13 April 2021
I am pleased to note that Local Government NSW has been able to achieve a number of positive outcomes for our members this past week.
Win – funding for regional councils to digitise planning processes
Regional councils are now eligible for up to $50,000 from the NSW Government to help them implement online lodgement and assessment of development applications thanks to LGNSW advocacy efforts.
In our submission to the 2020-21 State Budget, we called on the Government to help fund the integration to the new ePlanning system to ensure ratepayers don’t end up bearing the costs, and a resolution of our annual conference last November echoed this call.
As a result of our calls, almost $5 million in funding will be available to help regional councils acquire new or upgrade existing IT systems, software and infrastructure and provide council staff the resources and knowledge needed to use the system.
All NSW councils need to be using the NSW Planning Portal for all development applications and complying development certificates by 1 July 2021.
I encourage regional councils to apply for the grants via the Planning Portal before applications close on 30 April 2021.
Win – streamlined electoral compliance requirements for candidates and parties
At our last annual conference, Georges River Council successfully put forward a motion for improved accessibility of electoral processes and enabling the electronic signing and lodgement of disclosures and electoral forms to help streamline the electoral process.
I am pleased to report that, in response to our advocacy, the NSW Electoral Commissioner has written to me confirming a number of new measures that will make compliance easier for all candidates for this coming round of local government elections in September, including:
- Imminent launch of a new Funding and Disclosure Online Portal to enable candidates, councillors, parties, donors and other electoral participants to meet their ongoing compliance obligations via the online lodgement of forms and support information,
- Parties and candidates will be able to manage and lodge nomination forms, including deposit payments, using an enhanced online portal (consistent with arrangements for the 2019 State election)
- All participants will be able to register how-to-vote cards and other electoral material online.
The NSWEC also advised it has recommended the NSW Government undertake further reforms, including legislative amendments, to allow more forms to be signed and lodged electronically.
Extension of bushfire community recovery officers to assist with flood recovery
I welcome the NSW and Australian governments’ extension of bushfire community recovery officers in councils for a further 12 months to assist with flood recovery.
LGNSW has made supporting local government in community and economic recovery one of its key advocacy priorities for 2021, and we continue to advocate on your behalf to state and federal governments and through State Recovery Committees.
For more information or to provide information on your council’s needs to bolster our advocacy, email Damian Thomas, LGNSW Strategy Manager.
Parliamentary inquiry calls for improvements to mental health services in rural and regional NSW
Councils across NSW continue to be very concerned about access to mental health services, especially in our regions.
Many of them weighed in on the issue as part of the Parliamentary Committee on Investment, Industry and Regional Development’s inquiry into support for drought affected communities in New South Wales.
LGNSW also made a submission to another (ongoing) Parliamentary Inquiry into rural and regional health identifying the need for new models for healthcare delivery.
Improving rural and regional health services is another of LGNSW’s key 2021 advocacy priorities.
I am pleased the committee recommends better collaboration to support mental health in rural and regional communities in its final report tabled earlier this month.
Pat Dixon Memorial Scholarship winners
As President of LGNSW and a trustee of the Pat Dixon Memorial Scholarship, I congratulate this year’s scholarship recipients, Dubbo Regional Council’s Kerryann Stanley and Muswellbrook Shire Council’s Rosslyn Thompson.
This scholarship provides $5000 to support professional development for First Nations people involved in local government and was established in honour of Pat Dixon, a Dhanggati woman who became the first Aboriginal woman elected to local government in Australia.
There was a number of compelling candidates and, for the second year in a row, two scholarships were awarded.
Local government is at our best when we represent the communities we serve and that’s why it is so important to support the involvement and professional development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in local governments.
We’re so proud this scholarship strengthens First Nations communities across NSW by providing support to people in elected roles as well as the development of skilled professionals in council workplaces.
For more information on the scholarship, including this year’s winners, visit the LGNSW website.
Locally led launch – get your tickets now!
I close with a reminder to book your tickets for the official breakfast launch of our Locally Led – Working together for a better NSW campaign at The Fullerton Hotel Sydney on April 21.
We want to send a strong message to Government that councils are best placed to lead their communities in an economic recovery. To enable that, we need the State and Federal governments to work with us in a genuine partnership.
I am hoping you will join council representatives from across NSW and take part in this event to demonstrate our united front on this campaign.
We have a great line-up of guests and it will also be an invaluable networking opportunity. For more information and to book tickets please give LGNSW a call or go to our website.
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