MAYOR Kathy Sajowitz has moved to reassure the town that it is not seeing “amalgamation by stealth” as Oberon works with its council neighbours.
And less than two years since Oberon won its battle to stave off a forced merger with Bathurst, Cr Sajowitz has warned the town “cannot survive in isolation” and must think regionally.
The mayor has chosen to address what she says are concerns about Oberon’s membership of the Central NSW Joint Organisation (CNSWJO).
”Council and our community gave much time and effort to opposing forced amalgamation and there is always a possibility this will be revisited in the future,” Cr Sajowitz said.
“To insulate ourselves from this we need to become sustainable and efficient, meeting all local government KPIs [key performance indicators].
“We need to grow as a town and be relevant regionally. We cannot survive in isolation.
“The state government has a roadmap for regional growth and we need to be part of it.”
Oberon has been a member of the CENTROC regional organisation of councils since its inception in the 1980s.
“By participating in group procurement and grant funding opportunities in areas such as fuel, electricity, road infrastructure product and services, road signage, street lighting and training, Oberon has been able to save around $1 million over the period December 2009 to June 2018,” Cr Sajowitz said.
This was offset by membership fees of approximately $35,000 a year, she said, which were “calculated for each member council on a per capita basis”.
Cr Sajowitz said the NSW Government’s local government reforms included a push for Regional Joint Organisations.
“As part of this reform, CENTROC, as one of the most successful organisations at the time, was chosen as one of the pilot JOs,” she said. “The previous council of Oberon unanimously voted to be part of this JO process and has the support of the current council.
“The pilot finished in December 2016, with CENTROC, by legislation, morphing into the CNSWJO.
“It is not mandatory that a council be part of a JO and councils that are members have the opportunity to leave the JO by applying to the NSW Government to do so.”
Cr Sajowitz said there were 10 constituent councils when the CNSWJO was proclaimed earlier this year.
“Recruitment for the position of GM is underway, structures are being put in place and the two organisations will be run concurrently until the affairs of CENTROC are wound up. I have requested the CNSWJO advocate, alongside Oberon Council, on the non-rateable land issue. We are working on this now.”
Cr Sajowitz said a JO is run by its member councils.
“It is up to the council to remain actively involved in developing its future,” she said.
“Our rate base is small, our service obligations to the community are growing daily, our demographic is changing and it is a balancing act to grow whilst maintaining the character of the town.”
As well as financial benefits from group procurement, Cr Sajowitz said the JO will give councils strength in numbers as they advocate on projects such as bringing health professionals to the Central West and better transport infrastructure to Sydney.
Cr Sajowitz said she had heard it said that the JO model was amalgamation by stealth, but she had to “personally disagree”.