Amalgamation may mean population decline - Bowland

COOMA resident and business identity Geoff Bowland says the Independent Local Government Review Panel should be looking at decentralisation rather than amalgamation of councils following the Panel's community meeting in Cooma last Wednesday.

Mr Bowland was one of a handful of local residents who attended the meeting to discuss the host of changes being proposed to local government in NSW.

One of the major proposals for this area is a restructure of Cooma-Monaro, Snowy River and Bombala Shires.

Included in the panel's paper 'Future directions for NSW Local Government' Cooma would be the location of a county council and Bombala Shire Council would essentially be amalgamated into Snowy River or Cooma-Monaro.

Mr Bowland said he had concerns about possible amalgamation.

"It's good to see the state government policy is not forcing amalgamation," he said.

"I really wish the amalgamation panel was a decentralisation panel.

"I've been in areas where amalgamation did take place and the population dropped by about a third."

Mr Bowland said council was a large employer in the area and if councils were amalgamated it could be a big loss to the economy.

"Rates money goes to employing staff at council, and that goes back into the town," he said.

"We need to keep people here. We need to do all we can to stop centralisation."

The panel is proposing to amalgamate small population councils to improve sustainability, or convert them to Local Boards- a new type of elected, community-based local government unit with limited responsibilities delegated from a local council or county council.

There were also concerns raised at the meeting that the proposal for county council would essentially create another tier of government.

Others highlighted issues about boundary adjustments, for example residents living at the Four Mile are classed as being in Snowy River Shire Council but closer to Cooma.

Submissions for the local government review are due by June 28.

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