Council throws up new challenges

Changing signs from 'Gundagai Shire Council' to 'Gundagai Council' is just one of the many issues to be considered under the new merger.
Changing signs from ‘Gundagai Shire Council’ to ‘Gundagai Council’ is just one of the many issues to be considered under the new merger.

It was never going to be a simple process, and two weeks after the new Gundagai Council came into being, the ramifications of merging Gundagai with Cootamundra are still coming to light.

The impacts of the changes are being felt further afield as well with Riverina Eastern Regional Organisation of Councils (REROC), the voluntary regional representative body, losing their chairman and executive and possibly councils themselves.

REROC executive office Julie Briggs said the organisation is still coming to terms with the change and discovering big and small impacts.

She said as both local former councils were members of the organisation, she is assuming the new entity Gundagai Council is still an active member, though this is up to the discretion of the administrator.

“The assumption is that’s the case for Cootamundra and Gundagai, and Tumut and Tumbarumba, but with the merger of Urana, who is a part of REROC and Corowa who isn’t, we don’t know,” she said.

“Most immediately the impact is we’ve lost our chairperson of 15 years.

“When Cootamundra stopped being a shire and Paul Braybrooks stopped being a councillor he ceased being the chairperson. It’s really disappointing.”

Tumbarumba mayor Ian Chaffey also lost his management role on the body, although Bob Stewart as interim general manager of the Snowy Valleys Council has maintained his.

“We lost Ian as an executive member which is also very disappointing, he’s been a great voice for us to have,” Ms Briggs said.

Realising the impacts of the change has been a trying time for the organisation, according to Ms Briggs.

“It’s been a difficult time for us to try and sort it out. We’re part way through projects, last week I was writing to IPART on the rate review and on Friday I had to rush in and change all the council names,” she said.

“There’s also smaller but still important things like through our community engagement projects we often give away merchandise will all the Councils’ names on them. It’s all out of date and incorrect now.

“So there’s logistic issues of getting letterhead reprinted and bags and merchandise, and there’s big impacts like losing out chairman.”

Ms Briggs said while is it assumed councils whose former entities were members are continuing as active members, it is up to the discretion of the administrators.

“We have to re-invite the new councils,” she said.

“We assume they want to stay but the new administrators could decide they don’t want to.”

Administrators will be able to attend meetings and act on behalf of the new entities, but Ms Briggs has said she’s not certain the lone representatives will be able to provide communities with adequate representation.

“We’ll be without elected representatives of new councils until next year. Including Urana we’ve lots 50 councillors who all represented the community, now we’re relying on three administrators,” Ms Briggs said.

The new name will of course be a boon to sign makers while local radio station, Sounds of the Mountains, will be forced to replace a significant amount of their promotional sound bites.

Local station manager David Eisenhauer said the cost of rebranding the promos hasn’t been established, with the process of identifying how many refer to Gundagai and Tumut shire still underway.

“They’re all done outside, just to give some varieties in the voices you hear,” he said.

“The cost will depend on whether we redo all the sweeps and IDs, or do it bit by bit. Basically the ones that say ‘we’re across Tumut and Gundagai shires’ we’ll need to weed out of the system.”

Gundagai Council administrator Christine Ferguson said the state government will give $5 million to the new Gundagai Council to allow for changeovers associated with the amalgamation such as IT and signage.


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