Media Release: Change is inevitable says Local Government Review Panel Chair

30 October 2012

The Chair of the Independent Local Government Review Panel, Professor Graham Sansom, presented key findings from the first round of consultation into the long term governance, structure and shape of NSW councils to more than 500 delegates at the third and final day of the Local Government Association of NSW's (LGA) annual conference in Dubbo.

Professor Sansom stated that 'no change is not an option' and that now is not the time to 'tinker around the edges' – urging delegates to engage in the upcoming listening tours and review and respond to the Case for Change document that the Independent Local Government Review Panel will be publishing in approximately three weeks time.

President of the Local Government Association of NSW, Cr Keith Rhoades AFSM, said he was pleased that Professor Sansom touched on many of the issues that the LGSA raised in its submission to the Review Panel, including the key strengths of the Local Government sector – our vast local knowledge, connectivity to the communities we represent, and our ambition to reach our full potential.

“The Review Panel's acknowledgment of the revenue restrictions facing Local Government is extremely welcome and a step in the right direction to solving one of the biggest impediments to our sector,” said Cr Rhoades.

“Yesterday at the LGA conference,  delegates heard Minister Hazzard stress the importance of regional relationships especially when it comes to the proposed Regional Strategic Plans in the NSW Government's Green Paper,” said Cr Rhoades.

Professor Sansom echoed this sentiment, stressing the importance of regional relationship building and resource sharing in our efforts to strengthen and ensure the viability of Local Government in NSW.

Jude Munro AO and Glen Inglis, the two other members of the Independent Local Government Review Panel, joined Professor Sansom for a question/answer session.

“Delegates peppered the Review Panel members, all of whom are highly experienced Local Government professionals, with questions about the thorns in Local Government's side – rate pegging, forced amalgamations and the late referral of Local Water Utilities for review,” said Cr Rhoades.

“Another source of concern for delegates is the amount of time provided for the first round of consultation carried out by the Review Panel, which clashed with the lead up and campaign period prior to the 2012 Local Government elections.”

“Earlier in the day, LGA conference delegates passed a motion to lobby the NSW Government and the Review Panel for the consultation timeframe to be extended to take into account the relative newness of many councillors following the recent council elections.”

“The LGA, along with our Shires Association counterparts, will continue to advocate the key points made in our submission to the Review Panel, which include stressing the importance of creating governance and operating models that can be applied to the differing circumstances of rural, regional and metropolitan councils – especially as we respond to the Case for Change paper.”

“We applaud the Review Panel's acknowledgement that a ‘one size fits all’ approach for councils does not work given the demographic, population and geographical variances from one council to another. I'm relieved to hear that the Review Panel will be making a recommendation to the NSW Local Government Act Taskforce for a decisive shift away from a 'one size fits all' model.”

“Professor Sansom highlighted five signposts from the consultation so far – fiscal responsibility in the face of austerity, population shifts, an increase in regional collaborations, boundary changes, and stronger local leadership.”

“I look forward to reviewing and making a submission on the Case for Change discussion paper, and I encourage all councils, especially new councillors, to engage in the upcoming consultation sessions.”

To view the full submission to the independent Local Government Review made by the LGSA visit: http://www.lgsa.org.au/key-initiatives/local-government-review-panel.

Media Enquiries
Cr Keith Rhoades, AFSM                 President, Local Government Association: 0408 256 405
Alexandra Power                               LGSA Senior Media Officer: 0408 603 093