Horsham council to put returned referendum campaign money towards fire recovery

A WIMMERA council will support fire recovery using money refunded from a failed referendum campaign.

The Municipal Association of Victoria has announced councils that contributed money towards a campaign in support of a referendum on local government would receive refunds in coming weeks.

Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the referendum after years of lobbying by councils.

But after the election was brought forward, the national vote could not go ahead because of time restraints.

Horsham Rural City Council contributed more than $10,000 to the campaign, which encouraged people to ‘vote yes’ to the referendum.

Horsham chief executive Peter Brown said the refund had come at a good time.

“We are starting to spend money on fire recovery so it will help with that,” he said.

Mr Brown said council had already received some of the refund.

He said council supported the referendum and hoped it would occur in the future.

Rural Councils of Victoria chairman and Hindmarsh Mayor Rob Gersch said councils would have preferred the referendum to go ahead. 

“It was unfortunate because of the timing that it couldn’t be done,” he said.

“I think there will be an opportunity again but it will take a long time.

“There were mixed feelings about it and for it to be successful, there needs to be support from all groups and parties.”

Cr Gersch said Hindmarsh Shire Council had planned to contribute money.

“We had the cheque ready to go but we didn’t get around to sending it,” he said.

Yarriambiack Mayor Andrew McLean said while it was disappointing the referendum did not occur, he was pleased the money was being refunded.

Yarriambiack contributed $2000 to the campaign.

“In the future I hope we get the opportunity to have the referendum again and we aren’t waiting until the next federal election,” he said.

“It is good the money is coming back rather than someone keeping it.”

Cr McLean said for the referendum to be successful, more time needed to be allocated to it.

“Next time there needs to be more lead-up time, rather than it all happening at the last minute,” he said.

Municipal Association of Victoria president Bill McArthur said the association had already issued the first of a two-part refund.

“We will ensure that 100 per cent of contributions are returned to councils,” he said.

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