From the Newsroom

The community are invited to join in celebrating 20 years since the formation of Clarence Valley Council on Monday, February 26, at council’s customer service centres at Grafton (pictured) from 10am and Maclean from 2pm. Image: file photo

Councils to foot the bill for de-amalgamation

Rodney Stevens


New South Wales councils wanting to de-amalgamate will have to foot the bill to demerge following an announcement by Premier Chris Minns this month but Clarence Valley Council, which will celebrate 20 years of amalgamation on February 25, has no current plans to divide the Local Government Area.

In 2016, the NSW government approved the amalgamation of 44 councils across the state to form “mega councils”, mostly against the wishes of local communities.

Earlier this month the NSW Government introduced legislation into parliament to create a legal pathway so councils can demerge, after it was revealed in a 2023 budget estimates heading by Local Government Minister Ross Hoenig that he had received legal advice stating attempting a demerger by councils was “unconstitutional”.

The merger to form the current Clarence Valley Council CVC came 14-years before this mass amalgamation and was agreed to by all parties, unlike some of the 2016 forced amalgamations.

“Clarence Valley Council was created by proclamation on February 25, 2004,” the CVC website states.

“It is an amalgamation of the former Councils of Copmanhurst, Pristine Waters, Maclean and Grafton City together with the north coast water activities of Clarence River County Council and Lower Clarence County Council.”

Clarence Valley Council Mayor, Peter Johnstone said for those councils who choose to de-amalgamate it will be a long and expensive process.

“Ultimately it is the ratepayers of the Clarence Valley who will decide whether they wish to see any form of de-amalgamation and whether they consider the expected benefits would be worth the money it would cost,” he said.

Cr Johnstone said during his time on council he had only heard talk of de-amalgamation on social media.

“I am aware there are some who have brought up the idea on social media, but I am not aware of any more detailed or serious discussions that have taken place during my time on council,” he said. 

“Now that the government has set out the process for de-amalgamation it could be that there will be more focussed discussions, but we need to be listening to the views of ratepayers on this as with any matter.”

If a de-amalgamation was to occur, Cr Johnstone said the cost of providing services to ratepayers would increase.

“Would ratepayers who wanted to de-amalgamate be happy with just going to a lower and upper river council, or would they wish to return to the councils that existed pre amalgamation,” he asked?

“Given that the potentially large amount of money needed to finance any de-amalgamation will need to be found by ratepayers, either rates would have to rise, or services would need to be cut or possibly both.  

“Each separate council would need its own General Manager, facilities, and staff so I expect the economies of scale would be lost meaning the overall cost of providing services would rise.

“However, this will be a decision of ratepayers. 

“Now that the potential path and the pitfalls on that path have been laid out clearly by the NSW government it gives interested ratepayers the opportunity to carefully consider the pros and cons of de-amalgamation.” 

President of LGNSW Cr Darriea Turley said it’s very disappointing that councils should have to carry the financial burden of unravelling amalgamated councils, which were forced on the community by the previous Coalition Government.

She said de-amalgamating the larger councils may cost as much as $150 million, money which councils just do not have.

If councils choose to de-amalgamate, they will need to prepare a business case to be approved by the Minister for Local Government, and then hold a plebiscite of the local community.

Only then will the de-amalgamations be able to take place.

Clarence Valley Council will hold celebrations to celebrate 20 years since its formation on Monday, February 26, at the Customer Service Centre’s at Grafton from 10am, and at Maclean from 2pm.

The community are invited to come along, hear from Mayor, Peter Johnstone, and enjoy some cake.