Benefits shown in shires merging
BUNDABERG Mayor Lorraine Pyefinch is upbeat about the results of the amalgamation of four regional shires two years ago.
As the second anniversary of the amalgamation approaches on March 15, Cr Pyefinch said it had been a challenging exercise, but one that would ultimately bring benefits to the region.
“I’m very positive about the amalgamation; it will bring benefits in the long run,” she said.
But she expects the amalgamation to throw up more challenges for the council for at least the next five years.
“When councils in Victoria went through forced amalgamations, it took five to 10 years to show benefits,” she said.
“We’re trying to bring the community with us.”
In a wide-ranging interview with the NewsMail, Cr Pyefinch and Bundaberg Regional Council CEO Peter Byrne spoke of the ups and downs of managing the amalgamation of Bundaberg City, and the Burnett, Isis and Kolan shires into one.
Among the challenges faced by the new council has been managing the transition for council staff.
“We’re trying to work together with staff to get the best outcomes,” Mr Byrne said.
With a three-year moratorium on staff cuts in place, Mr Byrne said the council was consulting with its workers to increase productivity.
“Anyone who feels they might be vulnerable has the opportunity to move into a different role,” he said.
“The rate of natural attrition has slowed, which means we are retaining the skills of many of our older workers.”
Cr Pyefinch said although the four councils had tried to co-operate on strategy for the region, having one overarching local authority made strategic planning easier.
One of the problems had been that some of the smaller shires had been unable to attract and retain quality staff.
“Now we are able to provide employees with a clear career path,” she said.
The amalgamation also brought savings in areas such as machinery purchases, Cr Pyefinch said.
“We are now able to look at our fleet across the whole region,” she said.
“Because we can bulk up a contract, we can negotiate a much better price.
“Because of the potential to get economies of scale we can get better value for the dollar,” she said.
“There could be millions of dollars in that.”
Cr Pyefinch said one area she believed council had handled well had been the integration of four separate financial systems into one.