Plebiscite sparks debate

Ben Shields said more time, and data, was needed before the merger could be judged a success or a failure.

Ben Shields said more time, and data, was needed before the merger could be judged a success or a failure.

Two former mayors of Dubbo have continued to push a for a plebiscite on whether to de-amalgamate Dubbo and Wellington councils.

Mathew Dickerson and Allan Smith said there was no harm in giving people a say on the matter, after former Dubbo City deputy mayor Ben Shields said more time, and data, was needed before the merger could be judged a success or a failure.

Dubbo Regional Council administrator Michael Kneipp has already said council would not entertain the idea of a plebiscite.

“There is a lot more perspective needed before we head to a plebiscite on the merger of Dubbo and Wellington,” Mr Shields said.

“While I applaud former mayors Smith and Dickerson for their sudden championing of democracy, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater in a quick attempt to correct any perceived faults with the newly merged council.”

In the past Mr Shields has opposed the merger, but this week said de-amalgamating “is almost like trying to unscramble an egg – near impossible”.

He said it would be at least five years before “measurements on road infrastructure, rate rises and other amenities” could be assessed, or if “the decline of Wellington has been reversed”.

Mr Dickerson and Mr Smith both agreed with Mr Shields’ comments, but said a plebiscite was still needed.

“The points Ben is making are correct; we will get more time to see what happens as the amalgamation continues,” Mr Dickerson said.

“But the call we made on the plebiscite is it shouldn't be a major problem for a government to ask people what they think.”

Mr Smith said it would be difficult to accurately measure the performance of the new council, given the “sugar hit” of money given by the state government to help with the merger process.

“This is icing on a spoiled cake because they are feeding a lot of money in to try and smooth cracks over,” eh said.

“But we haven’t got all the money [yet] and when it comes to the sugar a lot of it has been delivered to Wellington, not to Dubbo.

“I don’t see a problem with having a plebiscite – what are people frightened of? It will either be a yes, and then we start planning so we don’t waste money into the future, or no they're not happy with being merged.”

Dubbo MP Troy Grant defended the merger, saying the region’s towns were working together like never before.

“Our electorate now has a local government structure that will see us become a regional economic powerhouse … something we can all be proud of and reap the benefits of,” he said.

“We want to see Dubbo Regional Council as the envy of regional NSW, and to continue to build on its past achievements for the benefit of future generations.”