Glen Innes could join a super group of councils next year. The council is discussing whether to band together with other authorities in the area to increase the collective clout.
It follows new laws from the NSW government that would allow the voluntary creation of a New England Group of Councils – greater collective clout short of a merger.
At the moment, there is an informal arrangement where council leaders from across the region meet every three months to discuss matters of common interest, but this current New England Group of Councils, as it’s called, is very low-key.
Now the call has come from the state government to formalise a grouping to give the whole region more lobbying power.
The new entity would have its own administration and be a legal entity, if it gets the nod.
At the moment, the informal grouping consists of the councils of Armidale Regional, Glen Innes Severn, Gwydir, Inverell, Moree Plains, Tenterfield and Uralla and the more formal, legally constituted group would probably have the same members – the councils of north-west New England.
Councillors are considering whether the new body might represent too much centralisation.
Another concern is whether a new body would be seen as an extra, unnecessary layer of local government.
Mayor Steve Toms said Glen Innes Council needed to consider the possible benefits of collaboration about common regional issues that affect the whole area.
He said issues like policing, health services, economic development and roads might well be ones on which councils could cooperate more, as part of a joint group.
The agenda before Glen Innes council’s meeting on Thursday suggests the common areas of action and lobbying for the new body might be “building strong businesses, creating jobs, securing water supplies, improving regional transport, and developing community infrastructure, services and facilities”.
It would also have more collective weight when it lobbied the state or federal governments for funding or resources.
Glen Innes councillors are pondering whether the town and area around would have sufficient interests in common with, say, Inverell or Armidale.
The recommendation before the council is to investigate the implications further and discuss again in December.
But there are fears within the council that either the new body would take too much power from Glen Innes or that it might be unwieldy because different interests would clash.