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CVC laments government’s lack of consultation

Geoff Helisma |

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) has expressed its “extreme disappointment” about the NSW Government’s failure to advise the public of administration changes in the valley.

At the August 27 CVC meeting, councillors unanimously supported writing to the Premier, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, Industry and Trade John Barilaro, and the Minister for Local Government.

The letter requests that “State Government Departments communicate plans for relocation (and/or closure) of regional government service offices and staff with the local government authority prior to public announcements being made”.

In his mayoral minute, Cr Jim Simmons said that timely advice would provide an opportunity for CVC to “assist in ensuring the community understands changed service levels and any impact caused”.

“Restructure and closure of state government regional services and government funded charity organisations in the Clarence Valley has a significant impact on communities already disadvantaged by the tyranny of distance,” Cr Simmons wrote in his mayoral minute.

“The recent decision to close the Grafton Aboriginal Legal Service and Grafton Rural Fire Service [RFS] office is [a] current example of a growing trend to relocate services out of the Clarence.”

The mayor also points out that “with centralised [RFS] office locations in Coffs Harbour and Tamworth respectively, the closure of the Grafton office and relocation of staff is imminent”.

“While I am advised that the centralisation of stores in Coffs Harbour makes it easier to get equipment into regional areas, it is difficult to understand why this also required relocation of staff and closure of an office,” he wrote.

“In recent years, we have also seen relocation of National Parks and Wildlife [Service] services and some charitable services that receive significant government funds.”

The mayor’s letter will also urge the NSW Government to “consider the transfer of other offices in the northern region to Grafton or the Clarence” to compensate.

“This letter [should] indicate that Clarence Valley Council is extremely disappointed that the state government is not supporting the area by allowing regional offices to remain within the valley,” councillors decided.

The mayor argued in his mayoral minute that “the Clarence is a vibrant and thriving location, with significant government investment in many other ways, but relocating government services out of the area without consultation and discussion about changed service levels and the impact on local communities leaves Council in a difficult position, understanding and explaining the change to community”.