This is a counter view to your lead article in the June/July edition – “We’ve been done like a dinner. ”
When the council amalgamation was first announced, I saw it on Prime TV (I think) and they went to the street in Taree to seek the opinions of the average resident. I was absolutely amazed that not one person expressed opposition to the announcement, with all saying either that it was a good thing, or that we would not be any worse off.
In recent times, I have been a volunteer cook at two Bunnings’ barbeques in support of the Old Bar Beach Sand Replenishment Group. During the course of those long days, many people engaged in conversation with us and made unsolicited comments about the former Greater Taree City Council.
Again, none of them was complimentary to the former council and all were pleased at the amalgamation. When I say “unsolicited”, I mean that the issue was raised by them. No-one was asked by the volunteers what they thought of the former council or the amalgamation.
What does this mean? Well, it highlights human behaviour. If we feel strongly against something, we tend to write letters, attend rallies, organise protests or petitions. If we agree with something, we tend to not do anything, other than discuss the issue with family, friends or volunteers at Bunnings’ barbeques. I am trying to correct that personal trait, and am now sending letters or emails congratulating for a job well done.
Could the political process have been handled better? Well, yes, it could have. Premier Baird, if he wanted amalgamations, should never have promised that there would be no forced amalgamations. It was naive to think that they would occur in any other way. Parochialism would win the day in almost all cases.
Let us not forget that GTCC was itself the result of an amalgamation of three councils. There are still people around who speak well of the former Manning Shire Council, and claim that the rural areas were better serviced prior to the amalgamation. Likewise, Wingham residents have not always felt that they were better off under the new council.
That Premier Baird should be criticised for planning the amalgamations with KPMG is unjustified. I would hope that any government, planning such a major step, would take some expert advice beforehand and do some detailed planning. I would also expect them to have administrators and interim general managers ready to take over on day 1. It would have been disastrous to announce the amalgamations, and then leave all the old councils in place for a time, while a decision was made as to the identity of a new management structure. The process is pretty much the same as is followed in the corporate world, only it is more brutal there, with sacked CEOs escorted off the premises by security staff.
I am also of the view that council elections in 2017 are quite reasonable. The task of bedding down a new structure is huge, and needs to be done before we return the reins to a bickering set of elected councillors.
So, has democracy been dented? Those that are against the decision would say so but those in favour would say that it is showing leadership.
Ian L Dimmock JP