19 February 2021
An exemplary leader
This week I joined thousands of councillors, dignitaries, and community members from across NSW celebrating the life of Cobar Mayor Lilliane Brady OAM, who passed away last week.
As I mentioned last week, it was fitting we were able to help secure a State Funeral for Lilliane in recognition of her 40-plus years of service in local government.
She first ran for council in 1974 and went on to become the longest serving female mayor in NSW, was a passionate advocate for her community and a pioneer for leadership roles for women in local government.
It is astounding that at 90 she was still a leading voice for council. She will be greatly missed, but leaves a powerful legacy.
International Women’s Day
Continuing with the theme of influential women, March 8 is International Women’s Day and, once again, Local Government NSW will be marking the occasion with a lunch featuring guest speaker Annabel Crabb, Walkley Award-winning journalist and popular political commentator.
The theme of IWD this year is "Chose to Challenge", with the idea of calling out unhealthy gender bias, inequality and challenging the barriers women face, as well as celebrating achievements such as Lilliane Brady’s trailblazing efforts.
Women have a unique opportunity to shape their communities through involvement with local government and it is pleasing we are making inroads into women running for council.
Next month’s lunch will be an encouraging and empowering event and I thank StateCover Mutual and all the sponsors that make it possible. I encourage you to take advantage and book your spot now.
Pat Dixon Scholarship provides opportunity to further Indigenous careers in council
Another woman pioneer in local government is Pat Dixon, Australia’s first Aboriginal woman elected to council in Australia when she won election in Armidale in 1983.
Cr Dixon passed away in 2001 but left a legacy of outstanding community service, serving as Deputy Mayor of Armidale and Vice-President of the NSW Local Government Association.
The annual Pat Dixon Memorial Scholarship honours her memory and provides up to $5000 annually for Indigenous people to develop their careers in council.
For more information, including the application process, please view the applicant information sheet and visit the LGNSW website.
Applications close 5 March.
We have been meeting with the NSW Government, Opposition and cross bench on the Local Government Amendment (Rates) Bill 2021.
There are a range of amendments we’d like to see as part of the Bill to ensure it provides greater rating flexibility for councils, helps councils deliver more equitable and efficient rating outcomes to their communities, facilitates rate harmonisation for the 17 amalgamated councils and relieves councils from the cost pressures of the Emergency Services Levy by decoupling the ESL from the rate peg.
Remote meetings extension
In March last year the NSW Parliament passed the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment Bill 2020, which temporarily allows councils to meet remotely.
This temporary amendment is due to expire on 25 March 2021. The NSW Government is undertaking a review of the temporary COVID-19 measures to assess which, if any, should be extended or maintained permanently.
At the 2020 LGNSW annual conference in November, councils resolved to call on the NSW Government to amend the Model Code of Meeting practice for councils in NSW to permit attendance and participation of councillors at council and committee meetings by audio-visual link.
LGNSW has written and discussed with the Minister, urging the Government to make these remote meeting provisions permanent.
The Opposition’s Local Government Amendment (Pecuniary Interest Disclosure) Bill 2020 resumes debate this week.
While the local government sector is committed to the principles of transparency, accountability, and open government, we remain concerned about rules that may affect the safety and protection of councillors and staff, particularly for persons in high-risk positions.
LGNSW opposes this bill and has written to Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock for the disclosure rules for councillors to be consistent with those for State Ministers and Members of Parliament.
Training for women in local government: the Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA) has just received $50,000 from the NSW Government to provide training that will equip more women to run for council.
ALGWA’s membership includes many experienced NSW councillors, including LGNSW board members, and this funding will support workshops in regional and metropolitan areas.
Visit ALGWA’s NSW website for more information.
Federal Inquiry into the problems of feral and domestic cats in Australia: progress has been made in LGNSW’s call for better resourcing for councils to deal with domestic and feral cats issues.
The recently released Federal House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy report Tackling the feral cat pandemic: a plan to save Australian wildlife, Report of the inquiry into the problem of feral and domestic cats in Australia - makes recommendations in relation to desexing, microchipping and night curfews.
See the report
Cladding: the NSW Government last week announced further details of its plan to help residential apartment building owners remove combustible cladding through 10-year, interest-free loans in its Project Remediate initiative.
LGNSW has been calling for the government to fund a program to fix the cladding on private apartments, including financial support for individual unit owners, funding to assist councils assess and issue remediation orders and for additional engineering, building and fire safety specialists. This initiative is a step in the right direction, but a lot more work needs to be done.
New Build-to-rent provisions: councils are painfully aware of the need for more affordable housing in their areas and it is a topic of growing concern with predictions of rising housing costs, so LGNSW cautiously welcomes this month’s NSW Government announcement of build-to-rent (BTR) provisions.
But we have concerns that the measures have been introduced in isolation of a holistic set of policies to encourage much-needed affordable housing for the benefit of our communities.
Also, BTR housing developments of a certain type will be determined by the State Government as State Significant development, and not by councils.
We are disappointed the government has not listened to our strong calls that these developments should not be permitted in core commercial land use zones and this could impact upon these specialised employment hubs.
Councils must continue to have a deciding voice on developments in their areas, especially ones that are going to have a significant impact on community amenity.
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