Nambucca is adamant it will not be bullied into joining a super Joint Organisation (JO) with two regional centres (Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie) as proposed by the Office of Local Government.
Politely-worded letters have been sent around to all remaining outlying councils – Coffs, Clarence and Nambucca – encouraging them to consider the detriment to their constituents should they not relent and forge with Port Macquarie, Kempsey and Bellingen in a six-member Joint Organisation.
But last Thursday, councillors spoke strongly against the move.
Mayor Rhonda Hoban was concerned that by acquiescing to the Office of Local Government’s request it could see Nambucca lumped in with existing members – Bellingen, Kempsey and Port Macquarie – while the more affluent Coffs Harbour and Clarence could go off rogue.
“I don’t think it’s wise to end up in a JO with a regional centre of Port Macquarie,” she said.
“We have already been very nicely encouraged to just go with Port Macquarie. But noone is budging at this point.”
Cr John Ainsworth said that while he doesn’t necessarily agree with being paired with Port Macquarie either, he “always thought a JO would comprise of neighbouring councils, not leapfrogging certain councils”.
“Otherwise we may as well choose to join with Blacktown – I mean they’ve got a bit of money,” he said, with twinkle in his eye.
“Bellingen must be spitting chips after being wrapped up in a JO with two councils it has no geographical relationship with,” Cr Brian Finlayson said.
Cr David Jones marked his opposition to being pressured to join a ‘southern’ JO simply because Bellingen had been swept up in it.
“When I drive out of the Shire for Community Transport clients I usually go north, I very rarely go south,” he said.
But Cr Janine Reed argued that Nambucca should not be too forceful in its opposition to joining with Port Macquarie, nor being part of a dual-centre JO.
“A very large organisation I’m involved with goes from Red Rock to Laurieton and that covers both regional centres. It works quite well and little towns like Taylors Arm don’t get forgotten,” she said.
Deputy Mayor Martin Ballangarry reminded the council of the boundaries of Gumbaynggirr country – from Yamba in the north to Yarriabini just to our south – and indicated a partnership with our northern neighbouring councils would be more in line with our local Indigenous structures of organisation.
“When I first came into council I iterated the six local governments that we entail. I would have thought we would have been listened to by now,” he said.
While Crs Smyth and Finalyson’s comments centred around the suspicion that this is all leading to a back-door amalgamation.
“I don’t see there’s much of a relationship between Eungai and Yamba, but having said that if we are going to be amalgamated then we should want to be joined with Clarence and Coffs,” Cr Finlayson said.
After a vote of 5:2, with Crs Jones and Ballangarry dissenting and Cr Wilson absent, the Nambucca Shire Council resolved to:
“...seek the support of Clarence Valley and Coffs Harbour City Councils in making further representations to the Deputy Premier, the Minister for Local Government and its local State Members for the establishment of a Joint Organisation comprising Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, and the Nambucca local government areas. Further that Bellingen Shire Council be accepted as a member of the proposed Joint Organisation should they obtain approval to withdraw from the announced Mid North Coast Joint Organisation”.