'Ball is in Kyogle’s court' for Lismore amalgamation

KYOGLE Shire Council has been given one month to decide whether to amalgamate with Lismore.

Lismore City Council Mayor Jenny Dowell has called for Kyogle to complete a cost-benefit analysis and community consultation so Lismore can get its own Fit for the Future proposals in order.

Every council in NSW must assess its financial position and submit either an "improvement proposal" or "merger proposal" to the State Government by June, to be reviewed in October.

"We can't leave that until next year. There's too much work involved," Cr Dowell said.

"The ball is very much in Kyogle's court."

Cr Dowell said there were many variables to consider, including whether the whole Kyogle Shire or just part of it would be included in a possible merger.

"We will consider any proposal but there are too many possibilities for Lismore City Council to make a decision yet," she said.

"We can see there's a fairly high possibility if councils don't voluntarily look towards amalgamating, that they will be forced into amalgamation."

Councils across the state face being whipped into submission if they refuse to bow to the New South Wales Government's $1 billion incentive to amalgamate.

Treasurer Andrew Constance told attendees of a recent business breakfast in Sydney the government may have to "pull out the stick" on forced amalgamations.

"I hope this works. I think eventually we're going to have to pull out the stick. We have offered up the carrot first up, we're going to have to pull out the stick," he said.

Premier Mike Baird would not rule out forced mergers when questioned in Parliament on Tuesday.

"We know that the current position is not sustainable, but those opposite do not care.

"However, losing a million dollars a day is not sustainable; it needs to be changed." 

Month for merger decision is too soon

KYOGLE Mayor Danielle Mulholland said any hopes of a merger decision coming within a month were misplaced.

She said an "extraordinary meeting" of Kyogle councillors was held on Monday night to work out a plan of attack.

"We're focusing on our report to IPART (the Independent Pricing and Rating Tribunal) before we get into mergers," she said.

"We will be looking at mergers next year, leading up to our submission."

Kyogle Shire Council's general manager Arthur Piggott will meet with Lismore local government officials to discuss the timetable in coming days.

"I just hope the community really engages in the process over the next eight months, because it's their future we're talking about," Cr Mulholland said.

Byron Ballina merger whispers

BALLINA Mayor David Wright said his council was against any amalgamation and that whispers of a possible merger with Byron Shire Council were nothing but rumours.

"We're nothing like Byron. The people that choose to live here either can't afford to live in Byron or they don't want that sort of crowding," he said.

"My favourite saying is: 'Ballina is twice as good for half the price'.

"That's not having a go at Byron - they don't want to be part of us either.

"There's just nothing whatsoever to gain."

It was a similar tale from Tweed Shire Council Mayor Gary Bagnall.

"We have 91,000 residents compared to Byron's 30,000 and Lismore's 40,000," he said.

"The projection for the next 15 years is for our population to go up to 125,000.

"We're projecting strong economic and residential growth over the next few years, so we don't see any likelihood of an amalgamation."

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