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Question: Council Amalgamation

7 September 2022

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:00): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development on the topic of council amalgamations in the regions.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, the Malinauskas government announced its intention to introduce a bill to include an amalgamation plebiscite in November's council election ballots for residents of Mount Gambier and Grant. Just last month, the state of New South Wales started the process to demerge some regional councils that merged just five years ago.

Financial and staffing issues have made it unworkable for the Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council to manage such a large landmass. Other councils in New South Wales have now indicated that they are investigating demerging, such as the Inner West Council, Canterbury Bankstown Council and Central Coast Council. My questions to the minister are:

1. Were the City of Mount Gambier and the District Council of Grant consulted before this announcement was made?

2. Has the minister been engaged in discussions with regional communities regarding potential council mergers?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:01): I thank the honourable member for his question. In terms of whether there has been engagement with local communities about a potential merger, it's the sort of issue that comes up very regularly, particularly in regard to the District Council of Grant and the City of Mount Gambier. I live in the District Council of Grant and often the issue around potential amalgamation is raised.

What's really key here is that the proposal gives a high level of consultation to local communities. If legislation passes this place and the other place, people will be asked the question—I don't have the exact wording, but I am paraphrasing—'Do you want further investigation of a potential amalgamation?' That involves a high level of involvement by the local community to determine whether they want it further investigated.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:03): Further supplementary: has the issue of a plebiscite as a vehicle to deal with amalgamations been raised with the minister in her capacity as the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:03): I have had some informal discussions with individuals who live in the area.