Former Tumbarumba Mayor Ian Chaffey has left a meeting with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian feeling fairly positive. She isn’t going to de-merge the shire, or at least is extremely unlikely to do so.
But he felt that they got a “good hearing,” and that she was willing to work with the people of Tumbarumba and the Snowy Valleys Council to ensure the amalgamation was as smooth and fair as possible from here on out.
“We got a commitment that they were prepared to do whatever necessary to soften the angst,” he said.
“People here believe they’ve lost their soul, and feel persecuted and betrayed. Essentially what they had was the best performing rural council in NSW, and they had the rug ripped out from under them. The people of Tumbarumba believed that they owned their own future. It takes years to build up that sort of euphoria that says, we’re going well, this is a great place to live. That can be destroyed in only twenty minutes, and that’s what happened.
“I think she was aware of that. My personal reading of the meeting was that the government has realised that it wasn’t the best process they could have embarked upon. “The reality is the government realises that if they had their time over again they would do it differently. But this is politics. Let’s assume there is a demerger, we still can’t go back to what we had before.”
The meeting between Tumbarumba representatives and government took place in Sydney on Tuesday. It was attended by, from the Tumbarumba side, former mayor Ian Chaffey, Save Our Shire member Brian Wilkinson, and former councillor Tony a’Beckett; and from the government side, Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Member for Albury Greg Aplin, and the Premier’s Chief of Staff.
It was pencilled in for twenty minutes but went for nearly an hour, according to Mr Chaffey.
He said he believed the Premier indicated that she would be willing to travel to Tumbarumba to meet with the public, at the invitation of residents of the council.
He seemed to think she was sympathetic to their cause, even if she wasn’t sympathetic enough to perform another backflip of an inherited Baird policy.
“There was an ideological takeover by Mr Baird when Barry O’Farrell left,” he said.
“As I said at the meeting, he commissioned all these inquiries and investigations and chose to ignore the recommendations.
“I came away believing that the demerger of Tumut and Tumbarumba, and potentially of Cootamundra and Gundagai, was a bridge too far [for the government]. But she is prepared to address issues that have been identified in the process.”
Personally, Mr Chaffey’s attitude is to move forward as best we can.
“I’m not going to be liked for this in the community, but [the merger] is what it is, and let’s try and make the best of it. We’re going to get a new council, and I think they deserve an opportunity to see what they can deliver.”