'They're not like us': the de-amalgamation of Delatite Shire
Source TitleProceedings, Australasian Politicial Studies Conference
University of Melbourne Author/sCHEN, PETER
AffiliationArts: Centre for Public Policy
Arts: Education Policy and Management
Document TypeConference Paper
CitationsChen, P. (2002). 'They're not like us': the de-amalgamation of Delatite Shire. In, Proceedings, Australasian Politicial Studies Conference, Canberra.
Access StatusOpen Access
The compulsory amalgamation of Victorian local governments under the Kennett government in the mid 1990s led to a major period of upheaval and reform across the entire sector. Forced into 'mega councils' with appointed administrators and cuts to rate income, all councils struggled to merge political and administrative systems and cultures, manage service delivery, and move to new public management principles of contract management and privatisation of council functions. While most municipalities grudgingly accepted the new centrally-determined boundaries, Delatite Shire in North-East Victoria saw ongoing resistance to the amalgamation from its southern community of Mansfield, bitterly opposed to the amalgamation with Benalla and the perceived loss of services and government staff from their region. From the formation of a locally-based residents' association, the first democratically-elected council of the new Shire was largely replaced by one comprised of pro-de-amalgamation representatives, who successfully lobbied the State government for the opportunity to present a case for splitting the Shire. Following ongoing community consultation, the Council has been given the opportunity to split, an administrative exercise that will increase rates and create a new Shire dependent on contracted services from surrounding municipalities. Examining the case, this paper explores the public debate and political strategies employed to advance and realise the de-amalgamation policy, examining the problems associated with forming a community of interest within the new Shire. Overall, the case presents an interesting comparison with other pro-autonomy movements, the theoretical analysis of which is generally confined to ethnic separatism. The paper concludes that, while practical limitations in effective public administration resulted from the ill-considered merger of Benalla and Mansfield, much of the political debate surrounding de-amalgamation were based on the essential premise that separation was the only solution for significant financial and structural problems within the council. Thus political arguments were constrained within this 'pre-framed' debate.
Keywordslocal government, Victoria; Delatite de-amalgamation; Kennett; Bracks
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