President's Message



Phone: 02 9242 4000 
[email protected]

11 August 2021

Parliamentary committee says infrastructure contribution changes should be put on hold
I am pleased to report that the NSW Parliamentary Committee has listened to our concerns for our communities and recommended that proposed Government infrastructure contribution rule changes be put on hold so councils can have our say.

The proposed new rules would have deferred and reduced critical developer payments to councils – and the real losers would be our growing communities and the infrastructure they need and deserve.

Yesterday (August 10), the Upper House Infrastructure Contributions Bill Inquiry Committee recommended in its report that the Bill’s proposed changes to infrastructure contributions not proceed until the draft regulations have been developed and released for consultation.

When the Government tried to pass the new Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Infrastructure Contributions) Bill 2021 during Budget Week, we immediately cried foul and it was sent to the Upper House’s Inquiry Committee.

I subsequently spoke at the inquiry and LGNSW made a submission outlining our opposition.

The inquiry’s recommendation also allows for the reviews into the rate pegging system, benchmarking and the essential works list to be considered in any changes once they have been published by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.

This is a big win for all of us and we now need the NSW Government to withdraw the Bill from the Parliament in line with the committee’s recommendation.

Fighting for council jobs
Safety remains our number one priority as the COVID lockdown rolls on and extends to additional areas, but the lockdown is taking a toll on many of our councils, with some forced to stand down workers.

Unlike businesses and individuals, councils do not have access to the $5.1 billion State and Federal COVID support packages, even though we are as affected by this lockdown as any other sector.

I have written to the Premier, the Treasurer and the Local Government Minister on your behalf to urgently reinstate the NSW Government’s Council Job Retention Allowance (CJRA), provided during last year’s lockdown.

So far there is no word whether the Government is planning to reintroduce the allowance, even though the last round of it, paid in 2020, was significantly underspent – only $479,000 out of an initial $112.5 million funding allocation.

The Government must quickly reinstate the CJRA or, alternatively, extend the eligibility of its JobSaver for the sake of our councils and our communities: the people whose services will be affected by the reduced staffing.

LGNSW Annual Conference changes
Changes to the local government elections to December 4 means we have had to make the difficult decision to make changes to LGNSW’s Annual Conference. To avoid a full three-day conference scheduled for the final week of the election campaign, LGNSW will instead hold:

  • A one-hour Annual Conference to present our annual report and financial reports, which will be conducted online from 9.30am on Monday 29 November 2021; and
  • A Special Conference – including the debate and resolution of motions setting our advocacy agenda for 2022 - to be held in-person at the Hyatt Regency Sydney from Monday 28 February to Wednesday 2 March 2022.

We are working to finalise the details and will share more in the coming weeks. In the interim, members who have pre-booked accommodation can find more information on our updated conference info page.

COVID vaccinations by LGA: we need to know
Mayors, councillors and councils have a key role in educating their communities about the COVID vaccine program to help encourage people to get vaccinated.

One of the hindrances is we do not have access to vaccine rates and availability data by local government areas (LGAs). Having this data will help us understand where our efforts are needed most.

I have written to NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard to commit to publishing data on vaccination rates and vaccine availability by LGA, and to raise the issue at National Cabinet.

As you know, local government does not have a seat at the National Cabinet, so our voice is missing in these discussions. Councils are a potential asset in the COVID vaccination effort that to this point have not been used to their full capacity.

Letters to the Planning Minister
I have written to NSW Planning and Public Spaces Minister Rob Stokes twice this week on your behalf to raise concerns over a proposed expensive developer appeals process and the thorny issue of compliance levies collected by some councils to offset the cost of ensuring builders are sticking to the rules.

I reminded him that LGNSW and councils remain strongly opposed to the Government’s proposal to create a new appeals process for developers for planning proposals through the Land and Environment Court.

These processes are expensive and resource-intensive and I called on the Minister to reverse this decision and ask his department to work with us to explore alternative review options.

I also raised concerns that the Government is also planning to prohibit the option of councils charging a compliance levy on development applications (DAs) starting December 31.

Ensuring compliance is demanding, especially for our councils with high numbers of DAs, and the option of charging a levy helps to cover the considerable expense of carrying out the responsibility effectively.

I have asked the Minister to commit to the introduction of a compliance levy on DAs or construction certificates to help support and fund local government’s expanding compliance responsibilities.

Closing the Gap funding welcomed
I welcome the Commonwealth Government’s $1 billion commitment to the new national Closing the Gap agreement, which seeks to foster partnerships between Australian Governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations to improve life outcomes of Indigenous Australians.

The funding includes commitments to bring about important social and justice reforms and aligns with LGNSW advocacy efforts to support our Indigenous communities.

Closing the Gap is an important initiative for all our councils, and LGNSW is hosting a free one-hour forum this Thursday (12 August) from 10am to 11am to provide more information on the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, as well as its NSW Implementation Plan.

This forum will furnish you with a clearer understanding of the role councils will play in Closing the Gap, and how you can contribute right now, and I encourage you to register.