Reform - Fit for the Future

Reform - Fit for the Future

The NSW Government released its Fit for the Future (FFTF) program in September 2014 following a three-year Independent Review of Local Government.

In May 2016 the NSW Government subsequently announced the amalgamation of a number of councils across NSW. The amalgamation process that many councils are now undergoing will present many challenges over coming months and years. While LGNSW has never supported forced amalgamations, our role in supporting members has also required that we prepare for the eventuality and assist members during this period of change. 

Latest updates

Eleven Joint Organisations were formally proclaimed by the NSW Government on 11 May 2018.

On 21 June 2018, the NSW Minister for Industrial Relations declared the new Joint Organisations “not to be national system employers” pursuant to section 9A (1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 (NSW).

Following this declaration, the Federal Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation, endorsed the new Joint Organisations “not to be national system employers” pursuant to paragraph 14 (4) (a) of the Fair Work Act 2009.

As a consequence of Joint Organisations not being national system employers, they are now able to employ their own staff. Employees of Joint Organisations are covered by the State industrial relations jurisdiction and can be engaged under the Local Government (State) Award 2017.

Standard Contracts of Employment for the Executive Officers and Senior Staff of Joint Organisations have also been created by the Office of Local Government.

Post-amalgamation proclamation fact sheets

LGNSW has produced the following fact sheets for mayors and councillors, general managers, and council staff affected by a council merger:

Amalgamation Toolkit

An online web-based Amalgamation Toolkit  is available on our web site to assist councils with the amalgamation process. The toolkit is designed for use by leaders, managers and working groups.

A key component is the Local Government Workplace Reform Kit: Managing Workplace Change. This was developed by LGNSW in 2015 to help members manage workplace issues that will arise in the face of the reform process.

Council amalgamations

On 12 May 2016, the NSW Government proclaimed 19 new councils to replace 42 existing councils, with several additional amalgamation proposals pending. Following these proclamations, on 9 September the Minister for Local Government announced the newly formed Bayside Council through the amalgamation of the City of Botany Bay and Rockdale City.

The NSW Government’s website contains a full list of proclamations and related information. See LGNSW Media Release for President Keith Rhoades’ response.

New councils do not go to election until 9 September 2017.

LGNSW Advocacy


LGNSW has made more than a dozen submissions on reform-related issues during 2015-16, covering topics such as the FFTF criteria and benchmarks; the methodology of the IPART FFTF assessment process; the IPART review of compliance burdens on Local Government; and a submission to the NSW Legislative Council Inquiry into Local Government in NSW. 
These submissions and other background papers can be found on our Resources and Links page.

No Forced Amalgamations

LGNSW maintains a policy of voluntary structural reform and no forced amalgamations. To support member councils opposed to forcible amalgamation LGNSW has developed the Our Council, Our Voice, Our Choice campaign. 

‘Fix the Funding First’

LGNSW has long maintained there are systemic flaws in the funding system for Local Government, both in NSW and at a national level. These will not be rectified by simply amalgamating councils. LGNSW says 'Fix the Funding First'. LGNSW therefore continues to call for reforms to the financial framework for the sector - an end to rate pegging, fewer rate exemptions, reform of regulated fees and charges, an end to cost shifting, and a fair go in direct funding from the Commonwealth.

Membership on Ministerial Advisory Group

LGNSW continues to represent the sector as a member of the Government’s Ministerial Advisory Group (MAG) which was appointed to guide the reform process. We have made submissions to the MAG on a number of key issues including:

LGNSW gives evidence at Parliamentary inquiry on FFTF

LGNSW gave evidence at the first Public Hearing (27 July) of the NSW Legislative Council's Parliamentary Inquiry into Local Government in NSW. The LGNSW Opening Statement restated LGNSW's opposition to forced amalgamation and outlined the systemic flaws in the funding model for Local Government.

LGNSW also made a comprehensive submission to the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into FFTF, calling on the Government to fix the funding issues first, before forcing council amalgamations.

The Inquiry report was released its report in on 29 October, highlighting significant shortcomings in the Baird Government’s Fit for the Future process and calling on the Government to cease its plans to force council mergers.

LGNSW Member Support



LGNSW is running the following workshops for members:
  • 19 August - International Perspectives on Amalgamation – Focus on Finance and Governance

  • July - August - Transitioning merging teams - Merged councils are building their new identity. The merging of teams who performed similar roles in the former councils is a cornerstone in this process, and this workshop will assist with team-building knowledge to give teams in the merged organisation the greatest chance of success.

Previous workshops in 2016:


In 2015, LGNSW held a number of programs in response to Local Government reform.  These were:

  • 2015 Local Government Finance Summit “Fix the Funding First” (August 2015) - This summit identified new solutions to address current inequities and place Local Government on a sound footing to provide stronger communities for the future. 

  • Joint Organisations: Emerging Directions in Regional Collaboration (September 2015) - To assist all councils to better understand the proposed new JO model and to formulate their opinions on the content of the Emerging Directions paper.

  • A series of FFFT Proposal ‘Bootcamps’ to assist councils preparing their FFTF proposals. The six bootcamp sessions had over 167 registrations in all. Papers and presentations from these workshops are available on our Resources and Links page.

  • A two-day roundtable held in March 2015 which examined research into the pros and cons of amalgamations and shared some lessons from a number of frontline experiences in both NSW and interstate.

Papers from this roundtable, including a background paper (PDF, 1.1MB) prepared by LGNSW, contain information on issues and lessons learned from past experience and research into council mergers. These are available on the Resources and Links page.

Legal processes around amalgamations

LGNSW has prepared Local Government Reform - FAQs (PDF, 244KB) to help clarify some issues about the legal processes of amalgamation. This should be considered general advice only and councils should still seek their own independent professional advice where appropriate.

Community Engagement

The Government’s FFTF templates and guidelines contained a range of requirements for councils to conduct community engagement when developing their FFTF proposals. To assist councils, LGNSW compiled a summary of these requirements (PDF, 162KB). LGNSW also collated some case study examples (PDF, 143KB) of how councils were approaching community engagement for FFTF.
Councils’ consultation with the community is one of IPART’s considerations in assessing FFTF proposals.
Councils already do comprehensive consultation as part of their Integrated Planning and Reporting (IP&R) process, and information on community engagement is available on the OLG website. 


LGNSW has compiled a range of resources to guide councils through the implementation phase of FFTF.

FFTF Program

The Government released its Fit for the Future package in September 2014, in response to the findings of the three-year Independent Review of Local Government. As part of the Local Government reform process, councils were asked to consider new ways of working and new structural arrangements. There is a wide range of views amongst our member councils on many of the aspects of the NSW Government’s package. We welcome councils' feedback so we can raise common issues impacting councils and continue to provide alternative views and analysis to Government on behalf of the sector as a whole.

Joint Organisations

The NSW Government recently announced an Australian first with the establishment of eleven (11) Joint Organisations, created by the Local Government (Regional Joint Organisations) Proclamation 2018. The network of Joint Organisations is aimed at providing better planning, economic development and service delivery in regional NSW.

74 rural-regional councils are members of the following Joint Organisations:

  • Canberra Region;
  • Central NSW;
  • Hunter;
  • Illawarra Shoalhaven;
  • Mid North Coast;
  • Namoi;
  • New England;
  • Northern Rivers;
  • Orana;
  • Riverina and Murray; and
  • Riverina
The Office of Local Government have created a range of resources to assist the newly proclaimed Joint Organisations and can be assessed through their website.

Current Local Government Reviews

IPART Review of Regulatory & Compliance Burdens

In April 2016 IPART completed a review of Local Government Regulatory Burdens. LGNSW made two submissions to this review:

IPART Draft Report, released in January 2016, contained 49 draft recommendations. Most are consistent with those sought by LGNSW and councils in their submissions. However, there are some of significant recommendations that will require further analysis and consultation with the sector. The Government has not yet published a response to IPART’s final report which was submitted to the Minister for Local Government in April.

Review of LG Legislation

Consultation on Phase 1 of the Review of the Local Government Act 1993 occurred between mid January and mid March 2016, and the Office of Local Government (OLG) has indicated its intention for the legislation to be into (and perhaps through) Parliament by June. Read more about LGNSW’s response to this review on the Local Government Review page.

IPART Review of Local Government Rating System

IPART is reviewing the Local Government rating system, which was one of the recommendations of the Independent Local Government Review Panel. Terms of reference for the review were issued in December 2015. The review process includes public consultation, an interim report to the government in mid-2016, and a final report in December 2016.

LGNSW was a member of the panel at the IPART Rating Review Public Forum on the 26th April 2016. LGNSW also made a comprehensive submission to IPART (PDF, 454KB) in May 2016.

LGNSW will be responding to the IPART interim report on the rate path freeze when it is released with the NSW Government’s response in mid July 2016. LGNSW we will be making a further submission to IPART on the release of the draft report in August 2016..

Far West Initiative

The 8 councils in the Far-West of NSW (Brewarrina, Bourke, Broken Hill, Central Darling, Cobar, Balranald, Wentworth, Walgett) were not required to submit a FFTF proposal, in recognition of the unique set of challenges faced by councils in that area.
In late August 2015, the NSW Government announced the establishment of a Far-West Initiative Advisory Committee (chaired by former Murray Darling MP, John Williams) to advise on the development and implementation of the Initiative and broader reforms to improve outcomes for Far West communities.
The NSW Government released a Consultation Paper and Background Paper in August 2016 and consultation sessions were held with communities in the Far West. Public exhibition period for these documents closed on 16 December 2016. LGNSW made a submission. 
Since the Far-West Initiative was announced late last year, councils, state and federal agencies, NGOs, business and communities have been involved in consultation.

Resources and Links

Find more reform-related information including submissions from LGNSW, background papers, presentations and community engagement examples on our Resources and Links page.