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UNFIT FOR THE FUTURE

Council is firmly stepping out on the path to amalgamation with Qeanbeyan – basically because Palerang is broke with little prospect of improvement.
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We’ve been here before. The move from Tallaganda to Palerang was motivated by similar concerns with not much success. The amalgamation with Queanbeyan is also unlikely to produce any material improvement for people in the Braidwood district. There are two main reasons why this is the probable outcome.

First, modern Councils are rarely efficient at managing anything beyond sewerage, garbage collection, some roadworks and eternally insisting that rates need to be raised to sustain even basic services. Beyond that, the record is poor. The recent PLEP exercise is a case in point. Seven years of fluffing around and arguments with ratepayers to arrive at a solution that many still regard as flawed and second rate-and a staggering cost. Council has persistently refused to put a figure on the total cost (undoubtedly because it doesn’t want to embarrass itself), so guessing is all we can do. Most estimates I’ve heard are in the $1 to$2 million range, some outlying estimates are even higher. We’ll never know as long as Council resists true transparency.

A more visible example that everyone can relate to is the pedestrian crossings in Wallace St. A simple, straight forward project that (if built on private land) would cost under $50,000 and take around a month to complete using fair (not best) work practices. Council has taken many months of stop and go activity, conducting remedial work (to fix a pipe leak under the newly poured concrete) and coping with problems that could and should have been avoided with common sense planning. The result? A still uncompleted project without lighting, without zebra stripes and without shrubbery in the planters. Cost? Well even if we exclude the time costs involved in bureaucratic wrangling between Council, The RMS etc, the numerous surveys and studies conducted before the project started, we will end up with a community bill that is likely to be twice or three times what it should be for a design that many don’t like (because it forces cars toward each other rather than separating them as with an island design, because it chews up parking spaces etc).

That’s not good value. And if Council can’t get it right when the job is in the Main Street, right outside Council’s Office, what do you think happens when jobs are out of sight? Queanbeyan is a much bigger Council with a bigger bureaucracy, more internal processes and urban (rather than rural) expertise so it is even less likely to use rural ratepayer monies either wisely or efficiently.

The second reason to have low expectations of a Palerang/Queanbeyan amalgamation is that our district will become the overlooked rural outpost in a predominately urban/suburban, giant Council. We will be quickly forgotten and marginalised if we remain passive or dismissed as country rednecks if we fight for our rights. Either way the prospects look poor.

It wasn’t that long ago that progressive thinkers were arguing for a simplification in our three tiered system of government. The ideal being to strengthen Federal control over the big ticket items that all Australians need (health,education….) with more monies going to local Councils to handle grass-root issues (roads, community needs, citizen involvement). Seems to make sense?

Now we are going down a very different path. Big Federal Government, Big State Government and now Big Local government. Such moves will almost certainly mean that the Braidwood District will become unfit, (not fit), to meet the future.

Tim Lenehan

Ballalaba

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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