Just hours before a public announcement was made a week before Christmas, State Member for Cootamundra Katrina Hodgkinson heard the news that shocked our community – Cootamundra Shire was to merge with Gundagai.
Speaking to the Cootamundra Herald today, Ms Hodgkinson said she was “taken for six” by the announcement, however is now advocating a proactive approach from councils.
“I was half expecting to have the four-way council (Cootamundra, Harden, Young and Boorowa), I didn’t think about Cootamundra and Gundagai going together,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
With an interim decision now handed down, she said her advice to council staff and councillors will be to move ahead with what is on the table.
“It is best to start talking and get on with what might be an inevitability,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
“It is time for some really good communication.”
Ms Hodgkinson said she was and remains an advocate of the Cootamundra/Harden merger which had the backing of a large proportion of the community, according to both shire offices.
Gundagai councillors and council staff were determined to stand alone in the ‘Fit for the Future’ process, however were not able to prove themselves ‘fit’.
“I worked very hard on behalf of Gundagai...They have told me Gundagai was not fit for the future,” Ms Hodgkinson said.
During the consultation process last year, Ms Hodgkinson said she continued to represent the views of all councils in her electorate thoroughly.
She organised meetings between the minister and mayors and general managers from across the electorate, many on multiple occasions so they could put forth their views.
The amalgamation process has now been formally handed over to the Boundaries Commission.
Because of this handover, Ms Hodgkinson said she can no longer lobby the minister directly on behalf of councils, however she confirmed her intention to provide a submission to the commission stating her support for her original position which was that Cootamundra and Harden merge and Gundagai stand alone.
She encouraged all other community members to also have a say when the opportunity to speak to the Boundaries Commission arises.