Gagged!

MARY MASSINA

MARY MASSINA

PRO-AMALGAMATION advocate Mary Massina was tight-lipped on the divisive issue yesterday when she appeared before an audience of local government heads.

Ms Massina, as executive chairwoman of the Planning Review Taskforce, took part in a panel discussion during the second day of the Local Government Association of Tasmania state conference.

The afternoon session focused on the government's ambition for statewide planning reform.

In the final question of the hour-long discussion, Ms Massina was quizzed about merging councils.

Ms Massina was asked whether she stood by a statement made in the lead-up to the March state election, when she said council amalgamations would lead to a 35 per cent reduction in rates.

Ms Massina was then spokeswoman for business lobby group Tasmanians for Reform, who reignited debate over potential amalgamations by arguing 29 councils representing 512,000 Tasmanians was too high.

She was also director of the Property Council, which was outspoken in its support of local government reform through council mergers.

At the time, LGAT was staunchly opposed to the prospect of fewer councils being debated during the election campaign.

Responding to the council delegate's question yesterday, Ms Massina said her stance on local government reform was ``beyond the remit'' of her current appointment.

Ms Massina later elaborated on her position.

``As executive chair of the Planning Reform Taskforce, discussion of mergers is not part of my role,'' Ms Massina said.

``The Minister for Planning and Local Government [Peter Gutwein] made it clear to the LGAT conference yesterday that there will be no forced amalgamations.''

The government has ruled out forced amalgamation of Tasmania's 29 councils, but says it is willing to talk with those that volunteer.

A draft proposal of a single, statewide planning scheme is expected to be finalised by the end of the year.

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