Dr Greg Clancy speaks at the Yamba Chamber of Commerce meet the candidates event.
Dr Greg Clancy speaks at the Yamba Chamber of Commerce meet the candidates event. Adam Hourigan

Council amalgamation fuels debate at Yamba candidates forum

IT TOOK a former candidate for the seat of Clarence to spark some fire in the belly of aspiring Clarence politicians last night.

The meet the candidates night hosted by the Yamba Chamber of Commerce started with a civil round of question and answer from the candidates.

Who will you vote for in the seat of Clarence at the 2019 NSW Election?

This poll ended on 22 March 2019.

Current Results

STEVE CANSDELL - Shooters, Fishers and Farmers

31%

GREG CLANCY - Greens

4%

TRENT GILBERT - Labor

21%

CHRIS GULAPTIS - Nationals

29%

THOM KOTIS - Sustainable Australia

0%

DEBRAH NOVAK - Independent

12%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

However, a question over committing to rolling back the amalgamation of Maclean Shire Council from former Labor and Liberal candidate for Clarence Bill Day sparked interest from the crowd, and fired up some of the candidates.

Labor's Trent Gilbert opened with what was to be a familiar line, saying that his government would welcome submissions from the community about how the council could be deamalgamated.

However, while defending Labor's record on the amalgamation, he went on the attack towards sitting member Chris Gulaptis.

"I'm pretty sure our current member was the last mayor of Maclean, an I'm pretty sure he was really really big in fighting against the merger. Where's that advocacy now?" he said.

"People get up me because of Labor's involvement, but he's been in the chair. Where's his advocacy?"

Mr Gulaptis first said that the amalgamation was done, and the administration costs alone would prevent it from working properly.

In response to Mr Gilbert, Mr Gulaptis said he didn't support the amalgamations, because he knew what would happen in the regional areas.

"The only difference between what happened with Baird and what happened with Bob Carr when he forced us to amalgamate was Baird at least gave the councils - we would've got about $15m, which means we wouldn't have needed a special rates variation.

"And that's what I would like to see happen, I've already put that to my party... whether we could get some restitution for the fact we were amalgamated.

"The answer was clearly no, but we have received other benefits from the regional growth fund coming into the area.... this includes $4.4million to improve the roundabouts into Yamba, $3.8million to improve the road network on Harwood Island with the marine precinct and literally millions going into sporting and cultural facilities in the Clarence."

Greens candidate Greg Clancy summed up the argument when he said that while he would listen, there had to be a valid, costed case for the deamalgamation.

"You can't just say we want to deamalgamate. You can't keep saying. You can't say the people upriver are horrible, and the people downriver are beautiful," he said.

"I mean, you are," he added to the laughs of the crowd.

SFF candidate Steve Cansdell agreed that it could never go back, but a full review needed to be conducted into the council operation.

"Clarence Valley Council is known right from every developer on the east coast as one of the worst councils to deal with... and I think there needs to be a restructure and total review of the council, it's not going to go backwards... but it needs a total review of the council operations at how they can be more effective and how they can produce and give the people a better service," he said.

Independent candidate Debrah Novak defended the council, saying the council was already doing a review of its planning, and they had recognised that planning was an issue and were moving it into the modern era.

She said the amalgamation issue was driven in the lower river by people who were passionate and parochial and felt hard done by, and mentioned that a review by Dr Ian Tiley found that the $1million a year savings never happened, putting ratepayers $15million behind.

"But at the end of the day our ratepayers in the lower river are just as important as those in the upper river and if they feel strongly enough...if they want to put forward a cause of the issue we have to look at that as your elected representative," she said.



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