Berrigan Shire is fighting to ensure the council is declared ‘fit’ by the NSW Government in light of recent local government mergers as part of the ‘Fit for the Future’ reform.
During newly elected Member for Murray Austin Evans’ recent visit to the local area, Berrigan Shire listed a ‘fit’ status as its number one priority.
Mr Evans, however, said the process of ensuring the shire is fit is complicated.
‘‘There isn’t any formal process that actually turns an unfit status into a fit status.
‘‘Griffith Council was able remove its unfit status by being very loud, but they’re a bigger council.
‘‘The best thing the council can do is join the Joint Organisation venture to start off, but that doesn’t come into effect until July 1 (next year).’’
The Joint Organisation is designed to help regional and rural councils work closer together.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the NSW Government would provide seed funding of $3.3 million to support councils that choose to become a member of a JO.
‘‘Councils choosing to take up this option will get a seat at the table in planning infrastructure and investment for their region, with support and funding from the State Government,’’ Mr Barilaro said.
Berrigan Shire director of corporate services Matt Hansen said Berrigan Shire would need to team up with surrounding councils such as Edward River, Federation, Murrumbidgee and Albury.
Those councils would need to work together on projects such as water management, waste management, road and infrastructure.
In September, Berrigan Shire Mayor Matt Hannan wrote to the Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton requesting the state government considered changing its status to fit.
In his letter, Cr Hannan outlined the fact that IPART declared Berrigan Shire ‘unfit’ despite receiving support from a delegate conducting the Fit for the Future review.
Cr Hannan also said that decision was ‘‘unfair and unjust’’ and would affect the shire’s future grants and funding opportunities.
The council has not received a response from the minister.
Berrigan Shire and Narrandera Shire are the only two councils in Mr Evans’ electorate that still have an ‘unfit’ status following the ‘Fit for the Future’ process in 2015. Neither shire was merged as part of the reform.