At a special meeting to Inverell Shire Council to address moving Tingha into Inverell Shire, the issue became integrally linked to council’s proposed special rates variation (SRV).
Before a packed gallery on Wednesday, Inverell councilors voted seven to two in favour of the 14.25 per cent rate rise over three years.
But with that in mind, council equally rejected a proposal to accept Armidale Regional Council’s (ARC) boundary determination, put forward by ARC temporary administrator Dr Ian Tiley, ceding Tingha and an apron of land around it, to Inverell.
Inverell’s initial intent was to accept the ARC proposal, but put forward their own boundary plan, which encompasses 390 square kilometres, down to the Uralla Shire border, to the Minister for Local Government.
Councillors stood to argue the point taking Tingha was of little use its residents and Inverell ratepayers if the deal was not economically sustainable.
Cr Anthony Michael stood up in favour of accepting Armidale’s offering, with a view to building on that acceptance. He said after the September council election, all deals might be off the table.
Cr Mal Peters connected dots from the SRV to, in his opinion, taking on new financial obligations. “We are going through a major debate at the moment, where we are trying to inflict on the resident a 14 per cent rate increase, which I’ve also opposed,” Cr Peters said.
“But to turn around, and be able to put up this proposal, where we see an income of $547,000, a sealed road of 6.8k, and unsealed roads of 38.6k, plus the Tingha community, and knowing Ian Tiley as I know him, he wouldn’t be giving this away unless that was going to be a bit of a millstone around Armidale Shire’s neck.”
I’m very disappointed that Mr Tiley’s turned around and done this, cut us in half, which is what he’s doing.
Cr Stewart Berryman then asked how to define the area of Tingha. A former councillor, he shared historical information when the subject of amalgamations was initially raised and Inverell made it clear should Uralla and Guyra amalgamate with Armidale, Inverell would pursue the Tingha issue.
He said the NSW Boundaries Commission recommended the larger area at that time, similar to that now proposed by Inverell shire.
“I think you could class that as the Tingha area,” Cr Berryman said. “There might be a little bit at the bottom of the gap, that might be associated with Bundarra, but the rest of it associates with Tingha, and also, Inverell.”
He felt “the little bit of ground” put forward by ARC was “reprehensible”, and decried Dr Tiley’s exclusion of Tingha attraction Green Valley Farm from their proposed boundary.
He then put forward a proposal as an amendment to discount the ARC boundary determination, and instead, seek a joint meeting the the ARC, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall and the Local Government minister.
Cr Peters noted the contribution from Cr Berryman, and stood to formally define the amendment.
Following further comments from other councillors stating variously it was indelicate to split the Tingha community in the way proposed by the ARC, the amendment was adopted and passed.
Afterwards, Tingha Citizens Association chairwoman Colleen Graham, who was in the gallery, felt council reached the best decision at this time.
“In as far as Dr Tiley – he didn’t give them any choice. He’s greedy,” she said. “Now, I had the time to sit and think about the whole process, and in the beginning he wanted nothing to do with it.”
She said she felt after Mr Marshall intervened on Tingha’s behalf, the Minister likely left it to the councils to work it out, but Mrs Graham said Tingha’s submissions to join Inverell had been dismissed by Dr Tiley.
“Beryl Stewart from Green Valley, it was her letter that I sent to the Minister, I sent to Adam, to Paul Harmon and to (Dr Tiley), and he’s deliberately cut them off,” Mrs Graham said.
Tingha resident and former Guyra shire councillor Audrey McArdle was also present, and said the discussion complemented her views on moving to Inverell.
“No way do I want to go with Armidale,” she said. “I’m very disappointed that Mr Tiley’s turned around and done this, cut us in half, which is what he’s doing.”
The papers with the Armidale Regional Council and Inverell Council boundary proposals can be found HERE.