Devonport City Council continues to support its focus on amalgamation in the Mersey Region, as it welcomes the interim report for the Tasmanian Government’s Future of Local Government Review.
At tonight’s Ordinary Meeting, Council’s phase two submission was endorsed unanimously by councillors. The Local Government Review started in January 2022 and according to the Tasmanian Government, is expected to take about 18 months to complete.
Devonport Mayor Annette Rockliff said while Council welcomes the report findings that major Local Government reform is necessary, it does not support the suggestion to remove the delivery of some key services from councils, fearing it would reduce the scale, relevance, and influence of local government.
Cr Rockliff said economies of scale, as the report suggests, are necessary and can be beneficial but should be obtained through fewer, larger councils, rather than consolidation at a service level, which is what happened with TasWater.
“Council agrees with the interim report that the status quo is not an option, there certainly needs to be change. However councils need to be resized so they are big enough do things effectively, but remain small enough to care and respond to community needs” Cr Rockliff said.
“Consolidating services away from councils removes the local representation and control over things happening in our own patch, and shifts the authority to regional or statewide bodies with unnecessary overhead and cost.
“Our LIVING CITY master plan is an ideal case study of how something of this scale could never happen if council hadn’t had full control over its destiny.
“The removal of council functions and services into separate regional or statewide bodies ignores the interdependence and efficiency that exists when things occur under the one roof, and inevitably results in more third-party referrals and delays resulting in angst and red tape for customers.”
Cr Rockliff said Council’s initial submission suggests a “Mersey Region” local government area comprising of approximately 60,000 residents through the amalgamation of Kentish, Latrobe, Devonport and the eastern part of Central Coast.
“A Mersey Region council would better serve our region with autonomy to influence and decide what is best for our patch with robust systems and structures to ensure all voices are heard,” Cr Rockliff said.
“In our phase two submission, we suggest a number of criteria to establish new local government boundaries.
“These criteria would align rural and remote areas with larger population centres ensuring a sustainable rate base, autonomy in planning and strategic direction, and create organisations big enough to attract and retain capable workforces.
“Importantly our submission also outlines ideas to ensure local representation and community voice of smaller communities is not compromised.”
Cr Rockliff said the natural synergies between the four existing Mersey council areas, being fluid population transit daily across borders, shared demographic and social profiles, made a strong case for amalgamation in this region.
“As the population increases, the urbanised and developed areas of the Mersey region are drawing closer, with limited undeveloped and unoccupied land remaining between coastal townships,” Cr Rockliff said.
“This proximity, along with similarities in demographics, social interests, employment, and educational choices has resulted in the existing municipal boundaries having little relevance to many residents.
“Much of the population transit existing council boundaries seamlessly in their daily lives, yet the management, operation and investment in essential services and infrastructure is managed in isolation from this pattern.”
A full copy of Council’s submission can be found at https://www.devonport.tas.gov.au/council/future-of-local-government-review/
A Future of Local Government Review website has been created and contains information regarding the review including research papers and comparative data on each of Tasmania’s 29 Councils.