As the first councillors of the new Murrumbidgee Council are preparing for their first meeting, one former Jerilderie Shire councillor is settling into retirement.
Laurie Henery was first elected as a councillor for Jerilderie Shire in September 1977.
‘‘I had recognised the Shire Council was the most likely organisation in Jerilderie for getting things done that would enhance my family’s lifestyle, so I decided to stand,’’ Mr Henery said.
As Jerilderie Shire usually had a small population — no bigger than 2000 — it was easy for Laurie and other councillors to gain an understanding of its residents’ outlook and burdens they might have faced.
‘‘One of the most humbling and daunting experiences happened on three separate occasions.
‘‘I went and asked different people what they thought of ‘this and that’ and they said ‘we trust you Laurie; you’ve been there long enough, you’ll do the right thing by us.’’
He said the old saying of the council being responsible for ‘rates, roads and rubbish’ is no longer applicable as services in rural communities expand.
The strength of the sporting club can determine the positive nature, he said.
Mr Henery has been active in the Jerilderie sporting scene.
‘‘Small communities live and die off your local sporting facilities.
‘‘The optimism and pessimism of the whole community can be based on how successful the football, cricket or netball teams are playing.
‘‘Local government must ensure the facilities are up to standard.’’
In 2016 the NSW state government announced the merger of Jerilderie and Murrumbidgee Shires.
‘‘I wasn’t a fan of the merger mainly because the government didn’t stick to their criteria.
‘‘For example, it said each council would need a minimum population of 10,000, but even with the merger we don’t have that many.
‘‘The only positive to come out of it is the $10 million we were guaranteed by the government, but what happens after four years when we’ve spent it?
‘‘The whole decision to merge Murrumbidgee and Jerilderie was political.
‘‘Austin Evans thanked Adrian Piccoli on radio for all the work he had done for Murrumbidgee. He’s done nothing for Jerilderie; he protected Murrumbidgee from being taken over by Griffith.
‘‘Mr Piccoli also said on radio he consulted with his constituents, which he did — he consulted with Austin Evans and Bernard Curtin but he didn’t consult with us, because we were in the seat of Albury.
‘‘The ‘bigger is beautiful’ is nonsense. When you’re small and compact your highest level of management is still hands on.’’
On the issues of rates, Laurie has been a supporter of ratepegging, but believes the system is flawed because it doesn’t use meaningful key performance indicators to compare performances, and this was a reason for the merger.
‘‘Effectively they were saying we weren’t making enough money, even though the government was controlling the rates, but they weren’t taking into account population decline.
‘‘Many people living in rural communities have moved to regional cities and the capitals, with the exception being people from Melbourne retiring along the Murray River.
‘‘So the government controlled the income you raised locally, then point the finger and say we’re not viable.
‘‘They have a set of criteria which the state government never even met with the federal government,’’ Mr Henery said.