‘Bitterly disappointed’ MP reflects on amalgamation
TEN years ago yesterday, Chris Gulaptis was given the sack.
It came via a voicemail message while the then-mayor of Maclean Shire was driving to an appointment.
The fact he was no longer mayor was just one of the implications of the message.
Maclean Shire no longer existed, nor did Grafton City, Copmanhurst and Pristine Waters councils, and Clarence River County Council and North Coast Water.
The message on Mr Gulaptis's phone was the news Clarence Valley Council had been created and a new era in local government had begun.
"It was the first time I'd ever been sacked and it was pretty ordinary how it was done," the now State MP for Clarence said yesterday as he was about to enter the Coalition's first joint party meeting of the year in Macquarie St.
"We were bitterly disappointed by the news, we expected we would have been given a decent hearing but that wasn't the case."
The establishment of the Clarence Valley local government area was officially announced in the Government Gazette, with local government minister Tony Kelly appointing former Copmanhurst mayor Neil Payne as administrator of the new body.
Elections were scheduled for March 5, 2005.
Among the boundary changes, Red Rock and Corindi became part of the Coffs Harbour City Council LGA.
Mr Kelly estimated there would be savings of up to $5.2 million in the first year of the new council, but Mr Gulaptis said Labor failed by not providing enough financial help.
"I was very disappointed with the financial support," Mr Gulaptis said.
"It (the council) could have done with $4-5 million to ease the pain."
The man leading Clarence Valley Council 10 years down the track, Mayor Richie Williamson, yesterday pointed to "great steps" in infrastructure - including sewerage upgrades worth $100million, Shannon Creek Dam and the soon-to-be-opened regional library - as a benefit of amalgamation.
"My view is the amalgamation is and has been positive for the region, and the best years of the council are ahead of us," he said.