NOROC faces crisis and opportunity
UPDATE, 1.15pm: THE Northern Rivers' peak councils body has "lost its way", Clarence Valley Mayor Richie Richardson has said.
Cr Richardson triggered the crisis now impacting on NOROC in February, when he announced the Clarence wanted out and would develop working relationships and resource-sharing arrangements by negotiating directly with neighbouring councils.
"Kyogle's decision is purely a position for them and that decision is not one I wish to influence," Cr Williamson said.
"But it is my view NOROC has lost its way and its regional focus and there are significant challenges that seem to be rearing their head.
"The Clarence Valley Council believe we can get a better outcome by working with our neighbours to the north and the south."
10.50am: THE Northern Rivers' peak councils body is facing a crisis and an opportunity as a third council prepares to vote on whether it should remain within the organisation, NOROC head Jenny Dowell has said.
Cr Dowell, the president of the Northern Rivers Regional Organisation of Councils, agreed NOROC is facing a crisis of membership, but said it also had an opportunity to make the organisation more representative of its member councils.
The comments come as Kyogle Council prepares to vote this evening on a notice of motion by Cr Robert Dwyer to consider whether it should remain within NOROC.
The notice of motion calls on Kyogle Council to consider whether there were any "further substantial benefits" to being a member of NOROC and - if not - to give the required 12 months notice that it wants to pull out.
If Kyogle votes to pull out of NOROC it will mean close to half the organisation's seven member councils will have signalled their intention to leave within a matter of weeks.
Kyogle Mayor Ross Brown said Cr Dwyer's notice of motion was "out of the blue" and that it had not been discussed before at a council level.
Cr Dwyer agreed with that, but said NOROC was very much a matter of discussion among councillors outside the
council chamber and with their consituents, who questioned whether Kyogle was getting value for money from its membership.
Among the issues of concern were the voting system, which could deliver up to three extra votes to the chair in the right circumstances, because of the inclusion of Rous Water and the Richmond River County Council - both of which are made up of councillors from theoir member councils. He said there was a sense NOROC was becoming "political".
Cr Dwyer pointed to NOROC's vote on baseline testing for coal seam gas, saying it would cost the councils $90,000 which ought to have been spent by the State of Federal governments.
He also referred to NOROC's work on affordable housing, which Kyogle felt was less of an issue for it than the coastal councils.
Despite those issues, Cr Dwyer said he still believed it was possible for NOROC to better represent Kyogle and the council, if it decided to give notice, could change its mind if things changed.
Cr Dowell said NOROC needed to make changes to better represent the wishes of all member councils and it was starting to prepare a new strategic plan that aimed to do that.
The organisation had invited Roger Stephan, the chief executive of NOROC's successful Hunter Valley equivalent, to address the organisation's April 19 meeting.
However, ultimately, it was up to the Northern Rivers councils to decide what they needed from their ROC.
"It's time for all ideas and concerns to be out on the table, to find a way forward that suits all the Northern Rivers region's councils for the next four years," Cr Dowell said.