OPINION: Councillors wait for next stage of merger process

AN extended period of stability in local government in Bathurst is likely to be replaced, some time soon, by a period of great change.

But when that happens, of course, is the big question.

Gary Rush’s re-election as mayor and Ian North’s re-election as deputy mayor at Wednesday night’s Bathurst Regional Council meeting came as no surprise.

Three-time mayor Rush was re-elected unopposed and Cr North, a long-standing deputy mayor, also met no opposition for the position, as was forecast in the days leading up to the meeting.

Cr Rush has led a stable council since he was elevated to the top job after a period in which Bathurst had three mayors in three years.

He has had a busy time at the top: council has staged the very successful bicentenary events of 2015, built the Bathurst Bike Park on the Vale Road and introduced the new green bin service to reduce landfill at the waste management centre, among other projects.

But after the stability will come the change.

The NSW Government has made it clear it intends to go ahead with its merger of Bathurst and Oberon councils if Oberon’s legal challenge to the amalgamation is unsuccessful.

A decision has been pending for some time, and must be getting close.

If Oberon’s challenge is unsuccessful, that will lead to the dissolving of Bathurst and Oberon councils, the creation of a merged entity, the appointment of an administrator and then a long wait – possibly for almost a year – for elections for the new entity.

And which councillors will want to be part of that new entity, or will want to get back into local government after having some time away from it, is anyone’s guess.

Bathurst has been given a preview of this process at nearby Dubbo, which has been merged with neighbour Wellington to form Dubbo Regional Council (after a period as Western Plains Regional Council).

It must be a strange time for Bathurst councillors, who are now serving for longer than they would have imagined when they were elected, and who don’t know how much longer their term will continue.

There are many questions for the future of Bathurst Regional Council as this merger process rolls on.

Hopefully some answers will soon be supplied.

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