Geraldton council merger deals Castrilli out

25 Sep, 2009 07:06 AM
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Fresh from its amalgamation in 2007 with neighbouring Greenough, Geraldton has snatched control of its destiny back from the State Government by agreeing to merge with two more shires.

Geraldton-Greenough mayor Ian Carpenter says his city, the Shire of Chapman Valley to the north, and Mullewa to the east, have agreed to merge.

Supporters of council mergers had hailed Geraldton's earlier amalgamation with surrounding Greenough as a golden stalk of wheat in an otherwise barren field of local government reform.

Mr Carpenter said the more ambitious partnership with Mullewa and Chapman Valley would take the earlier merger to its natural conclusion.

"We were the first in latter times to promote the cause of amalgamation," he said of the Geraldton-Greenough merger.

"It's a lot better to paddle your own canoe than have someone else do it for you."

If approved by Local Government Minister John Castrilli, the combined council will cover 16,590 square kilometres - bigger than 82 of the world's nations including East Timor, Qatar and Lebanon.

Mr Carpenter said a name for the municipality had not yet been discussed, but that Geraldton's CBD would be the "logical" location for council headquarters.

He said the three councils would soon put their plan to the Local Government Advisory Board, and expected to hear back from Mr Castrilli before Christmas.

"If we say we're happy to do it, there's no way they won't," he said.

"We're really looking forward to it."

Mr Carpenter said that if Mr Castrilli did not drag the chain, the merger could be in place by the 2011 council elections.

"We didn't want to be seen as aggressive, so we just planted the seeds and let the other councils make up their own minds," he said.

"This will provide a bigger entity with a lot more oomph."

The merger follows the recent decision of four other Midwest shires - Mingenew, Three Springs, Morawa and Perenjori - to merge.

Last week, Mr Castrilli heralded that move as evidence his local government reform push was gaining momentum.

In May, WAtoday.com.au exposed tiny Midwest, Wheatbelt and Great Southern shires - most with populations lower than 1000 - as the State's least efficient.

At a local government conference earlier this year, Mr Castrilli said shires that refused to reform could be forcibly amalgamated.

He later recanted and said all mergers would be voluntary.

Mr Castrilli originally gave WA's 139 councils until the end of August to advance reform proposals but has since extended the deadline to September 30.

Last month, WAtoday.com.au revealed a spate of merger moves had been unleashed in WA's Wheatbelt and Great Southern regions in response to Mr Castrilli's overtures.

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