LG Minister calls for consultation
MINISTER for Local Government Don Page today called on people to have their say when it comes to the future of local government in NSW.
Speaking after the first meeting of the Independent Local Government Review Panel and councils in Broken Hill this week, Mr Page said the meeting was one of a series of more than 20 that will take place over the next month that will eventually determine the future of the State's 152 councils, their boundaries, the services they deliver and their financial sustainability over the next generation.
"I have made it perfectly clear that literally everything is on the table when it comes to local government, and I urge people attending these meetings not to hold back - they should present all their concerns and ideas to the independent panel,'' Mr Page said.
"When this process is complete - and the report delivered to me next year - the people of NSW can expect nothing less than a genuine shift in the way local government operates across the state.''
The consultation tour is the first round of discussions and deliberations that will be taking place over the next 12 months by the Independent Local Government Review Panel, appointed by Mr Page earlier this year.
Chaired by Professor Graham Sansom, the panel will meet with the widest possible range of people and organisations throughout NSW, reviewing and commissioning research, and assessing a variety of local government models.
The two other members of the panel are Ms Jude Munro and Mr Glenn Inglis.
"This first round of consultation is deliberately broad," Prof Sansom said.
"This will help us to refine key concerns and options for our research and for further consultation."
Professor Sansom said Monday's meeting in Broken Hill had been "very positive'' and several rounds of consultation are planned, commencing with Monday's meeting in Broken Hill.
"The panel is an independent body and we approach this process with an open mind and open ears. We really want to hear what people have to say about the future of local government in this State," he said.
"We had very positive and informative discussions with representatives from Broken Hill, Central Darling and Wentworth Councils. We also met with representatives from a variety of community organisations from the Far West region to hear their views on what changes need to be made to local government to strengthen their communities.
"Significant changes were suggested, which is what you would expect, considering we are looking 25 years ahead and the world will be a very different place in 25 years' time.'
"We look forward to similar discussions as we travel around NSW over the next month, in what is just the first stage of ongoing consultations we will have with Councils and communities over the next 12 months."
Some of the key issues the review will explore include:
• Councils' ability to support the current and future needs of their communities
• Councils' capacity to deliver infrastructure and services in a timely and efficient manner
• The financial sustainability of local councils
• The need for effective local representation and decision-making
• Barriers and incentives for voluntary boundary changes and the scope for increased regional cooperation between councils.
The panel has released a consultation paper, which provides a number of key questions to open the discussion, with an opportunity to respond via an on-line feedback form, email, or written submissions.
The program includes visits to all regions and meetings in: Broken Hill, Wagga Wagga, Jerilderie, Guyra, Newcastle, Taree, Tamworth, Ballina, Shellharbour, Orange, Dubbo and Coffs Harbour, as well as several centres in Sydney.
"Urgent action is necessary, so the NSW Government has acted in consultation with the local government sector.
"There are struggling councils now which are unable to deliver all the services their communities require, while maintaining their infrastructure appropriately as well," Mr Page said.
The first consultation will focus on a series of key questions, outlined in the Review's first Discussion Paper: Strengthening your Community. For further information on the listening tour visit the panel's website at: www.localgovernmentreview.nsw.gov.au
The panel will meet with councils in Lane Cove and Manly tomorrow and Queanbeyan on Friday.