Merger and amalgamation are words the NSW government may wish it had never heard or used.
They have haunted it for two years and just won’t fade from conversations about local government, council elections, government spending, state by-election campaigns and general political debate.
The two words have become akin to offensive language in some local government areas (LGAs) and state electorates.
The government’s handling of the whole council amalgamation campaign has also created a system with at least three different models: LGAs forcibly merged and unhappy; councils which have escaped the threat of forced amalgamation because of fears the government could lose electorates (as it did in Orange); and councils which still face mergers but are fighting them in the courts.
Some LGAs may be happy but they’re not heard.
And some councils forced into unhappy marriages are seeking divorces through plebiscites which would ask their communities to vote yay or nay on remaining wed.
Of course, the residents should have been asked before the then Baird government embarked on its crazy-brave forced merger campaign.
The proposed merger in the state seat of Orange, along with the crash-or-crash-through greyhound racing ban, saw the Coalition lose a rusted-on Nationals seat.
It created a new Coalition leadership team in Premier Gladys Berijiklian and her deputy John Barilaro.
Suddenly it was not so important to have the Orange merger, and some others, but those already unhappily merged were stuck with it and others still faced forced union.
Now, three former Dubbo mayors (and some Sydney councils) are calling for a plebiscite on mergers to be included in the council elections on September 9.
The problem for the government from the outset was it ignored democracy at its grassroots.
It did not give community members a chance to have their say.
It may be late in the day, but the government and the administrators it appointed to run local governments when it sacked the councillors should expedite a vote.
If some areas want stay merged, fine. If others want to split, then set them free.
It might save having to throw much more pork into the barrels before the 2019 state election.