By JONATHON HOWARD
CAPTION: Member of the Queensland Local Government Reform Alliance during a visit to Redcliffe last month with members, from left, Joseph Monsour, Bob Johnson, Laurie Dagg, Sue Johnson, Mary Rofe and Joanna Kesteven.
A NEW state-wide group opposing forced amalgamations has formed in Stanthorpe this month.
The alliance, known as the Queensland Local Government Reform Alliance (QLGRA), has called on the State Government to “get back on track” by allowing local communities redress through referendums.
The alliance was formed following the Queensland Local Government Reform Forum held in Stanthorpe in February.
Spokesman for the alliance, Bob Johnson, said QLGRA wants the State Government, whose elected members had previously opposed forced amalgamations, to carry out their pledge by giving communities a voice through referenda.
“The government put a process in place that denied Queenslanders natural justice,” Mr Johnson said.
“It disallowed many former council areas a chance to re-establish their local communities and only four were allowed to de-merge, despite 19 having applied.
“Many more would have applied had the process been fair, and from the evidence there appears to be a serious breach of natural justice.”
Mr Johnson said the new alliance, which is open to all community groups to enrol, will advocate at state level until the “Beattie Government’s failed amalgamation process is properly addressed, and local councils wanting demerger are restored”.
“All communities are suffering under high rates, low service regimes, increasing council debt levels, lost council representation and loss of sense of community,” Mr Johnson said.
“All evidence proves beyond doubt that bigger is not better and will never be, when applied to local councils.
“The amalgamation process was supposed to reduce the burden for communities. The reverse is true. Amalgamation was supposed to enable councils to better deal with costs associated with natural disasters. Yet 16 councils including four very big councils are now in trouble,” he said.
“The promised savings did not eventuate. The burden of amalgamation and the dis-economies of scale from centralisation continue to plague communities.”
“Did we not learn from the Soviet bloc that centralisation of decision making does not work… please allow us to decentralise or demerge.”
Mr Johnson said the Alliance was already gaining momentum in Queensland and there was early interest in NSW, where amalgamation has been proposed for Tenterfield and Glen Innes Severn shire councils.
The alliance, according to Mr Johnson, will campaign for all council areas requesting it, to have a referendum to re-draw local government boundaries to restore and re-empower communities.
For more information phone (07) 5463 5304, or Bob Johnson on 0432 950 645 – with further plans for a QLGRA website in the coming weeks.