Grazier Simon Murray, “Bambi”, Aberfoyle, will be sticking up for Guyra in the newly elected Armidale Regional Council after winning a seat on the newly merged 11-member council.
But he says he faces an uphill battle to keep Guyra’s concerns at the forefront of the new council’s mind and doesn’t see any benefit in the long-term to the merger of Guyra and Armidale.
“Guyra is facing an extra 50 fees and charges foisted on us through the merger,” he said. “We were already sharing services and working together. The Government said mergers would save money, but I’ve only seen the staff at Armidale council increase during administration.”
Water supply is still the biggest concern for Guyra as politicians and locals debate whether to build a new water pipeline to the town from Malpas dam, raise the height of the weir wall or consider a type of pumped hydro scheme, which Mr Murray supports.
Local MP Adam Marshall says the $10m Malpas pipeline could “singlehandedly solve Guyra’s water security and quality issues for decades”. Guyra has almost run dry in recent years.
The other major issue was roads, and Mr Murray noted that Armidale Council had adopted Guyra’s gravel road program into the future, which was a positive move.
Voters finally got their chance to elect new councils in 45 council areas in NSW last Saturday, with many results sending a warning shot over the bow of the Coalition.
A high informal vote and low voter turn-out was recorded with observers pointing to confusion over council wards and anger in many electorates over mergers foisted on local communities. At some wards in Dubbo, the informal vote was over 15 per cent, in Bathurst 13pc, Mid-Coast 12pc, Armidale 8pc and Cabonne 10pc. The NSW Electoral Commission warned though that the level of informal votes would drop following further computer analysis.
Nevertheless the figures seem stark as normal informal votes in any election are about 6 per cent.
The Liberals and Country Labor ran tickets in many council fields, while the Nationals were adamant they would not run tickets. But NSW National Party state director Nathan Quigley said the party may have to “reassess” its position on running tickets if the other parties continued to do so.
“We still believe parties should not be involved in local government, it should all be about local issues and people,” Mr Quigley said.
Many former mayors of sacked councils ran, vowing to stick up for their local areas, including former Wellington mayor Anne Jones, who was re-elected to Dubbo, and former Great Lakes mayor Jan McWilliams, re-elected to Mid-Coast.