THE proposed amalgamation of Bathurst and Oberon councils has been killed off but our region is still emerging from the great uncertainty the plan created.
The long-winded negotiations over the on-again, off-again amalgamation effectively created a freeze on senior staff recruitment for all councils earmarked for merger, and Bathurst has suffered more than most.
While it was largely a case of “business as usual” at Bathurst Regional Council while Oberon’s fight with the state government played out, the timing of the battle could not have been worse.
Since merger talks started circulating in local government circles, Bathurst has seen the resignation of two of its four department directors.
Former environmental planning and building services director David Shaw was the first to announce his retirement in July 2015 and that was followed by the retirement of former engineering services director Doug Patterson at the end of last year.
And there continues to be plenty of speculation regarding the future of corporate services and finance director Bob Roach who, since last year, has been splitting his time between Bathurst and a new home in Queensland.
Mr Roach has been doing much of his job from interstate while regularly flying back to Bathurst [at his own expense] and may well have retired already had it not been for the amalgamation confusion.
Between them, those three men carry well over 100 years of professional experience and their knowledge of the workings of local government – and particularly Bathurst Regional Council – will be almost impossible to replace all at once.
But the time has certainly come to try.
At last Wednesday’s monthly meeting there were three acting directors lined up at the front of the meeting with only Alan Cattermole signed to a permanent position.
It was not a great look for the council and made public question time an almost meaningless exercise.
Those filling the acting roles were all very capable operators but it’s simply not the same as having a director there.
Now the dust has settled on the amalgamation proposal, council needs to again look to the future.
And to do that it needs strong departments with strong directors who have been given the power to make decisions. Our council and our community needs it.