Tasmanian mayor supports push for three councils

COUNCIL AMALGAMATION: East Coast mayor Michael Kent supports the TCCI push to reduce Tasmania's councils from 29 to three.
COUNCIL AMALGAMATION: East Coast mayor Michael Kent supports the TCCI push to reduce Tasmania's councils from 29 to three.

A Tasmanian mayor has joined the push by business for just three councils and called for bi-partisan support for amalgamations.

Glamorgan Spring Bay mayor Michael Kent, has supported the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s move to cut the number of councils from 29 to three.

Councillor Kent, a former chairman of the TCCI, said the Auditor-General made recommendations on councils “year in and year out” and nothing was ever done.

“What we need is a bi-partisan approach, but it seems the MPs are only interested in their own self preservation and won’t cut the number of councils,” he said.

“You will never get the councils to support amalgamations because no one wants to vote themselves or their general managers out of a job.

“It’s a bloody joke.”

Councillor Kent said a number of councils were in debt.

“A number of councils have been in the red for up to 10 years and in private enterprise this would not happen, so why do we let it happen in local government?” he said.

“You certainly can’t move to three councils overnight, it should be a work in progress.

“Someone should be appointed to work on this and co-ordinate it over the next 10 years.”

Councillor Kent said Tasmania’s councils had combined assets of $10.63 billion in 2016-17.

“In 2016-17 the surplus of all councils combined was $16.42 million and if, hypothetically, that money was put in the bank many and the interest used many of our issues would go away,” he said.

“It does not make any sense that if I drive from Hobart to Orford it takes one hour, but I drive through four different council municipalities.”

Councillor Kent said if the number of councils was reduced, he would advocate going one step further than the TCCI and increase Tasmania’s lower house from 25 to 35 members.

“It would be a good move to abolish the upper house because they don’t have one in Queensland and none in New Zealand so why do we need one?” he said.

“But the only way to get rid of them is if they themselves decide they should go.”