"It's not that I want to befriend them - I'll probably never see them again - but I think your councillors are a really impressive group," Professor Jospeh Drew, one of Australia's foremost experts on local government, said in an interview with the Herald this week.
He is associate professor of local government at the University of Technology Sydney, and last week published a new book, Reforming Local Government.
He was hired by Cootamundra-Gundagai Regional Council to help prepare its submission on deamalgamation to the Boundaries Commission, submitted shortly after the document was approved at the council's meeting on Tuesday March 31.
Prof. Drew said most of the council's problems had been caused by the amalgamation, as well as the fact that for four years the State government wouldn't allow councils to put their rates up, but service standards were going up and the councils were being asked to put in new infrastructure like adventure playgrounds to make the community feel good about amalgamation.
"Your councillors have done the right thing," he said.
"So many councils are in denial about how bad their situation is, but your guys fronted up.
"What impressed me was that there was going to be an election this year (before the pandemic changed things) and I warned them the report would in all likelihood involve increases in fees and rates, and some criticisms of things the council had done in the past, which mightn't be the smartest thing for their chances of re-election.
"They didn't even hesitate - they were honest enough and had the courage of their convictions to do the right thing and get the information out.
"Just about every other council in NSW when they were given the option to wait 12 months took the option, because the bad news would come after the election.
"Your mob was actually willing to cop all the flack before they had to turn up for the polls and go for re-election again which was I think is terribly impressive."
Prof. Drew said this year three councils had approached him but Cootamundra-Gundagai was the only one he accepted because it had a group of councillors who weren't afraid of the truth.
"Also I feel sympathy for Cootamundra because you had a better amalgamation proposal everyone was happy with and you got stuck with an arrangement no-one's happy with.
"It's just so complicated and messy and it just gets worse the longer it goes on."
- Further reports page 7