7 May 2024

Tumba residents consider upcoming demerger inquiry their last chance

| Edwina Mason
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Wagga Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr recently addressed protesters outside state parliament in Sydney. Photo: Save Tumbarumba Shire Inc/Facebook.

For the second time in eight years Tumbarumba’s Orange Army is mobilising its troops to reclaim their old shire back, after the Local Government Boundaries Commission (LGBC) announced last week it was again examining a proposal to de-amalgamate Snowy Valleys Council (SVC).

Save Tumbarumba Shire see this as their last chance to demerge to save their town and shire, and say it’s crucial all community members make a submission and book a spot to speak or attend the upcoming public inquiry.

And as quickly as you can say “Demerge Tumbarumba”, out braving the chilly autumn Monday morn were the first brave souls manning a table outside Tumba Outfitters, ready to counsel locals on how they too can help.

Ahead of the last LGBC public hearings in 2021, the Tumbarumba community tabled 584 of a total 784 submissions with the town’s COVID-restricted public hearing attended by 118 people who heard 64 speakers for the proposal.

By contrast the Tumut hearing had 16 attendees, with 10 speakers.

No strangers to the process of waving placards before politicians, preparing submissions and fronting government inquiries, this year marks the eighth the community has tried to prise their former Tumbarumba Shire Council back from the clenches of the forcibly amalgamated SVC.

“There is still strong support to demerge and widespread disillusionment with Snowy Valleys Council, increasingly so since a second round of special rate variations has been applied for by SVC – making it a 43 per cent total increase over three years – that’s on top of some 36 per cent already in place,” said Save Tumbarumba Shire spokesperson Doug Gee.

On 12 May 2016, the NSW Government forcibly merged both Tumbarumba and Tumut shire councils by proclamation to create SVC.


A familiar table returned to its spot outside Tumba Oufitters on Monday with Save Tumbarumba Shire proponents at the ready to guide local residents on how to prepare demerger submissions. Photo: Save Tumbarumba Shire Inc/Facebook.

But despite linkages through geography and the softwood timber industry the former shires are unhappy bedfellows, with residents of the former Tumbarumba LGA hostile to amalgamation before and after the 2016 announcement.

Immediate efforts of locals were defeated in July 2021 by then NSW Local Government minister Shelley Hancock, who denied them a demerger despite recommendations to the contrary from the LGBC.

At the time, the minister said reports from the advisory body lacked the information necessary to determine whether each of the councils could demerge.

Just 12 months later – in August 2022 – after minister Hancock’s predecessor Wendy Tuckerman greenlit the dissolution of Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council (CGRC), citing escalating tensions between the Cootamundra and Gundagai communities, SVC moved again, voting in favour of preparation of a business case, presented to the new Labor government’s Local Government Minister Ron Hoenig last September.

READ ALSO Snowy Valleys demerger business case heads for minister’s desk

Last week the Minister directed the LGBC to conduct an inquiry and report on the proposal, which, if implemented, would re-establish the former Tumbarumba and Tumut council areas.

The Office of Local Government (OLC) has called for written submissions on the proposal and the community is also invited to register for public information sessions to be held at Tumbarumba Bowling Club on 29 May and the Tumut Golf Club on 30 May.

Wagga Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr has been at the fore of communities urging the NSW Government to provide clear pathways to demerging and demanding the operational and financial help they need to make it a reality, joining protesters outside NSW Parliament in March.

He is now encouraging the Snowy Valleys community to have its say on the proposal to demerge SVC.

“This is an opportunity to let the government know the extent of community support for the demerger and how it should work,” Dr McGirr said.

READ ALSO National Parks Association CEO says Snowy 2.0’s ‘an environmental disaster’ for Kosciuszko

He said he was continuing his advocacy with the government to deliver a demerger process that would be sustainable, effective and in line with community wishes, including the important provision that the government provides appropriate financial support to make it happen.

“The mergers were a mess created by government, not the community, and I will continue to make it clear that government must clean that mess up,” he said.

“In the meantime, now is the time to make submissions and make plans to attend the hearings so that the community’s voice is heard loud and clear,” Dr McGirr said.

Written submissions can be made by email to [email protected] or by mail to LGBC Executive Officer, Locked Bag 3015, Nowra NSW 2541. Submissions must be received by 5 pm on Monday 3 June.

Registrations to attend the public inquiries open from 6 May until 5 pm on 27 May. Those wishing to attend can register at olg.nsw.gov.au/lgbc or by contacting the executive officer on (02) 4428 4160.

“It has been a long fight to get to this stage and more work is needed to get the demerger model that is needed, but I’m encouraged that the Boundaries Commission is proceeding with consultation,” Dr McGirr said.

“The future of local government in the area is now at a turning point so I urge the community to shape its own future by sending strong messages about the best way forward so that Snowy Valleys people get the local government model they need and deserve,” he added.

Original Article published by Edwina Mason on About Regional.

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