PORT Lincoln mayor Bruce Green agrees with the Property Council’s stance that fewer councils would deliver savings for communities but believes it is “highly unlikely” to happen.
A recent study commissioned by the Property Council of Australia found reducing the number of councils in South Australia from 68 to 32 could deliver more than $500 million to local communities.
Mr Green said he thought there was a good case for fewer councils but unless the state government forced the issue it was highly unlikely it would happen.
He said smaller councils were likely to oppose any move to be amalgamated due to concerns they would lose their identity and be wrapped up in a larger council area.
“Even when discussed with (the Port Lincoln) council there was only a lukewarm response,” Mr Green said.
“Yes there would be savings, yes it would make sense but I can’t see there’s going to be a strong drive either from local government, elected members or their communities to force the issue.”
Mr Green said he had not made a secret of his belief that amalgamations would benefit the broader community “but I haven’t been able to convince the people that need to be convinced”.
“I’ve long been of the view that if we were drawing local government areas now we certainly wouldn’t put them where they are now.”
Local Government Association of South Australia chief executive Matt Pinnegar said the association was already working on a range of reforms to drive efficiencies, including improved shared services arrangements between councils, and implementing benchmarking across the sector.
“We’re also working closely with the state government on boundary adjustment reform to provide a streamlined, independent process for councils and communities who want to investigate making changes to their borders,” he said.
Mr Green said this reform would make council boundary adjustment easier but he believed the real benefits would be in reducing administration costs through amalgamation, “not just changing the lines on the map”.
“My personal view is there would be substantial benefits to be gained across Lower Eyre Peninsula with less local government areas but the difficulty is in who makes that happen and how it happens.
“We have had a number of goes at raising it in the public arena a couple of times and nobody is swamping us with requests to look at it.”