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Facts to be sought on mergers

LAUNCESTON’S neighbouring councils each had very different ideas on amalgamations yesterday after Mayor Albert van Zetten said he planned to write to adjoining mayors about the issue if a motion was passed at tomorrow’s council meeting.

Albert van Zetten

‘‘It’s just to get the information, get the facts, and then if the information shows that there will be no benefit to amalgamations we’ve got nothing to worry about,’’ Alderman van Zetten said on Saturday.

Mayors, aldermen and councillors from across Northern Tasmania met with Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein last month to discuss the government’s plans for voluntary amalgamations and resource sharing.

Break O’Day Mayor Michael Tucker said that he could see real benefits to amalgamations and that high-density areas could be some of the first to amalgamate.

‘‘I think that voluntary amalgamations are a good thing as long are there are benefits back to the ratepayers,’’ Cr Tucker said. ‘‘I fully support resource sharing, and we are doing that at Break O’Day already.’’

Dorset Mayor Barry Jarvis said he would like to see some facts and figures that would give councils, and the community, an evidence-based idea of what amalgamations would look like.

‘‘I intend to bring a similar motion to council and do the same thing,’’ Cr Jarvis said.

‘‘I think it’s a good opportunity for councils for get some hard data to see what does work and what doesn’t work.’’

Northern Midlands Mayor David Downie said that in relation to local councils, bigger was not always better.

‘‘I think it’s important that we do talk with the view of trying to move local government into a more efficient area, rather than non-efficient,’’ Cr Downie said.

‘‘It’s probably more worthwhile to have discussions about how we can move the local government sector forward in efficiencies through resource sharing … a lot of councils are run very efficiently when you compare to other levels of government.’’

Meander Valley Mayor Craig Perkins said his council had looked at what Mr Gutwein had offered and was particularly interested in shared services rather than amalgamations.

‘‘We’re already a low-cost council in terms of our delivery … it would be see how they could reduce the cost to Meander Valley ratepayers,’’ Cr Perkins said.

West Tamar Mayor Christina Holmdahl said she was very supportive of these discussions taking place between councils.

‘‘The important thing is that we will maintain a level of service to our ratepayers without any massive increase to their rates,’’ she said.

George Town Mayor Bridget Archer could not be contacted for comment.

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