Will the people have a voice?

In March, when the Carr and Bracks Governments announced the merger of Albury and Wodonga, the Mayors of the two Cities only received one hour of notice. There is some unease in the two communities about both the lack of consultation and local involvement in the decision to create a joint municipality.

To address this, both City Councils have since passed resolutions requesting that the merger proposal be put to a referendum of the residents of Albury and Wodonga.

“At this stage we have not heard back from the Premier or Minister for Local Government about the proposal for a referendum,” said Councillor John Watson, Mayor of Wodonga. “Residents are concerned about the way that the two Premiers announced the merger with little consultation. The community and Councillors feel railroaded and want to have some say in the decision. There is a strong feeling in the community in support of a referendum.”

Albury Mayor, Councillor Mel Read, said that the public consultation process is absolutely vital to explain to people exactly what is proposed and the expected benefits.

“Both Councils have passed similar motions for a referendum,” he said. “It appears that most business people already favour the merger, but it is too early to gauge the views of the rest of the community.”

The first joint meeting of the two Councils was held on 8 May as this edition went to press. Both the Victorian and New South Wales Ministers for Local Government were expected to attend this meeting.