“Under threat”

Light Regional Council Mayor Bill O’Brien said his council is “under threat” by proposed boundary re-alignment.

Light Regional Council are fighting against what Mayor Bill O’Brien has described as a “highly questionable takeover” from two neighbouring Councils seeking boundary re-alignment.

A motion without notice from Mayor O’Brien, listing eight points, was carried and agreed upon by every elected member during last week’s meeting in a show of defiance and unity that made the Kapunda based Mayor proud.

“I have to say, in my nearly nine years’ experience as Mayor, this was probably the most positive and focussed meeting of Council I’ve attended.

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his topic and threat brought everyone together focusing on boundary reform, the re-alignment being proposed and what, as a Council and region, we would stand to lose,” Mayor O’Brien told The Leader.

“We want to let our residents and the wider community know what’s going on regarding boundary reform and the threat that we are under from both The Barossa Council and Town of Gawler Council.

“If that threat was carried out and adopted, our Council would be unsustainable. We would not exist, just a carcass for the birds to pick

Mayor O’Brien said what remained of the Light region could possibly be amalgamated with Adelaide Plains, or perhaps a northern Council and he didn’t believe that would be a good thing for Local Government or residents in the region.

“Furthermore, I suspect our neighbouring Councils may not consider or support any such amalgamation either,” he added.

The carried motion’s first point noted Light Regional Council’s CEO, Brian Carr and Mayor O’Brien had advised their counterparts at both councils back on February 13 that they were “not interested in the matter” as it was “considered to be a major distraction to the effective operations of all Councils involved and an unnecessary expense with no economic or other benefits to the entire region.”

Other points included Council’s willingness to listen to its community and take all the necessary action to protect their interests, whilst openly receiving views from the wider region on the matter.

“We will shortly begin a comprehensive community consultation and information sharing process,” Mayor O’Brien said.

It was also stated both neighbouring councils adopted their boundary re- alignment proposals “simultaneously without any consultation from their community or input from Light Regional Council” and if they were implemented, they would “substantially erode the Light Regional Council’s rate base, thereby creating an unsustainable Council which is not in the Region’s nor State’s interest.”

Mayor O’Brien’s motion re-iterated Council’s view that adjusting boundaries would not add value to the region, nor generate any economic benefits.

“In fact, it will more than likely create significant costs for all Councils and the Light Regional Council continues to support the regional collaboration currently being enjoyed,” he said.

The motion continued with a request to The Town of Gawler and The Barossa Council to withdraw their proposals based on their “apparent lack of community support” and that the Regional Collaboration Model be restored.

Both the Mayor and CEO will now “actively address the boundary re-alignment threats” and engage specialist counsel.

“We are serious,” Mayor O’Brien said.

“Our councillors understand the feeling of residents in their wards towards what’s going on. We know because we’ve listened to residents and conducted some ‘straw polling’ around our communities. We have also commenced discussions with major businesses and community organisations receiving unwavering support, some who will write to both Councils.

“The CEO and I have been invited to meet to discuss these proposals which we acknowledge. However, we believe both Councils have made their positions very clear and see no value in discussing this as the proposed new boundaries and maps have been produced and made public by various means and confirmed by Council resolutions.

“However, if the Councils wish to speak on ‘Structural Reform’ we would be very interested indeed. Our Councils have enjoyed an excellent working relationship and have enjoyed being part of many joint projects both present and into the future. We want to strengthen our collaboration, not destroy it!”

Mayor O’Brien said any boundary reform application would be a “long and involved process” which could cost ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“I understand costs of around $300,000 are involved just to submit an initial proposal to the Boundaries Reform Commission and I seriously question and don’t believe this would be an acceptable way to spend ratepayers money.”

He believed the debate regarding Hewett being on Gawler’s boundary and therefore used its services “was nonsense”.

“That would mean no Council would build anything on their borders…It’s just a silly argument.”

The Barossa Council Deputy Mayor John Angas said Council had only recently formed a Boundary Reform sub-committee and its first meeting was scheduled for tonight.

“We believe it is time to have a conversation about boundary reform,” said Cr. Angas.

“This only came to our Council meeting in mid September.

“I think what we need to do is look at the greater good and what is best for ratepayers, not necessarily what’s best for Council organisations.

“It seems to me that more and more individuals, particularly grapegrowers and wineries, are seeing a benefit of being in one region, and a region that treats them all equally seems to make sense.

“It’s really an opportunity to align the GI (Geographic Indicators) with Council boundaries and what the industries are currently consisting of.”