Lawrence weighs in on council amalgamation debate

NSW Labor leader Luke Foley with Dubbo candidate Stephen Lawrence.
NSW Labor leader Luke Foley with Dubbo candidate Stephen Lawrence.

Labor’s candidate for the seat of Dubbo, Stephen Lawrence, has become the latest to comment on forced council amalgamations, saying his party will assess the sentiment of the community when making a decision about demergers.

Mr Lawrence, who won a seat on the amalgamated Dubbo Regional Council last year, spoke out on NSW Labor’s policy as public discussion ensued around the two-year anniversary of the forced merger of the former Dubbo and Wellington Councils.

Over the past few days, former mayors Allan Smith and Mathew Dickerson have been vocal in asking whether the past two years has been beneficial for either community

“The two-year anniversary of the forced merger is significant and a time to reflect on what happened and the consequences,” he said.

“It is also a time for the community to consider what it is that Country Labor offers in this regard.

“Country Labor’s policy is that we don’t support forced mergers, or forced demergers.

“A Foley Labor government will assess whether there is sufficient community support for the holding of referendums on de-amalgamation.

“The level of community support will be gauged by a policy broadly based on the Queensland petition method, where if 20 per cent of the population support it, a vote will be held.

“That would be 20 per cent of the population in the merged council area, not the entire new LGA.”

As a councillor and State politics candidate, Mr Lawrence said he feels somewhat conflicted about the issue of possible demergers.

“As a councillor I feel I serve the entire local government area and am fully committed to making the regional council a success,” he said.

“I have not spent any time at all thinking about demergers to be honest. But if it is what a majority of the community in Wellington or Dubbo want then I accept a vote should be held.

“Demergers is not something I intend to push or campaign on. I am focused on making what we have a success. But the mergers were done badly and undemocratically and the community should be consulted at the appropriate time.”