The Berejiklian-Barilaro Government has refused Cootamundra locals the chance to vote on whether to reject or endorse forced council mergers in the area. 

The NSW Labor Opposition asked Deputy Premier and Nationals Leader John Barilaro in the NSW Parliament on Thursday whether he would hold plebiscites on the mergers to coincide with the Cootamundra by-election.

Mr Barilaro was asked if his Government would make such a commitment to the residents of Gundagai, Cootamundra, Harden and Young.

Labor’s long-standing policy on council mergers has been to allow residents to have their say at the ballot box. Mr Foley re-iterated his promise that a Labor government would allow plebiscites to enable locals to reject or endorse mergers forced on them by Macquarie Street.

But in Parliament on Thursday Barilaro’s promises to stand up for regional NSW were exposed to be nothing more than empty gestures

Despite it being the right thing to do and the most cost efficient solution, Mr Barilaro failed to give any commitment to hold plebiscites on the same day that voters go to the polls in the Cootamundra by-election.

Quotes attributable to NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley

“John Barilaro’s repeated promises to stand up for regional NSW issues are nothing more than empty gestures. He talks about restoring local democracy and then does absolutely nothing about it.

“The people of Cootamundra and Gundagai, and of Young and Harden, should be given a say in their future. They can either accept the forced mergers or reject them but denying them a say either way will only continue Macquarie Street’s reign of dictatorship.

“I encourage all communities in the electorate that have been forcibly merged to maintain their spirit and hold their resolve. This is a campaign we can win.”

Quotes attributable to Shadow Local Government Minister Peter Primrose

We are seeing the Nationals under Barilaro again act like roosters in their electorates and feather dusters in Macquarie Street.

“We believe that local communities should decide what happens to their local councils, not Macquarie Street.

“I’ve said it many times, and unfortunately it still applies – this is a total dog’s breakfast, and it really is verging on the ridiculous.”