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BURRA's response to the Boundaries Commission's Report issued In 2008

Please note, this is BURRA's response to the Boundary Commission's report on our original boundary change submission. Some minor facts and details may have changed since that time.

The original boundary submission and the Boundaries Commission's report were required to address a number of review criteria. We have set out the criteria and BURRA's original case, followed by the Boundaries Commission's response and BURRA's comments on that response.

1 The financial advantages or disadvantages (including the economies or diseconomies of scale) of any relevant proposal to the residents and ratepayers of the areas concerned

BURRA's case

Significant economies of scale could be expected from Queanbeyan taking over the provision of services to residents in the B/U/R area. Queanbeyan already services nearby rural residential areas in Googong and Royalla.

BURRA noted in its original submission that although Palerang Council was able to estimate the rates and other income attributable to the B/U/R area, its financial system did not record the costs of existing service provision to the area. It was therefore entirely possible that, should the (unknown) costs be found to exceed the known income, there could be a net benefit to the remaining Palerang ratepayers if B/U/R transferred to Queanbeyan.

Boundaries Commission's Conclusions

Advantages

The residents of Burra, Urila and parts of the Royalla Estate perceive better economically viable services to their community if the proposal were to be implemented.

Queanbeyan City Council would receive additional income from the proposed boundary alteration. Rates income would increase subject to land value and the rates structure. FAGs would probably increase largely due to population and road lengths but subject to relativities between councils.

Disadvantages

Palerang Council relies heavily on private and RTA works. Any diminution in such works may materially impact adversely on Council's ability to achieve future satisfactory operating surpluses.

The loss of an estimated $701,410 income (rates revenue $571,000 and general purpose FAG's $130,410) per annum would be detrimental to the financial viability of Palerang Council.

BURRA's response to the Boundaries Commission's conclusions

The Boundaries Commission report glossed over the issue of economies of scale which, on a wider scale, are important to the local economy as a whole. Instead, their conclusions appeared to be based solely on the potential impacts of the loss of income to Palerang as a result of the boundary change.

The Boundaries Commission's report states that Palerang would incur a loss of rates revenue (based on 2007 estimates by Palerang Council) of approximately $571,000 per annum and an estimated loss of $130,410 in general purpose Financial Assistance Grants payments.

The Boundaries Commission does not, however, appear to have examined what proportion of Palerang Council's expenditure was attributable to the B/U/R area. In BURRA's view, the Boundaries Commission's report should have examined both sides of the equation, namely loss of income to Palerang and the potential savings on the services it would no longer be required to provide to the area.

The financial viability argument was central to Palerang Council's case, however they appeared unable or unwilling to provide BURRA with any evidence of costings to support the assertion that Palerang Council would be financially unviable without the B/U/R income. It was, therefore, incumbent on Palerang to disclose this information to the Boundaries Commission and for the Boundaries Commission to undertake a proper analysis of both costs and savings prior to reaching a conclusion. It appears that this did not happen and it is difficult to understand how the Boundaries Commission was able to reach a conclusion while only half the necessary information was available to them.

Given the low level of services provided by Palerang to the B/U/R area, BURRA concluded from the income figures provided in the Boundaries Commission's report, that Palerang Council is, as we suspected, relying on income attributable to B/U/R to subsidise services in the remainder of the Palerang Shire.

2 The community of interest and geographic cohesion in the existing areas and in any proposed new area.

BURRA's case

B/U/R is completely isolated from the rest of Palerang Shire by the Queanbeyan River , the Googong Dam, and the Molonglo Range of mountains.

A trip to the Council offices in Bungendore requires at least a 2 hour (or more) round trip from B/U/R. Council meetings are held in Bungendore and Braidwood. Braidwood is a 3 hour (ore more) round trip from B/U/R. To transact business with Palerang councillors or officials in Bungendore or Braidwood, B/U/R residents must travel via Queanbeyan and drive right past the QCC offices.

It is difficult to think of any economic, community, social, sporting, cultural or leisure activity which brings B/U/R residents together with Bungendore and Braidwood residents or their hinterland on any regular or continuing basis. B/U/R residents have little or no occasion to travel to or through Bungendore or Braidwood in their daily or weekly routines.

The opposite applies to B/U/R residents and the Queanbeyan community. Many B/U/R residents visit Queanbeyan several times a week if not daily. It is the logical (and historical) centre of local governance for the B/U/R Area.

Boundaries Commission's conclusion

From the submissions received, the Commission considers there is a strong community of interest between the local communities in the region, which is centred on the ACT and Queanbeyan areas.

The Commission notes there may be geographical impediments that impact on the ability of some of the residents in the proposed transfer area to maintain a community of interest with the entire Palerang local government area.

The Commission also notes, however, that prior to the constitution of the Palerang local government area, the Burra, Urila and Royalla localities were situated within the former Yarrowlumla local government area, part of which now forms the Palerang local government area.

BURRA's response to the Boundaries Commission's conclusions

It is true that the B/U/R localities were located within the former Yarrowlumla local government area, part of which now forms the Palerang Shire area. However, the Commission omitted to mention that the Offices of the former Yarrowlumla Shire Council were located in Queanbeyan.

Residents are aware that they can make a call to Palerang Council for the cost of a local call, however residents often have business which is difficult to transact over the telephone and it is, of course, impossible to attend Council meetings by telephone.

The reality is that the Molonglo Range , the Queanbeyan River and the Googong Dam between create a distinct and permanent boundary, both geographically and in terms of community of interest, between B/U/R and the rest of the Palerang Shire. We are unaware of any other electors in other local government areas who have to travel through another local government area, indeed right past another Council's Offices, to reach their own Council's Offices a further half to one hour's drive away.

B/U/R's geographic isolation from the remainder of Palerang Shire has not, and cannot change. What has, however, changed (for the worse) is B/U/R residents' ability to attend Palerang Council meetings. Prior to the 2008 Council elections, Palerang Council held its Council meetings in the evenings. Residents wishing to attend meetings had to leave work early and undertake a lengthy trip to and from the Council Chambers in either Bungendore or Braidwood.

During the election campaign some of the Palerang candidates talked of ‘roving Council meetings' to be held in various locations around the Shire, including Burra. However, one of the first decisions taken by the newly elected Council was to hold meetings during the daytime and only in the Bungendore and Braidwood Council Offices. Now, B/U/R residents who work during the daytime, either in town or from home, must take the whole day off to attend a meeting. Naturally, the vast majority of residents find this impossible. Our organisation has only been able to send a representative to one Council meeting since this decision was taken.

3 The existing historical and traditional values in the existing areas and the impact of change on them.

BURRA's case

The B/U/R area was first settled in the early 1800's. From that time onwards there have been close economic and social ties between the area and Queanbeyan. Queanbeyan was the seat of the Yarrowlumla Council (to which the B/U/R was area was attached until the Council amalgamations in 2003). These social and economic ties are reinforced by the geographic proximity of the area to Queanbeyan. Queanbeyan families were significantly involved in settling and developing the B/U/R hinterland and residents have tended to retire in Queanbeyan when their farming days are over.

The B/U/R area (which has traditionally, historically, and in our view, logically, been attached to Queanbeyan as its local Government centre) should be returned to Queanbeyan rather than be located in Palerang Shire. There is no logic in attaching the area to a Shire that is headquartered in Bungendore, nor are there any traditional or historical links between the B/U/R area and these localities

Boundaries Commission's conclusions

The Commission notes that Palerang is a predominantly ‘rural' local government area as opposed to Queanbeyan, which is primarily ‘urban' in nature and, along with the ACT, provides the type of services and facilities that would be expected of a regional centre.

BURRA's response to the Boundaries Commission's conclusions

The Boundaries Commission's conclusion does not address the question posed by the Local Government Act.

BURRA's view is that there would be a positive impact on the existing and historical values in the existing areas, since our area has traditionally seen Queanbeyan, not Bungendore or Braidwood, as its regional centre.

The Commission also failed to note that Queanbeyan has, since 2003, been successfully providing services to a substantial rural residential population in Googong, Royalla and Carwoola as a direct result of the local government boundary changes imposed by the then Minister. Clearly the Minister, at that time, felt that Queanbeyan was capable of providing rural residential as well as urban services, and did not feel that his boundary changes would cause any detrimental impact to historical and traditional values in the area.

4 The attitude of the residents and ratepayers of the areas concerned

BURRA's case

The petition supporting the boundary change proposal recorded the signatures of an estimated 50% of individual voters in B/U/R.

The proposed merger was reported three times in the Queanbeyan Age. The April 5 th 2007 edition carried a “Street-Talk” article in which local residents' views were sought on the proposed merger. The published replies were all positive.

Queanbeyan councillors and officers present at the meeting held in the Fernleigh Park Community Hall in 2007 will recall that some 100 B/U/R residents attended and were almost unanimously in favour of the proposed boundary change.

Boundaries Commission's Conclusions

In examining the submissions, the Commission noted that views supporting the implementation of the proposal were expressed by residents in the proposal transfer area based on a range of factors, including representational and lifestyle reasons. The submissions opposing the proposal were made on the basis that the financial burden would fall to the ratepayers of the Queanbeyan local government area to subsidise and enhance the lifestyle of residents in the proposed transfer area.

Ultimately, it is up to the community to encourage a more sustainable local government entity, which improves both the quality of life and the environment and ensures the equitable, effective and efficient allocation of resources to meet community needs.

BURRA's response to the Boundaries Commission's conclusions

BURRA has tried, unsuccessfully, to find some meaning in the second paragraph of the Boundaries Commission's conclusion.

The whole point of BURRA's submission was that the Palerang local government entity is not meeting B/U/R residents' needs in its present form. However it appears that the Boundaries Commission is implying that B/U/R residents have a responsibility to somehow ‘make the best of a bad job' or, indeed, somehow magically turn the Minister's unviable 2003 Palerang boundaries into a roaring success. BURRA does not support this view and neither, apparently, does the Local Government Act, since it allows communities such as ours to initiate boundary change proposals.

The attitude of residents and ratepayers in the B/U/R area was clear from the level of support for BURRA's petition. Furthermore, during the public consultation phase, there were 30 submissions lodged in support of BURRA's proposal and only 2 opposing it.

There is no evidence that the community's support has dampened since the Minister issued her unfavourable decision on BURRA's submission.

5 The requirements of the area concerned in relation to elected representation for residents and ratepayers at the local level, the desirable and appropriate relationship between elected representatives and ratepayers and residents and such other matters as it considers relevant in relation to the past and future patterns of elected representation for that area.

BURRA's case

B/U/R has a social, economic and political community of interest with Queanbeyan, not with Bungendore or Braidwood. Furthermore, the lack of functional and social cohesion between B/U/R and the rest of the Shire creates a significant political disadvantage for the B/U/R area.

B/U/R Residents use Queanbeyan services and infrastructure and patronise Queanbeyan businesses. It would, therefore, be in the interests of QCC to take B/U/R residents views into account. Logically, since B/U/R uses Queanbeyan's services and infrastructure our rates should go to that Council.

By contrast, the views of B/U/R residents are largely irrelevant to Bungendore and Braidwood voters (and consequently councillors) since B/U/R residents have no economic impact in those areas. B/U/R residents make no use of facilities such as pools, libraries, parks, etc provided in Bungendore and Braidwood, and instead use Queanbeyan facilities, so it is illogical that B/U/R rates should be used to support Palerang Shire services.

Boundaries Commission's conclusions

It is clear that if the proposal proceeds, it will impact on existing representational arrangements

BURRA's response to the Boundaries Commission's conclusions

The Boundaries Commission's response does address the question posed by the Local Government Act.

Naturally, any boundary change will impact on representational arrangements. The question is ‘what are the requirements of the area in relation to elected representation'.

BURRA contends that B/U/R should to be able to contribute to, and be represented in, the area with which residents most identify, namely Queanbeyan and its rural surrounds. B/U/R's representational prospects would benefit by joining its rural residential neighbours in the immediate area who are already serviced by Queanbeyan. There is no representational benefit in B/U/R remaining an isolated island of Palerang where residents are effectively disenfranchised by geography and lack of cohesion with the rest of the Palerang community.

The merger of the rural residential communities around Queanbeyan would create a larger, united body of rural residential voters thereby enhancing the combined community's voice.

6 The impact of any relevant proposal on the ability of the councils of the areas concerned to provide adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities.

BURRA's case

B/U/R residents receive little in the way of direct services from the Palerang Shire other than roads and recycling services. Because of its isolation from the rest of Palerang Shire, B/U/R residents cannot avail themselves of services provided by Palerang Council outside the area (i.e. community services provided in Braidwood and Bungendore). Further, some services are denied to B/U/R residents, such as use of the Shire rubbish tip at Bungendore, without payment of an additional fee.

By contrast, due to its convenient proximity, B/U/R residents regularly access services and facilities provided to residents in Queanbeyan City itself.

Transferring the B/U/R area to QCC would not involve the transfer of infrastructure such as swimming pools, libraries, etc to QCC, as there are no such services in the B/U/R area. The boundary change would not, therefore, result in a reduction of facilities being available to remaining Shire residents.

Boundaries Commission's conclusions

The Commission considers that both Palerang Council and Queanbeyan City Council could meet the charter set out in section 8(1) of the Local Government Act 1993 ,……

The Commission notes that the NSW Government wants councils to continually improve their services and is keen to ensure that local councils remain sustainable, are viable and that they provide quality services to the ratepayers they represent. In this regard, the Government encourages councils to keep their structures under review and to seek ways to improve the delivery of services to their communities.

The Commission is aware that the Minister for Local Government encourages local councils to look seriously at ways to cooperate with each other, to save on costs and to provide better services to their communities more efficiently.

Accordingly, the Commission considers that Palerang Council has demonstrated that it is attempting to continue to provide adequate, equitable and appropriate services and facilities with respect to the proposed transfer area.

BURRA's response to the Boundaries Commission's conclusions

This Boundaries Commission appears to acknowledge that services to our area can be more economically and effectively provided by Queanbeyan Council. In this case, we can see little point in burdening ratepayers of either Council with the costs of administering cross-border arrangements when a simple and more cost-effective solution could be obtained through a minor adjustment to the boundary.

The Boundaries Commission's conclusion makes no mention of the economies of scale to be achieved if Queanbeyan were to service the whole area. We believe that, in an increasingly fragile economy and environment, the responsible course of action is to ensure that economies of scale are maximised wherever possible.

7 The impact of any relevant proposal on the employment of the staff by the councils of the areas concerned.

BURRA's case

At the time Palerang Shire was created, the new council retained most of the staff from the former Yarrowlumla and Tallaganda Shires. However, Palerang council has regularly stated that it is short-staffed and finds it difficult to adequately meet residents' demands within existing staffing resources. It is therefore unlikely that the transfer of B/U/R to Queanbeyan will result in a decrease in administrative staff in Palerang.

BURRA understood that, at the time of its 2007 boundary submission, a number of Palerang Shire services were already outsourced to QCC and were carried out by QCC staff.

Given the above, we would expect minimal impact on staffing of either Council.

Boundaries Commission's conclusion.

Should the proposal proceed to implementation, it is assumed that the councils involved will resolve all issues related to the transfer of any other staff affected by the proposal, consistent with the provisions of the amended legislation.

BURRA's response to the Boundaries Commission's conclusion

As stated in our original submission, we would not expect a huge impact on staffing of either council. We also understand that a number of Palerang Council's officers live in Queanbeyan, and/or would welcome the opportunity to transfer to Queanbeyan, on a full, or part time, or a ‘shared' basis if required.

8 Dividing the area into Wards

BURRA's case

BURRA did not address the issue of Wards in its 2007 submission since this criterion only applies when the proposal is to merge two entire local government areas.

Boundaries Commission's conclusions

The Boundaries Commission suggested that Palerang consider dividing the area into Wards (even though this was not one of the required criteria for review).

BURRA's response to the Boundaries Commission's conclusions

BURRA is not convinced that Wards necessarily improve representation. Firstly, there is an assumption that each Ward will produce a candidate. However, standing for Council is not always an attractive proposition where Councillors are required to undertake large amounts of travel on dangerous rural roads to attend Council meetings.

Further, we believe there is a tendency for Wards to encourage parochialism rather than integration. BURRA's preference is to merge electorally with the area with which we have a community of interest and geographic and social cohesion, namely Queanbeyan City Council. We can see no merit in perpetuating the status of B/U/R as an outpost of Palerang.

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Last updated: 28 March, 2012

© 2007 Burra Urila Residents and Ratepayers Association Inc