THE NSW Government under the leadership of Mike Baird merged the three councils of Harden, Young and Boorowa on May 12, 2016. Over two years later the State Government continues to fail to fully fund the mergers . Much of the cost still outstanding, revolves around the information technology system - $2.65m is a lot of money, funding we don’t have.
Whilst we rejoice in the glitter and new toys in which the Stronger Country Communities Fund is providing, we must understand one thing. We now have to maintain all the new infrastructure and this costs money. Hilltops Council’s rates are currently set by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, (IPART). The rate peg is 2.3 per cent. The rate “freeze” concludes in 2019/2020. There is little doubt whatsoever that rates will either go up to cover the costs of services or to bring the costs down, service levels will be lowered. The question is, will this meet community expectations? Council is required to undertake a review of the rate structure of the former councils and determine a Hilltops Structure and have it in place by 2021.
The other major hurdle confronting the Hilltops area is the requirement to establish a new Local Environment Plan (LEP). I don’t for one minute believe that the current State Government is genuinely interested in seeing this area expand and grow with industry and housing. Otherwise the ridiculously arduous process of making a new LEP would be made far simpler.
A workshop presentation was held for councillors last week by some big wigs from Wollongong. It has prompted more questions than answers. The former Harden Shire Council had already prepared a lot of work for a new LEP before the merger. It was their number one priority just a week in to the 2012 term. It will now take a minimum of two years to achieve any sort of useable LEP for the betterment of the Hilltops area.
It’s time State Government started looking after country people and help fund their expansion and future.