President's Message 5 June 2020

This week we welcomed news that the Government has listened to Local Government NSW, finally introducing critical building reform legislation which follows years of advocacy by LGNSW and councils.

In response to our advocacy, the Government introduced:

  • the Design and Building Practitioners Bill 2019, which is fundamental to reforming the shortcomings in the building and construction industry. Amendments to the bill in line with our advocacy also provide for the registration of engineers and the requirement of Continuous Professional Development in order to retain their registration.
  • the Residential Apartment Buildings (Compliance and Enforcement Powers) Bill 2020 gives the Building Commissioner new powers against non-compliant developers and serious defects identified in residential buildings. LGNSW advocacy on your behalf has helped ensure the regulator can operate proactively while buildings are under construction, to prevent defects from being inherited by future owners.
  • After I wrote to the Premier earlier this month, we also welcomed State Government action in response to our calls for more support for those left vulnerable by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the announcement of a further $6 million NSW Government funding in support for temporary visa holders, including refugees and asylum seekers who don’t qualify for Commonwealth Government COVID-19 support packages. This funding will help provide vulnerable members of our community with food, medicines and housing assistance until they are able to get back on their feet, and comes on top of $20 million in temporary crisis accommodation for stranded international students announced in May. For further information, email Damian Thomas Strategy Manager, Social and Community.

LGNSW was concerned to note, however, consideration by the NSW Government of the introduction of compulsory, universal postal vote measures for the 2021 Local Government Elections (link to article). In accordance with our Conference, policy, LGNSW does not support the imposition of a one-size-fits-all approach that may disadvantage some members of our communities. We do support councils being granted the option of postal or online voting, in line with the resolution passed by members at our 2019 Annual Conference. Our advocacy work to protect local democracy while minimising the cost of elections continues, and I will keep you informed of progress in this area.

And finally, a note of thanks to John Graham MLC and Mick Veitch MLC for joining our weekly members forum to discuss all things roads, transport, and the night time economy! It was great to hear from so many Government and Opposition members over the past few weeks, and stay tuned for the next forum, as we move these sessions to monthly, to ensure you can all enjoy them!

  • P.S. Councils play a key role in helping to dramatically reduce the number of people forced to sleep rough, and LGNSW is supporting these efforts by advocating for more long-term affordable and social housing. The wicked problem of homelessness is made more stark by the coming of winter, and the current economic climate looks set to make it a very grim winter indeed. Now, more than ever, we all recognise how important it is to keep our communities safe, and I’ll be taking part in this year’s Vinnies’ CEO Sleepout to help raise funds for the cause. If you would like to donate, you can do so through my link here.

PROGRESS ON LGNSW PRIORITIES

  • The Local Government (COVID-19) Splinter (Interim) Award 2020 has been amended by consent to match the COVID-19 Legislation Amendment (Emergency Measures-Miscellaneous) Act 2020 (NSW). The change means a worker stood down by an employer without pay on or after March 11, as a direct or indirect result of the COVID-19 pandemic, will continue to accrue annual leave and long service leave. Employers covered by an enterprise agreement should also note that there may be additional requirements under the Industrial Relations Act 1996 (NSW), and should contact LGNSW Industrial Officer Benjamin Niciak for specific advice: benjamin.niciak@lgnsw.org.au or (02) 9242 4144.
  • While we welcome consultation now under way with councils on the timing of local infrastructure contributions payments, LGNSW has written to the Government to express deep concern at the risk posed by this intervention into local governments’ financial operations. The proposed local infrastructure contribution payment deferral has the very real likelihood of creating further shortfalls in contributions funds, leading to the perverse result of deferred council expenditure on the delivery of infrastructure, at the direct cost of local jobs.

COUNCIL ACTION NEEDED

  • We’re seeking Expressions of Interest from councils to co-host our 2022 Annual Conference. This cornerstone event brings together hundreds of mayors, councillors and general managers to set LGNSW policy for the year ahead and offers the opportunity to not only showcase the host destination, but also help inject dollars into the local economy. The deadline for submitting EOIs is Friday 17 July; you can find the guidelines to help formulate your written bid here. Documents or inquiries for further information should be addressed to Events Manager Meg Fisher at events@lgnsw.org.au.
  • A reminder to write to the NSW Government to amplify our advocacy against Ministerial COVID-19 decisions that encroach on council decision-making or interfere in operations. We continue to strongly oppose the Government’s determination to force councils to waive interest payable on overdue rates and charges for the period 1 July 2020 to 31 December 2020, which will have serious implications for council cash flow and liquidity. For more information, please email Shaun McBride, Chief Economist.
  • Councils and all Crown land managers have until the end of the month to apply for a share of $14 million from the 2020-21 Crown Reserves Improvement Fund, which can be used to upgrade and maintain community facilities and reserves across NSW. Applications can be lodged here.