LGNSW History


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History of LGNSW

The formation of LGNSW

By Ray Donald OAM

As LGNSW notches up its first decade, a key player in its establishment casts his eye back over the long road to bring about a single unified voice for councils in New South Wales.

The need for a peak body for councils has a long tail. The very first – the Municipal Association of NSW – was formed back in 1883 and went on to become the Local Government Association of NSW. It was matched by the Shires Association of NSW in 1908.

From 1922 the two separate organisations shared a joint secretariat, or joint committee, which was headed by a Chief Executive Officer and employed staff. This structure included a series of committees from which representatives of both associations dealt with issues common to all councils.

The Shire’s Association of NSW, representing rural councils, and Local Government Association of NSW, representing large regional and city councils, have a lengthy history of resolutions in regard to forming one association to represent local government in NSW.

Both associations addressed this issue at their annual conferences in 2001, where a Shires Association (SA) resolution to merge was defeated, and the Local Government Association (LGA) resolution urged the SA to join the LGA. Conferences of both associations in 2002 and 2003 retained their previous resolutions and attitudes towards any merger.

One of the main early promotors of a single association was former Cowra Mayor Bruce Miller. Bruce, along with a number of other local government representatives, including former North Sydney Mayor Cr Genia McCaffery, could clearly see the advantages of a single unified voice for councils in NSW. The potential for differing views from two local government associations often provided the State Government with a reason for inaction.

Bill Gillooly AM was the CEO of the joint committee from 2004 to 2014 and played a major role in the progress and eventual combining of both associations. Bill, a lawyer with a background in senior public sector administration, had previous experience in the voluntary amalgamation of some councils, which proved to be of considerable assistance in the amalgamation of the two associations.

Particular mention should also be made of the work of Peter Punch, an expert in registered organisation law who helped guide the associations through the long and at times exhausting process.

Association conferences in 2004 both supported steps towards a merger. Peter Woods OAM and John Wearne AM, both former association presidents, were commissioned to undertake a study into models for creating one association in NSW. The following year both conferences supported the formation of a working party tasked with looking at the options for a single, unified entity and recommending an agreed proposal for the consideration of all councils.

It was to prove a difficult task.

The SA particularly wanted the continuation of a zone or divisional structure and equality of representation on a future executive – a sticking point that translated into little progress by the working party. Debate over potential cost savings, along with advantages and disadvantages of a single association, prompted ongoing discussion.

NSW was the only Australian state or territory operating dual associations and the final recommendation was clear: there were strong advantages in forming a single Association. Options For One Local Government Association in NSW, widely known as the Woods Wearne Report, provided a constructive way forward for consideration by all councils and helped alleviate many legitimate concerns about forming one association, particularly by smaller rural councils. The Woods Wearne Report ensured the eventual foundation for a single peak body for councils in NSW.

In 2008 and 2009, both associations continued to progress the issue by supporting a convention that would consider draft models and a constitution.

The following year, a small taskforce was established, comprising five members from each association (excluding the presidents) with an independent chair (Libby Darlinson). This taskforce ultimately produced the One Association Taskforce Discussion Paper containing 40 recommendations.

An historic One Association Convention was held in August 2010, chaired by Hon Richard Torbay MP. The convention agreed on 27 principles to form the foundation of One Association, which gave equality of representation and office-bearers to the two associations. NSW’s 152 general purpose councils, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council and all NSW country councils were eligible for membership.

During 2011 these principles circulated between both associations with agreement reached on some amendments. There would be two categories of membership, ordinary and associate. When the SA dropped its position on the retention of a zones structure, complete agreement now existed on the 27 principles. These principles largely remain the basis of the constitution that continues to guide the operations of LGNSW.

In October 2011, Fair Work Australia, after an assessment of the roles of the new association, did not flag any concerns about the rules, which were then sent to all members for comment as the Draft Constitution for One Association.

The joint committee, at its meeting on 3 February 2012, recommended that the necessary steps begin to have the Australian Electoral Commission conduct a secret ballot of all councils to form a single association. The ballot was conducted by 1 August 2012, before the September 2012 Local Government Elections, and the

historic Amalgamation Day occurred on 1 March 2013.

An interim board made up of the current office bearers of both associations and jointly chaired by Clr Keith Rhoades AFSM, and Cr Ray Donald OAM, dealt with matters from LGNSW until the first combined conference.

This was held on 1 and 2 October 2013 at Sydney Town Hall and was opened by the State Governor, the Hon Marie Bashir. A total of 24 board directors were elected, with Cr Keith Rhoades AFSM as the inaugural President of LGNSW.

LGA and SA Presidents 2001-2013

Year LGA President Shires President
2001 Cr P.R. Woods OAM Cr C. Vardon
2002 Cr P.R. Woods OAM Cr M.A Montgomery
2003 Cr Dr S.  Murray Cr M.A Montgomery
2004 Cr Dr S.  Murray Cr PD Miller
2005 Cr G. McCaffery Cr PD Miller
2006 Cr G. McCaffery Cr C.J. Sullivan OAM
2007 Cr G. McCaffery Cr C.J. Sullivan OAM
2008 Cr G. McCaffery Cr B. Miller
2009 Cr G. McCaffery Cr B. Miller
2010 Cr G. McCaffery Cr B. Miller
2011 Cr K.R. Rhoades AFSM Cr B. Miller
2012 Cr K.R. Rhoades AFSM Cr R. Donald
2013 Cr K.R. Rhoades AFSM Cr R. Donald

Thanks to Peter Coulton, Bill Gillooly, Bruce Millar, Keith Rhoades and Genia McCaffery for their assistance with this history.

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