A merger of the Woden Valley and Weston Creek Community Councils has been floated as the Weston Creek body struggles to find volunteer committee members to keep operating.
WVCC president Fiona Carrick proposed the merger at the WCCC annual general meeting, but it was declared out of order.
She had been invited to chair the meeting, at which all positions were declared vacant but no one stepped up to nominate.
An attempt to form a mini committee of two to keep the council operating temporarily foundered due to legal issues, but a motion was passed to seek advice from Access Canberra on a way forward and hold another AGM in a month to try again to elect a chair and committee.
Outgoing chair Bill Gemmell said Ms Carrick, an Independent candidate at the 2020 ACT election, had ambushed the meeting with the merger proposal, which met resistance from most there.
Mr Gemmell said he was aware of Ms Carrick’s merger ambitions but didn’t expect her to try to insert a motion from the chair on it.
“Fiona clearly wants to merge Woden Valley, Weston Creek and Molonglo into one council,” he said.
“Is it to further her own political agenda or what?”
Mr Gemmell said he opposed any merger because the two districts had differing communities of interest.
“No one said it was a good idea,” he said.
“I don’t think they could adequately cover the views of both. This is why Molonglo stepped out of Weston Creek Community Council.
“I don’t understand why she couldn’t have done this in a civilised manner.”
Ms Carrick said that if the next WCCC meeting failed to find a committee, the community should consider other options, such as a merger.
“We’re both small districts … I think Woden and Weston Creek should work together,” she said.
The advantages would be having a stronger voice and a bigger population to draw from to represent the community.
Ms Carrick said the catchments of the Gungahlin, Belconnen and Tuggeranong community councils were each bigger than Woden and Weston Creek combined.
Asked if she would like to include the Molonglo Valley Community Forum in a merger, Ms Carrick said: “We’re willing. We’re in the same electorate of Murrumbidgee. We’re all advocating for services.”
But Molonglo Valley Community Forum chair Ryan Hemsley dismissed the idea.
“The Molonglo Valley Community Forum has no intention of merging with any other community council,” he said.
“We believe people who live in Molonglo are best placed to represent their interests, and the Forum will continue to provide residents with those opportunities for the foreseeable future.”
Any merger would require special general meetings to discuss and vote on the matter.
The skirmish over a potential merger comes as questions persist about the sustainability of the current community council model, which Mr Gemmell says is broken.
He believes government has stopped listening, MLAs and officials rarely turn up to meetings, and it would not surprise him if, after the next election, a returned government decided community councils were no longer needed.
The recent changes to the deed of grant cutting the number of public meetings from nine to just four but imposing two engagements of some kind with disadvantaged groups was the last straw for Mr Gemmell, who had been chair for three years.
The Molonglo Valley Community Forum has decided for now to not accept the deed of grant and the $13,000 in funding that comes with it and operate independently.
Ms Carrick is open to the possibility of paid positions in some form to solve the issue of volunteer burnout, but Mr Gemmell is opposed.
“Fiona has the same problem we have; government has stopped listening and stopped engaging,” he said.
“Why would you pay someone to be ignored?”
Mr Gemmell also said the wrong people would do it for the wrong reasons.
The community councils have said they feel increasingly sidelined, with the government preferring to use the YourSay website to obtain and sift feedback.