The Tasmanian government has reaffirmed its commitment that there will be no forced amalgamations of councils after receiving the final report of a two year review of local government in the state.
The Local Government Board this week handed down its final report on the Future of Local Government Review which remains in the hands of the government.
Local Government minister Nic Street said the report was ‘fulsome’ and it would be released for feedback from councils and the community later this month after he had read it and discussed it with Cabinet.
He said while no councils will be forced to amalgamate, any group of councils that considers boundary changes to be in their best interests will be encouraged to go ahead.
“The Government has previously clearly stated that this review will not result in forced amalgamations of councils, and that position has not changed,” Mr Street said.
“There will be no changes unless both the council and community want them.”
‘Clean sheet’ approach
The Stage 2 Interim Report, released in March, said the majority of Tasmanians believe the state has too many councils for the population, with only one in three saying the current number is right or that there should be more.
The report said the review also found 80 per cent of Tasmanians supported councils sharing more services to deliver better outcomes for the community.
It said forced council amalgamations in other jurisdictions been conducted through an efficiency and financial sustainability lens and have been “unnecessarily acrimonious and divisive” and alienated local communities.
However it said the Tasmanian community is facing challenges that require “collaborative regional approaches” while still being flexible to local circumstances.
“We are, in essence, asking the Tasmanian community to adopt, at least in the first instance, a ‘clean sheet of paper’ approach to thinking about the overall future design of local government in Tasmania,” the board said.
LGAT: concerns addressed
Tasmania’s peak local government body has previously welcomed the government’s position on no forced amalgamations.
On Wednesday LGAT President Mick Tucker he didn’t want to comment on the report until it has been released.
However he told Government News some Tasmanian councils would welcome the opportunity to be supported as they investigated opportunities to adjust boundaries.
“Local government reform should focus on delivering what communities need in a sustainable way,” he said.
“Designing new boundaries and shared services requires time and resources. The transition process must be very carefully managed. The commitment from the Minister to support this process is very welcomed and responds to a number of concerns our sector has been raising,” he said.
Once the report is released, councils will have until the end of February to have their say.
“I look forward to councils from around the State engaging further in this important process because at its core, it will be councils and their communities who will decide their own future,” the minister said.
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