President's Message 21 November 2019

The important role of local councils has been on full display during the bushfires with many councillors, council staff, and mayors on the front lines battling fires alongside other members of their local NSW Rural Fire Service brigades, and joining other volunteers to support their communities.

The NSW Rural Fire Service this week put out the call for councils to release staff to perform specialist functions to which local government are well recognised including running and supervising heavy plant engaged in fire operations. Councils able to assist (predominately in northern NSW) should email NSW Rural Fire Service.

Councils from across the state are also set to play a vital role in the clean-up and recovery efforts once the fires are extinguished, as they do after every natural disaster.

We welcomed the recent announcement of additional government funding for bushfire-affected communities through affected local councils and BlazeAid, a volunteer organisation that assists families affected by bushfires by rebuilding damaged or destroyed fences and other structures. However, this is just the start. Much more is needed to get communities back on their feet.

LGNSW will be making the case to State and Federal governments for the longer-term solutions required to assist councils and their communities to recover, while increasing their capacity to reduce risk and build resilience over the longer-term. This was agreed at last month’s LGNSW Annual Conference, attended by more than 800 councillors and community leaders from across NSW. For further information, email Mark Hely, Senior Policy Officer.

I am pleased to report we’ve seen much progress in relation to a range of matters of importance to members including:

This week I also met with Hills Shire Council, thank you for hosting.

Office of Drought Response to better coordinate drought support

Securing stronger state and federal government drought measures and support is a major focus of LGNSW new advocacy agenda set at the LGNSW Conference last month, so we are appreciative of the NSW Government’s introduction of the new dedicated Office of Drought Response. The 10-person Office will coordinate assistance, ensuring communities are aware of what support is available, including water security projects. We’re pleased to hear that the Office is also tasked with developing long-term strategies to help communities and farmers through drought recovery.

For further information, email Mark Hely, Senior Policy Officer.

Win! Electoral expenditure cap reforms set to restore fairness

The Electoral Funding Amendment Bill 2019 passed parliament last week (13 November) giving effect to the parliamentary inquiry recommendations into expenditure caps - one of LGNSWs key 2019 advocacy priorities, and re-endorsed by councils at the LGNSW Conference last month.

Election candidates will now benefit from consistent and equitable expenditure caps and will also be permitted a reasonable level of expenditure to inform voters of what they stand for prior to election day – a fundamental element of well-functioning democracies. The reforms also ease the administrative burden on candidates by requiring the NSW Electoral Commissioner to provide each candidate with their applicable expenditure cap in advance of the election.

Audit of NSW Electoral Commission inspires hope for reform

LGNSW is challenging the skyrocketing costs of local elections conducted by the NSW Electoral Commission, and the massive cost shifting of election expenses onto local government - at a time when councils can least afford it given drought, bushfires and economic pressures. LGNSW will work with the government to address this matter. In the meantime, we welcome the Premier’s recent announcement that the Auditor-General will review the longer-term funding arrangements and management of the NSW Electoral Commission.

For further information, email Damian Thomas, Strategy Manager.

Early Win! State-wide education app to make recycling easier

EPA and the Australian Council of Recycling have launched a recycling app (funded through the Waste Levy and the Waste Less, Recycle More program). Designed to help increase recycling rates across NSW, the app provides tailored information about each council’s recycling collection system with the aim of helping residents sort their waste into recyclables and non-recyclables.

This is a very positive move. We also welcome Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock’s expressed commitment to helping the State’s 128 councils increase recycling rates. LGNSW continues to advocate for a local government led and coordinated state-wide recycling approach to support a circular economy, funded by reinvestment of the NSW Waste Levy. Phase Two of the Save our Recycling Campaign was launched at the LGNSW Conference last month, with unanimous support from delegates.

For further information, email Susy Cenedese, Strategy Manager – Environment.

The future of Crown Lands remains a priority issue

Linda Scott (centre) with Lucy Turnbull (left) and Minister for Water, Property and Housing Melinda Pavey.The NSW Government is to be congratulated on the launch of the consultation process for the development of a 10-year strategic plan for crown land, a first for the state.  This is significant given we’re talking about some 42 per cent of the state, including our parks, reserves, roads and cemeteries.

I had the pleasure of attending one of the first consultation sessions this week, along with approx. 50 people representing state agencies and other stakeholders including NSW Farmers, Caravan Park Industry Association, Aboriginal Land Council, Boat Industry Association, Marine Rescue, Surf Life Saving.

Given local government’s pivotal role in protecting and enhancing the environmental, spiritual, social, cultural and economic importance of Crown land, LGNSW will continue to make further representations to Ministers Pavey and Stokes and Crown Lands Commissioner, Richard Bush.

Formal consultation around the 10-year strategic plan will begin in December. Meanwhile, the complexities of meeting the legislative requirements, given limited budgets and resources, remains a priority issue for LGNSW. Presentations from our recent Crown Lands summit are now available on the website.

For further information, email Mark Hely, Senior Policy Officer.

Asbestos remains a hot topic for local government this National Asbestos Awareness Week

National Asbestos Awareness Week starts next Monday (25 November). While we have had a win with the NSW Government’s recent decision to increase asbestos disposal and end expensive asbestos disposal levies, further change is required. Specifically, LGNSW will continue to advocate for better protection and support for councils who still risk being unfairly penalised when their waste services are contaminated by illegal or improper asbestos waste disposal.

To help people keep safe please promote the NSW Environment Protection Authority Asbestos Lurks in More Places Than You’d Think campaign through your communication channels. See the downloadable kit which includes a draft Mayoral Minute template, media releases, posters, social media collateral and more.

For further information, email Daniel Adler, Asbestos Program Manager.