Financial restrictions placed on Berrigan Shire Council through the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future reform process have been lifted.
It will allow the shire to borrow at a cheaper rate through the NSW Treasury Corporation (TCorp), rather than through the commercial sector.
The restriction was placed on Berrigan Shire when it was declared ‘unfit’ by the NSW Government in its reform process.
The reform actively pursued council amalgamations, based on projected benchmarks relating to the capacity of individual councils to meet future demand on its services.
The resulting proposal was for Berrigan Shire to merge with one part of a split Jerilderie Shire.
When Jerilderie instead wholly amalgamated with Murrumbidgee Shire to form Murrumbidgee Council, Berrigan Shire was left without a merger partner and has remained a stand-alone entity.
Still tarred with its ‘unfit’ ruling, the council has lobbied to have it reversed.
The NSW Government has advised the label would instead be dissolved, with Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton writing to council to declare ‘‘the Fit for the Future program has concluded’’.
While council director of corporate services Matt Hansen said council does not have any immediate plans to borrow, the restoration of access to a state government backed risk free rate of borrowing offers more security in the future.
‘‘At this stage we don’t have any plans to borrow from TCorp, however we will start looking again at our future works program,’’ Mr Hansen said.
‘‘It is usually better to borrow from TCorp, and now we have that option again rather than being limited to borrow in the open market.
‘‘Everything that was included in our Fit for the Future action plan — which did not include anything out of the ordinary for the council — will still be enacted.
‘‘Part of that action plan is to increase our rate base, including through approving housing developments at the Tocumwal Aerodrome and Finley subdivision behind Railway Park.’’
Berrigan Shire Mayor Matt Hannan said while council would prefer to have been officially declared ‘fit’ by the NSW Government, he was still pleased the ‘unfit’ ruling would be eliminated.
‘‘Council is happy the status will disappear, but they have just changed the language and we are disappointed the council has been unceremoniously now declared fit.
‘‘This will, however, allow the council to now work closely with our investors and potential business partners.
‘‘The positive of no longer having an ‘unfit’ status is the council has a better opportunity to show off what a great place the Berrigan Shire is to live and work.
‘‘At the end of the day we need to move forward and continue our relationship with the NSW Government.’’