The amalgamation of local Victorian councils will become an “inevitability”, according to Moorabool Shire councillor Paul Tatchell.
Last week Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins said on radio station 3AW that she was open to considering amalgamating councils if it was supported by the community.
Ms Hutchins said arguments about merging some of Victoria's 79 councils and amending some boundaries had come up as part of the state government's current review of the Local Government Act.
However, Cr Tatchell believes it is fated for regional and rural councils to eventually join forces if they are to maintain financial stability.
“Councils like us are running on a third of a budget of the council like Ballarat with a third more of the area,” Cr Tatchell said.
“I think they’re forcing us into it. Despite our problems we manage to run our books pretty well, but inevitably depreciation will kill us. We’re just not building (enough) infrastructure.”
Cr Tatchell said he believed future amalgamations would allow councils to create stronger platforms to lobby for government funding, but would offer little else. A more practical solution, he said, would be to change council boundaries.
“It would be a more practical solution to try and take some of the depreciated roads off us. (Around) 40 per cent of our rate money goes into gravel roads where we can’t build houses,” he said.
Moorabool Shire Council has a massive road network that requires continual upgrades, but also has to invest significant resources into growth areas such as Ballan and Bacchus Marsh.
In a statement to The Courier, Ms Hutchins said no councils would be forced to join as part of the council reform agenda.
"Our council reform agenda does not include forced mergers between councils,” it read.
When asked on air last week if the state government wanted fewer councils, Ms Hutchins said: "Now, that wasn't in the scope of this review but something that we'd be willing to talk about down the track, particularly going into the next election.”
"We didn't take this as a policy to the last election but what I'm saying is once we get through the review of this Local Government Act, which is ahead of us, certainly we'd be willing to listen to ratepayers,” she said.
"If there's a big groundswell with people talking about this, happy to have the conversation."
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