President's Message 11 May 2020

The rapid pace of reform hasn’t slowed.

We welcomed the NSW Government’s recent commitment to consider widespread rate reform in the months to come. The first stage of this reform is due to be introduced into NSW Parliament on 11 May, with minor changes that allow councils that haven’t passed on the full rate peg rise to catch-up by increasing rates above the IPART rate peg and extending the period to ten years.

However, these are extraordinary times and we understand there is no public appetite to raise rates – we know you are all focused on assisting your communities and businesses facing financial hardship as the result of the cumulative impacts of drought, bushfire, flood and now the COVID pandemic. Nevertheless, LGNSW will be working hard on your behalf to secure true reforms that effect real change for local councils and lasting benefits for our communities.

We continue to urge State and Federal governments to support a locally led economic stimulus program, fast-tracking of funding for infrastructure programs such as road improvements, cycleways and footpaths.

This week, we successfully secured councils an initial $15 million contribution for temporary cycleway and footpath widening works from the NSW Government, and welcomed support from the Committee for Sydney, NSW and Western Sydney Business Chambers for our advocacy, following the release of the Western Sydney Business Chamber Shovels Ready! blueprint.

Meanwhile, our sector’s efforts to lead our communities through this pandemic are being recognised by many including State and Federal members such as the Federal Minister Local Government the Hon Mark Coulton who joined our recent free online event week. We’re looking forward to welcoming Shadow Minister for Local Government Jason Clare today.


ADVOCACY WINS! This week we welcomed:

  • Government commitment for rate flexibility. This follows the NSW Treasurer’s announcement on plans for state tax reform. LGNSW will continue to advocate for removal of rate pegging and the replacement of the Emergency Services Levy with a broad-based property levy.  We will be working hard to ensure that these matters are on the tax reform agenda. Refer to LGNSW media release. For further information, email Shaun McBride Chief Economist
  • $15 million footpath and cycling infrastructure support. Local councils can now apply for funding to widen walkways, closing roads and creating new cycle paths under a new state government scheme designed to accommodate greater use of public outdoor space. Refer to DPIE media release. For more details, email Jane Partridge, Strategy Manager – Planning.
  • $500,000 Council Pound Grant Program, providing councils a minimum of $4000 (up to $28,000) to assist with veterinary, staff and food costs as well as minor capital works. Refer to media release. For further information, email Susy Cenedese, Strategy Manager – Environment.
  • Federal Black Spots funding of $50.6 million to fix 147 dangerous crash sites across the state. We continue to encourage the federal and state governments to work with local councils to fast track shovel-ready road safety projects in the immediate term and further boost road safety funding over the longer-term. For further information, email Sanjiv Sathiah Senior Policy Officer – Roads and Transport.

ONGOING ADVOCACY

  • Building reform legislation now urgent. We are calling on the NSW Government to ensure building reform legislation is debated when NSW Parliament sits on 11 May. This follows my letter to the NSW Premier and key ministers, urging them to progress this important legislation so as to ensure building quality and safety standards are upheld as developments are fast-tracked. Refer to LGNSW media release
  • Fast-tracked planning assessments. 24 projects will be fast-tracked through an accelerated planning assessment process introduced by the NSW government. Councils can submit proposals for the next tranche via email to the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment. I also encourage general managers and planning directors to attend a DPIE webinar on ePlanning and related matters (May 13 at 1.30pm).  
  • Roll out of the State Government’s new ePlanning system including $10 million funding package. LGNSW is representing you in seeking reassurance from the Department of Planning Industry and Environment that no costs are passed on to councils and communities over the long term. Refer to LGNSW media release. For further information, email Jane Partridge, Strategy Manager – Planning  

REMINDERS

  • 2020 Resilient Australia Awards. In recognition of the fantastic work local councils are doing to strengthen community resilience during disasters, I encourage you to nominate for the local government award category. Entries close 8 June.
  • 2020 Local Roads Congress. This joint IPWEA NSW and LGNSW hosted event will go ahead as an online virtual event this year, split over two days – Monday 1 June and Monday 15 June. Register here.   

HOT TIP
The more things change regarding what we can and can’t do during this pandemic one thing remains the same, washing our hands thoroughly and regularly and keeping physical distance from others is the best way to minimise the transmission of COVID-19. Please help reinforce this message as we make the transition to recovery.