President's Message 22 May 2020

We are thrilled the Federal government has heeded our calls and the calls of our member councils, with today’s announcement of $500 million for local governments across Australia to deliver road and community projects - constructing or improving bridges and tunnels, street lighting, heavy vehicle facilities/rest areas, new or upgraded bicycle and walking paths, community facilities, and picnic shelters and barbeque facilities at parks.

This funding is recognition that local councils are best placed to deliver locally led solutions, including recovery efforts and economic stimulus – as demonstrated during bushfires, drought and floods.  It is a major win for LGNSW and councils and their communities in every corner of our State particularly those that have faced the combined impacts of drought, bushfires and now COVID-19.

Latest data on the economic impact of COVID-19 is overwhelming not only for those thousands of Australians who’ve lost their jobs, but also business leaders and all levels of government. We know our tourism and arts industries have been well and truly decimated and the road to recovery is going to be long, particularly for those people who have not benefited from the Job Seeker and Job Keeper programs or other stimulus efforts.  Refer to latest data from I Lost My Gig Australia.

ADVOCACY WINS! THIS WEEK WE WELCOMED

Australian government funding

  • $500 million Local Road and Community Infrastructure Program. From 1 July 2020, all councils in NSW will be able to access funding to support delivery of priority local road and community infrastructure projects. Guidelines for the Local Road and Community Infrastructure Program will be provided directly to local governments by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.
  • The bringing forward of $1.3 billion of the 2020-21 Financial Assistance Grant payment. The package takes Commonwealth investment in local governments through the Financial Assistance Grant program to $2.5 billion this financial year, with a further $1.2 billion to be distributed through other programs to deliver infrastructure and provide relief from drought and bushfires. Visit the department website for information about allocations under the Financial Assistance Grant and Local Road and Community Infrastructure programs. Refer to LGNSW media release. Please email Shaun McBride, LGNSW Chief Economist.

NSW government funding

  • $24 million in much-needed State funding for food and organics waste for recycling at the kerbside. This funding will help councils and industry transition from having mixed general household waste to separating out the food and organics waste for recycling at the kerbside. An additional $3.75 million for processing infrastructure is scheduled to open for applications next month through the Organics Infrastructure Large and Small program. Details are on the EPA website. Refer to Environment Minister Matt Kean’s media release
  • We welcomed the State Government’s announcement of an additional 24 priority projects under its planning system acceleration program however, we will continue to push back on any attempts by Ministers to dictate council decision making or interfere in operations. Refer to LGNSW media release

NSW GOVERNMENT POLICY CHANGES

Recent COVID-19 legislation emergency amendments have given Planning Minister Rob Stokes two new powers to issue directions to councils relating to local infrastructure contributions:

  • Pooling of funds received under a contributions plan or under different contributions plans; and
  • The timing at which a monetary contribution or levy is to be paid.

LGNSW advocated against these changes and the debate in NSW Parliament resulted in the government introducing a sunset clause in relation to the deferred payments direction. The powers relating to directing councils on the pooling of funds will be ongoing. The Government will be announcing more on these directions in coming days. LGNSW continues to meet with the Department weekly, so if you have any feedback on the changes, please email Jane Partridge, Strategy Manager Planning and Transport.

REMINDER, JOIN US FOR OUR NEXT LIVE EVENT

Our free weekly forum on the impacts of COVID-19 on Local Government is fast approaching. Please join us in conversation with Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean MP on Tuesday 26 May from 2-3pm. This is a members-only event. Thank you to Leader of the Opposition and NSW Shadow Minister for Multiculturalism Jodi McKay MP, and NSW Shadow Minister for Local Government, Veterans and Western Sydney Greg Warren MP for joining us this week. 

HOT TIP

2020 Resilient Australia and NSW Get Ready Community Awards are now open! I encourage you to nominate your initiatives that demonstrate the important role of local government in strengthening community disaster resilience. Entries close 8 June, further information is available online.

The NSW Get Ready Community Award recognises a local community that has worked together to make their community more prepared and better able to recover from disasters. Entries close 5 July, further information is available online.