For the record, here is the final summation of Mr Greg Wright’s report on the proposed Kiama/Shoalhaven merger:
“In summary, among the range of considerations in this matter, there are several major impediments to a merger taking place. Representation ratios would increase and access to elected councillors would be more difficult. The substantial geographic area and its linear nature, together with over 50 localities, would render a ratio of one councillor to every 8,000 residents difficult and impractical to manage effectively. The views of the residents that have been involved in this public process are overwhelmingly against the proposal.
“Though scale and capacity are likely to be improved [by the merger], the improvement is marginal. Relative service levels and pricing between the Councils vary considerably and harmonisation over time, while retaining some equity in the process, will be difficult.
“There are clear delineations in the broader communities of interest within the two Councils. The Kiama community generally looks north to the broader Illawarra for higher order health, educational, sporting and commercial needs. There is little commonality with the Shoalhaven centres. I do not believe that there is any significant community of interest between the two existing areas beyond their shared boundary.
“Perhaps the most telling factor, however, is the financial advantage or disadvantage of the proposal.
“The significant benefit is the offer of $10 million in capital funding. The infrastructure backlog – regardless of how it is calculated from one year to the next – is significant across the two Councils in dollar terms (although only 2% in relative terms). An injection of $10 million will significantly reduce the level of infrastructure backlog works by some 25%.
“However, I am of the view that the projected savings are unlikely to be achieved at the scale proposed due to the geography of the new Council, savings already achieved at Shoalhaven and the impacts of the arrangements made through the Joint Organisation. Any savings in staff and councillor costs will represent a very small proportion of total expenditure for a new entity.
“For all of these reasons, and on a balance of all of the issues, I am unable to recommend the merger of these Councils.”
Full report www.strongercouncils.nsw.gov.au