Ex-mayor takes charge of new council: amalgamation expert at work
IAN Tiley has seen it all before: Local government in NSW is racked with problems and dissent since Premier Mike Baird announced a series of amalgamations of councils.
In some areas council meetings have been disrupted by protests, while residents in those areas claim democracy has been subverted.
Things seem much more calm at the newly formed Armidale Regional Council and part of the reason for that can be put down to the appointment of Dr Tiley as council administrator.
It has been a relatively smooth, if hectic, transition for the former mayor of Maclean and Clarence Valley who was heavily involved in the amalgamation that created the Clarence Valley Council in 2004.
He was appointed as administrator of the new council, that has combined the former Armidale-Dumaresq and Guyra councils, on May 12, spent the next three days in briefing sessions in Sydneythen hit the ground running at his Armidale base.
"I was very chuffed to be asked to do this job because I have been going to Armidale for over 20 years doing study at the University of New England," Dr Tiley said. "As a result of that I know a lot of the players in local government in the area."
He also knows a lot about amalgamations.
Not only was Dr Tiley at the heart of amalgamation in the Clarence, he also focused on those local events when writing a thesis for his PhD.
"I feel quite comfortable that it is an area of expertise for me," he said.
"I'm conscious that in this position you are the council until there is an election held on September 9, 2017. It is an administration role and you are also the civics spokesman for the community.
"It is a big job, a full-time job and I'm very proud to have been asked to do it."
Having been closely involved in the Clarence amalgamations, Dr Tiley said the State Government had given the new council far greater resources this time around.
"Last time they appointed an administrator and said 'get on with it'," he said
"There are all sorts of resources being provided for this amalgamation."
He said with only two councils amalgamating, it wasn't as complex as the Clarence merger and that Armidale-Dumaresq and Guyra had been co-operating on projects for some years.
There were concerns in Guyra, Dr Tiley said, that as the smaller part of the new council it might be more of a takeover than an amalgamation, a fear he is keen to allay with listening tours and regular meetings and forums.
Apart from that, he said reaction from residents had been welcoming rather than angry.
Dr Tiley is keen to get on with making decisions rather than marking time for the next 15 months.
"I have to set up an administrative structure for the new council so I won't be sitting on my hands," he said.
"The job is about reassuring people that the council is still functioning and setting it up for success in the future."
One thing about the job Dr Tiley isn't looking forward to are the New England winter mornings, of which he has already had a teeth-chattering taste.
He intends to head back to the Clarence every weekend to thaw out and visit his 95-year-old mother.