22 November 2022
The sheer devastation caused by the latest floods has been heartbreaking to witness, but unfortunately, it has become an all-too-common occurrence.
It is incredible to think that over the past three years no local government area in NSW has escaped a natural disaster declaration.
In this same period, 70 local government areas have had more than five natural disaster declarations, while six have had more than 10 declarations.
The ongoing nature of these extreme weather events is certainly taking a toll on councils and the communities they serve, but I would like to reassure all of you that LGNSW is in constant dialogue with our State and Federal colleagues to determine how we can help those who need it most.
The Office of Local Government has advised us that the Local Government Emergency Recovery Support Group will be re-established, meaning councils responding to and recovering from disasters can now request assistance from other councils who can assist.
Meanwhile, councils can encourage those wishing to support the flood recovery to donate goods through GIVIT, which is the NSW Government’s contracted donation management platform.
LGNSW has published its draft submission to IPART’s review of the rate peg methodology.
Our submission details the crippling impact the rate peg has had on the financial sustainability of councils and how it has deprived communities of the infrastructure and services they expect and deserve.
We also reference how the methodology used to determine the rate peg is fundamentally broken, as evidenced by IPART’s initial decision to cap rate rises at 0.7% for 2022/23 in the face of rising inflation expected to peak at 7.75% at the end of this year.
As part of our recommendations, we call for the rate peg to be abolished and replaced with a non-binding reference peg that would guide councils’ rate determination for each financial year (acknowledging that this is disappointingly outside of the terms of reference for the review).
In addition, we made a number of recommendations to improve the rate peg methodology and related policies in the interim. These include:
- Overhauling the Local Government Cost Index to become a more forward-facing index to help ensure the rate peg is not formulated based on historical data
- Recognising the cost differences between categories and cohorts of councils
- Providing councils with more flexibility around the rate peg
- Streamlining the special variation process
We now look forward to engaging with IPART to discuss our submission in more detail as the consultation process continues.
Reminder! Register for IPART workshops
As part of its review of the rate peg methodology, IPART has begun holding a series of in-person and online workshops over the next fortnight.
The workshops aim to make sure IPART has a good understanding of all the issues with the rate peg, including identifying potential options reforms that will inform the draft report.
Councils can still register for the following workshops:
- Online (Rural and Regional) – 24 November (9am – 12pm)
- Forbes – 24 November (1pm – 4pm)
- Sydney – 28 November (10am – 1pm)
- Tamworth – 1 December (10am – 1pm)
- Online (Metropolitan) – 2 December (10am – 1pm)
I would once again encourage all councils to attend these workshops so that each of you can provide details on how the current methodology is failing our sector.
More information on the workshops, including dates for each of the locations, is available via the IPART website.
Update: Statewide Roads Emergency
I was heartened to see the NSW Government fast-track $15 million of roads funding for eight councils in rural and regional NSW last week.
This will allow those councils to undertake road repairs and restore access to flood-impacted areas, while building on the $50 million of pothole funding for rural and regional councils that was announced in late October at the LGNSW Annual Conference.
Of course, the scale of road damage councils are facing still remains enormous with a repair bill into the billions of dollars.
On the back of our Statewide Roads Emergency declaration earlier this month, I have written to NSW Treasurer Matt Kean, Regional Roads and Transport Minister Sam Farraway and Metropolitan Roads Minister Natalie Ward seeking an urgent meeting to discuss the parlous state of the local and regional road network across NSW.
Thank you to the many councils who have amplified the Statewide Roads Emergency and reiterated to the NSW and Australian governments the need for an urgent response.
Excellence in the Environment Awards
A reminder that tickets are on sale for the Excellence in the Environment Awards which will take place at Prince Henry Centre in Little Bay on 6 December.
This event allows us to recognise the outstanding achievements made by NSW councils in managing and protecting the environment.
A Finalist's Forum will also be held on the day, which will include a keynote address by one of Australia’s leading sustainability experts, Dr Dianne McGrath. Dr McGrath will discuss her sustainability work with the Mars One Mission and how we can all learn to live in the ultimate circular economy.
For more information and to purchase tickets visit the LGNSW website.
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