NSW government announces Joint Organisations of Councils

Keith Rhoades.

New regional council bodies will be formed in NSW by July 2018, it was announced at this weekend’s NSW Country Mayors Association AGM.

Details of the legislation are yet to be released, but Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades has welcomed the decision.

“Joint organisations were originally planned to be rolled out during 2017 following the success of a five-region pilot program during 2015/16 and since then, we have made repeated calls for their introduction,” Cr Rhoades said.

The Joint Organisations will mirror NSW Planning Regions, which for this area is the Riverina-Murray, including Wagga and Albury.

Local Councillor Geoff Pritchard said that he thought the organisations were a step in the right direction, but feared they would weaken the power of local councils.

“It’s going to be quite significant,” he said.

“The amalgamations were the first part of these Joint Organisations, to get them ready, and then a lot of state functions will start being carried out at a regional level. What worries me is that in our area, we would have had one representative each from Tumut and Tumbarumba, and now we’ll only have one. There will only be one representative from Gundagai-Cootamundra, whereas Gundagai has more in common with us than they do with Cootamundra.

“One thing that the JO will do is intergovernmental relations, which means that local councils will have to go through them rather than directly through Macquarie Street. Councillors are more and more being sidelined, and we’re the ones who are elected.”

Local Government NSW also believes that councils should have the power to choose who they form larger bodies with, rather than that being handed down by the state government.

“We will continue to advocate that councils are best placed to know which regional communities are most relevant to their needs and interests,” said Clr Rhoades.