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Coal seam gas extraction will be an impact issue in NSW local council M&As

By Richard Stanton - posted Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Coal seam gas extraction is about to become the issue that completes the NSW state government drive towards mergers and acquisitions of city and regional local governments.

Most town councils in NSW have no clue about how to deal with the community outrage and the well-constructed professional opposition campaigns to mining and other hot button issues that are surfacing across the state.

Mergers and acquisitions are big business in the corporate world and are played out in the media and in the public sphere.


Council mergers and acquisitions, where the assets and tax base of one council might be gobbled up by another for purposes similar in nature to the corporate merger, are also big business but less transparent.

A two day workshop on the future of local government held in Dubbo on August 17 and 18 provided the latest iteration of opaque activity related to local councils – city and country.

I'll get back to the coal seam gas issue momentarily.

Destination 2036 in the thriving western tablelands city of Dubbo was billed as the most important opportunity for NSW local government leaders to talk together about the future and to plan for the type of councils communities deserve.

Its purpose, according to the brochure, was to create a bold vision, a preferred model for local government and to identify the roadmap that would put councils on the path to that vision.

The reality was less Hollywood. The gathering of mayors and general managers was in reality about mergers and acquisitions; referred to politely as amalgamations.


It was a hidden agenda. Delegates got to hear from a futurist talking up genome mapping and smart buildings and an academic talking down the possibility of future funding from the state and federal governments but the real issue was future M&As.

Even a mayor as politically savvy as Sydney's Clover Moore told a journo outside the workshops that the whole thing did not seem to have a clear direction.

It was a closed shop – no media, no outsiders. Delegates had plenty of opportunities to communicate with the world and their constituents via Twitter but two only, the mayor of Lismore Jenny Dowell, and the mayor of Gunnedah Adam Marshall, took advantage of the technology.

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About the Author

Richard Stanton is a political communication writer and media critic. His most recent book is Do What They Like: The Media In The Australian Election Campaign 2010.

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