President's Message 31 January, 2020

This week, I met with Sydney metro councils and toured several bushfire and drought-affected towns with ALGA President David O’Loughlin.

Thank you to the mayors, councillors, general managers and council staff of Wollondilly, Wingecarribee, Wagga Wagga, Snowy Mountains, Tamworth and Liverpool Plains.

Disaster planning and management around bushfires, drought, and community health scares are set to dominate our conversations for some time. I assure you these issues, along with reducing cost shifting and the administrative and financial burdens placed on councils, are top priorities for LGNSW and our advocacy efforts.

This week, we have:

  • advocated on bushfire and drought support matters and promoted the support available through the Local Government Bushfire Recovery Support Group and GIVIT.
  • called for a democratically elected Balranald Shire Council, following the appointment of an administrator this week.
  • represented council interests to ensure Emergency Services Levy (ESL) invoices now reflect the NSW Government’s commitment to offset the initial increase.
  • welcomed the State government’s appointment of an expert panel, in the interests of ending cost shifting in the road system.
  • welcomed calls by members of the Opposition to address the heavily inflated direct costs of local government elections.

Balranald Shire must have a democratically elected local council

You would be aware that Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock dismissed Balranald Shire Council and appointed administrator Mike Colreavy, until 2024. In response, LGNSW has reinforced the right of the residents of Balranald Shire to be able to choose their council at this year's local government elections in September 2020.

Bushfire support, what you can do

Councils offering or requesting bushfire support can liaise with the Local Government Bushfire Recovery Support Group. All requests are matched with offers of help and support from councils that have not been affected by fires. Guidance on logistical, WHS and HR and other matters is also available.

For further information or advocacy support, email Damian Thomas LGNSW Strategy Manager - Social and Community.

Sign up to GIVIT, it’s free.

Commissioned by the State Government, the online donation management platform GIVIT helps councils make the most of community generosity, ensuring the most suitable donated goods and services are matched with need, and reach recipients directly as soon as possible. GIVIT is a not-for-profit organisation and the service is free and available to all 128 local councils. Councils can sign up with GIVIT by email: nsw@givit.org.au or visit www.givit.org.au for information.

What you should do next:

Emergency Services Levy (ESL) cost

Councils will receive a rebate to cover the increase in the ESL for the December quarter resulting from changes to workers compensation arrangements for firefighters. The rebate will be paid to councils this week following LGNSW representations about concerns the ESL invoices failed to reflect the NSW Government’s commitment to offset the initial increase. Thank you to Tenterfield, Moree Shire, North Sydney, Hornsby, and Snowy Monaro councils for bringing this issue to our attention.

For further information, email Shaun McBride, LGNSW Chief Economist – Finance and Utilities

Appointment of panel marks start of transfer of council-managed roads to the state government

We welcome the State government’s recent appointment of an expert panel to identify up to 15,000 kilometres of council-managed roads in rural and regional areas to be handed back to the state government. New panel members include Wendy Machin, Peter Duncan, Jillian Kilby, John Roydhouse, Michael Kilgariff and Peter Tegart. Local Government NSW has long advocated on behalf of councils for an end to cost shifting in the road system. Congratulations Peter Tegart, CEO Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council.

For further information, email Sanjiv Sathiah, LGNSW Senior Policy Officer -  Roads and Transport

Election costs, an advocacy priority. What you can do.

LGNSW applauds members of the Opposition for their recent calls to address the heavily inflated direct costs of local government elections imposed on councils – in some instances by more than 100 per cent. Disappointingly, the NSW Electoral Commission increases disproportionately impact smaller rural and regional councils and communities, particularly those that are already severely affected by drought and bushfire. LGNSW has voiced its concerns in submissions to IPART and a Parliamentary Inquiry as well as directly in meetings with the Office of the Minister for Local Government. We continue to advocate for change.

I encourage councils to pass resolutions in opposition to this unfair cost shifting and write to your local members of parliament seeking action to reduce these price hikes when our communities can least afford them.

For further information, email Damian Thomas LGNSW Strategy Manager - Social and Community.

$47 million drought funding, is your town eligible?

Seven NSW councils (Clarence Valley, Junee, Lismore, Richmond Valley, Snowy Monaro, Cootamundra-Gundagai and Kempsey) are now eligible to receive federal funding under the Drought Communities Extension Program, in addition to the 40 NSW councils already deemed eligible. Refer to the Prime Minister’s media release for details which include up to $500,000 in funding for councils of communities with fewer than 1,000 people and up to $1 million for those with a larger population. This is separate to bushfire assistance.

For further information email Shaun McBride, LGNSW Chief Economist – Finance and Utilities