Sugarman sweet on amalgamation

IF BYRON Shire mayoral candidate Jack Sugarman gets voted in on September 8, the first thing he'll do in office is arrange his own redundancy.

Mr Sugarman's core election promise is to amalgamate Lismore, Byron and Ballina councils, and regardless of the election outcome he won't be giving up on his mission.

In fact, the 25-year resident of Byron Shire and former vet, who boasts a republican flag outside his home overlooking Byron Bay, also ran in the 2004 and 2008 elections on the same platform.

Mr Sugarman said Byron Council's track record of poor road maintenance, excessive court costs and a general lack of decisive action - or 'too much talk' - were the reasons he favoured amalgamation.

If elected, he will 'Ring up (Local Government Minister) Don Page and get him to redraw the boundaries', amalgamating Ocean Shores and Mullumbimby into Tweed Council and combining the remainder of Byron into a super council including Ballina and Lismore.

He also says mayors and councillors of an amalgamated council should be paid a living wage to remunerate them for what would be a full-time position.

"I do take my candidacy seriously," said Mr Sugarman, and while admitting he was unlikely to win.

"Amalgamation is going to have to happen one day - it is the only real solution to the problem. Right now it's just layers of bureaucracy," he said.

Mr Sugarman cites Clarence Valley Council, which formed in 2004 as merger between the City of Grafton and Maclean Shire and parts of three surrounding shires, as an example of a successful amalgamation.

He also has an ally in Don Page, who earlier this year initiated a local government review which is looking at future amalgamation scenarios, despite the 2011 election policy of no forced amalgamations.

But Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils President Phillip Silver disagrees with the concept of a north coast super council.

"In my view, there is no appetite for amalgamation in the Northern Rivers, nor is there a particular need," he said.

"The most important things need to be kept local - rating, finances, and planning. Thereafter there is significant opportunity for resource sharing, but that's quite different from amalgamations."

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