The Tamworth Northern Daily Leader carried prominent coverage of the merger threat facing local Councils, and the Greens' positive response to give local residents the ultimate say in what happens to their Councils:
Despite a seeming reprieve from the NSW government this week, the regional mega-merger between Walcha, Uralla and Armidale councils is still under consideration.
It was wonderful to see Walcha residents celebrate their independence this week, but the proposal is still live and the Baird NSW government has not taken it off the table.
Meanwhile the community of Guyra got a different result, even though they fought just as hard to stand alone and they submitted independent expert advice against a merger.
The timing of the announcement during an election campaign is also questionable.
The Liberal-Nationals forced mergers process is highly politicised and subject to closed-door deals, as various Nationals MPs including Barnaby Joyce have all leapt to claim a share of the credit for the Walcha decision.
This is not the independent, arms-length process that New England communities expect and deserve.
Barnaby Joyce can’t have it both ways. Either this was a sovereign NSW government decision that had nothing to do with him, or he must admit that it was political decision to protect the Nationals leader from an election backlash.
But Greens will insist that residents, not politicians, should have the ultimate say in what happens to their local councils.
The Greens have renewed the push to recognise local government in the Australian Constitution, which would enable the Commonwealth to directly fund local governments.
The Commonwealth could directly fund local governments through an independent trust that keeps the funds away from political meddling. A local government trust could maintain stand-alone Councils in Walcha, Guyra, Uralla, and everywhere that residents want to keep their local representation.
I’m glad that Mr Joyce got to enjoy a home-town celebration with Walcha locals on Thursday night, but I wonder how residents will react next time he shows his face in Guyra.