Merger ‘rejected’

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Merger ‘rejected’

Ratepayers have resoundingly rejected any further investigations into the amalgamation between Grant District and Mount Gambier City councils.

The plebiscite was run as a test case in the state, which Premier Peter Malinauskas announced on the eve of councils entering caretaker mode ahead of the Local Government election.

The government asked the question “do you support the examination of the amalgamation of Grant District Council and the City of Mount Gambier into a single council?”, with a simple 50% majority required to progress the matter.

However, there was an overall 70% vote against any amalgamation progression, with only 8.68% support registered within the Grant District.

In Central ward there was 8.83% support for the plebiscite, in Tarpeena ward it was 12.3% and Port MacDonnell 4.47%.

Meanwhile, in the City Council there was 39.49% support for the plebiscite.

Incoming Grant District Mayor Kylie Boston welcomed the plebiscite result.

Mrs Boston said the issue had been put to bed, with the Grant community resoundingly rejecting any further investigation of amalgamation.

“It was probably done the wrong way round,” she said.

“But the good thing about it is we know what our residents want.”

Mrs Boston said moving forward she wanted to focus on rebuilding relationships with the City Council, including regular catch ups between both councils, which happened several years ago.

“I chatted with (Mount Gambier Mayor) Lynette (Martin) a couple of times during the campaign and indicated to her that I’m really keen that we actually start that, I think it’s about time we rebuild that relationship,” she said.

“And we need to build that from the elected members because it’s important for all of us, it’s not just the chief executives or the mayors who need to be talking, it’s really about all of us building that.

“We know that planning is going to be an issue, we know we need to help with tourism because it’s an important part,” Mrs Boston said.

“I would like to see us getting all back on the same page.”

Mount Gambier Mayor Lynette Martin said she had expected the plebiscite outcome.

“I am not surprised by the results, given the methodology of the government in announcing the plebiscite on the eve of caretaker mode,” she said.

“I think from the outset it was difficult because people were unsure and the City of Mount Gambier does not have a formal position on the subject, so it was up to our community to vote, to have their say.

“Given the rigorous ‘vote no’ campaign mounted by Grant District Council I am not surprised at the result.”

Mayor Martin said the process could have been handled in a different manner.

“I think unfortunately people thought it was binding, when really it was a simple question to investigate amalgamation,” she said.

“I think if the government had informed people more fully and given people time to consider it may have gone differently, but once again this was a vote to investigate and had it been a positive result more information would have been supplied.”

Acting Local Government Minister Clare Scriven said voters had clearly opposed the proposal to examine a possible amalgamation of the two councils.

“With 70% of returned votes marked ‘no’, the plebiscite’s outcome means voters do not support the examination of an amalgamation of Grant District Council and the City of Mount Gambier to form a single council,” she said.

“Accordingly, no further action will be taken by the State Government.

“The government was clear from the outset the total vote would determine whether a proposal to amalgamate the two councils would be examined.

“We said we would act in good faith, based on the majority view and we have listened.

“I thank all the residents who submitted their vote over the past few weeks.

“The people have now spoken, and their answer is ‘no’.

“Therefore, the State Government will not be referring this proposal to the South Australian Local Government Boundaries Commission.”

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