Hume council faces another year or two to deal with Sunbury’s agenda to excise itself from the municipality, while the state government tries to lay the blame for the debacle at the feet of Labor.
Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell last week announced she would set up a panel to recommend new municipal boundaries for a separate Sunbury shire.
“The Sunbury and Hume communities delivered a strong message at the ballot box in favour of separation and the Coalition government will honour that decision,” the minister said.
Her announcement came the day after upper house MP Bernie Finn told State Parliament that “people right across Hume are very supportive of the move for Sunbury to go it alone”.
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Mrs Powell echoed Mr Finn’s parliamentary discourse, saying the Napthine government’s commitment to give Sunbury residents a vote on their future stood in stark contrast to the former Brumby government, which, she claimed, reneged on a 1999 promise to let the Sunbury community vote on the matter.
However, the statements by both Liberal MPs contradict information sourced by Northern Weekly, including a December 15, 1999 letter from then local government minister Bob Cameron to then Hume mayor and current Hume councillor Jack Ogilvie, noting that “it was agreed that you would put to the council that a voluntary poll be held in the City of Hume at the time of the council elections in March 2000 to the effect that residents are asked whether they support the council requesting the minister to appoint a panel to investigate the impacts of the Sunbury area becoming a separate municipality”.
Cr Ogilvie has been a driving force behind Sunbury’s secession from Hume, yet in October, 2000 a local government review panel report to Mr Cameron noted that Hume council had “deferred a decision” on holding a poll of Hume residents during that election, while the Sunbury Residents Association “opposed the undertaking of this voluntary poll on the basis that it only wanted residents and ratepayers of the Sunbury area to be polled”.
“The minister has no power under the Local Government Act 1989 to compel the council to call a poll”, the report stated.