Ernie Bennett, Mayor of Richmond Valley Council.
Ernie Bennett, Mayor of Richmond Valley Council. Mireille Merlet-Shaw

RVC plans to leave NOROC

RICHMOND Valley Council has joined Clarence Valley Council, voting this week to withdraw from the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils (NOROC).

The council will now write to NOROC giving 12 months notice, but has left the door ajar with an amendment that council will revisit the issue just prior to its enforcement.

Cr Bennett said the Clarence Valley Council's decision to withdraw from NOROC prompted him to act, as Richmond Valley had more in common with its southern neighbour.

He said the lack of strategic direction and agreement on the role of NOROC allowed for individual council or political agendas to be promoted and for the creation of voting blocs - referring to the recent vote by NOROC to fund baseline testing for coal seam gas.

"The issue here isn't CSG, it's that NOROC is not performing the way I would expect it to, and yes there was a vote at the last meeting that disappointed me," Cr Bennet said.

"We, as a council, had put a position statement out that we were already onto the NSW Government to do this testing, as they should... We already had a meeting organised to talk to ministers and they jumped in and made the decision to spend our money.

"If you let the first horse out the rest are going bolt so that was the one to stop, as far as I was concerned. We did not want anymore cost-shifting," he said.

"When I chaired NOROC I considered it a lobby group and we only pursued issues when we had a consensus on them."

NOROC chair, Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell, rejected any suggestion of voting blocs within NOROC, but said she was pleased Richmond Valley Council had "left the door open to revisit it".

But she agreed it was time to look at the make-up of NOROC and a new strategic plan.

"I put up a motion from our council about coal seam gas (baseline testing) but I didn't canvass anyone before that," she said

"The motion came from my own council, so I put it up as was my duty.

"We're looking forward to April 19 when we get together to talk about a new strategic plan. The current one is at the end of its life and it is time to revisit that and I would welcome input from all councils on that because we need NOROC to be as strong as it can be."

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