don't see eye-to-eye on lots of issues, but on this one we do. Over the past few months I've mixed with people who think differently on lots of issues, but they all think the same on this one."