Residents in the small NSW town of Tumbarumba held their own “plebiscite” on forced council mergers alongside the local government elections – to establish community support for the restoration of their own shire council.
Tumbarumba Shire was merged into the Snowy Valleys Shire under the NSW Government forced amalgamation program in 2016.
An anti-council merger group, Save Tumbarumba Shire (STS), organised Saturday’s “plebiscite”.
Lucy Henderson from STS said the government “must immediately admit the absurdity of their situation or face the wrath of voters”.
The group said in a statement on Monday it wanted to determine the level of support for a demerger of the Snowy Valleys Shire.
They asked voters at Tumbarumba, Rosewood and Khancoban booths: “Should the NSW Government restore the former local government area of Tumbarumba Shire, with a locally elected council?”
“All voters attending the council elections were asked to vote. The plebiscite was held under normal election conditions, with sealed ballot boxes, anonymous and confidential voting, and experienced, independent scrutineers present at the opening of the ballot boxes and the counting of votes,” the statement said.
“The results of the plebiscite are quite extraordinary. Of the 1275 voters who lodged formal votes at the council elections, 1207 (94.7%) voted in the plebiscite.
“Of this total, 1125 voted ‘Yes’ signifying their support for the demerger of Tumbarumba Shire, and only 6.8% voted ‘No’.
“The plebiscite shows the continuing and overwhelming support of the residents of Tumbarumba Shire for a demerger and is a ringing endorsement for the efforts of the STS group.”
“Tumbarumba told the government the merger was a stupid idea two years ago. This result shows that it still is.
“We were ignored, lied to, and thrown on the scrapheap by politicians who just don’t care about the people who elect them. So now Tumbarumba is going to fight back and get our democracy restored. Look out, Gladys, we are coming!”
In another small town’s effort to overturn a merger earlier this year, a group of elderly residents 96km away from Tumbarumba wrote to the Queen asking her to reverse their forced council merger.
Six people, all aged over 90, from Gundagai implored the Queen to "restore democracy" after their merger with Cootamundra.
They asked her to flex her royal prerogative to have Gundagai's elected council reinstated, Fairfax Media reported.
"We respectfully seek your persuasion," their letter said, "to have the Government of New South Wales restore democracy to Gundagai and all other affected councils."
It said the merger "has had a serious impact on the morale and identity of Gundagai and its people," and was against "the expressed will of the community".
Gundagai Shire has 3,700 residents and Cootamundra Shire 7,700.
The Gundagai locals feared under a newly elected council, the services, jobs, and local representatives would be concentrated in the larger Cootamundra township.