DON'T man the barricades yet was the message on possible amalgamation when the Local Government Review Panel visited Kiama on Friday.
With the panel reviewing the structure of the Illawarra's councils to increase their capacity to respond to urban growth, panel chair Professor Graham Sansom addressed the Southern Councils Group (SCG) AGM at The Pavilion, saying "consolidation" was a possible option.
"Amalgamation is just one of the options if you want to consolidate the councils, that is you want the councils to be working much more closely with each other, to be sharing resources, to be doing planning together and so on," he said.
"Two-thirds of what we're doing will not involve amalgamations, so I'd urge people to wait for the Future Directions report and then take part in the discussions rather than manning the barricades now on what may well be false assumptions about what we're going to recommend."
The panel released The Case for Sustainable Change last year, outlining population as a consideration for boundary changes. But Professor Sansom indicated it would mainly be a consideration for local government areas with 10,000 people or less by 2036.
"Kiama's already over 20,000," he said.
"So in those circumstances, population size would not be a dominant factor we'd be looking at - we are more concerned about how the financial future is looking, what the infrastructure situation is like, what scope there might be to work more closely with Wollongong and Shellharbour to the north and, for that matter, Shoalhaven to the south."
Kiama Mayor Brian Petschler hoped the panel would look at the model Kiama Council used in its association with the SCG and sharing resources with other councils.
Councillor Andrew Sloan, who funded bumper stickers from his own pocket saying "We [love] Kiama NO AMALGAMATION!", said some of the petitions at newsagencies and general stores already had a strong response.
The panel's Future Directions paper will set out its proposals on April 22-23 for a further two-month consultation.