Last week, LGNSW President Darriea Turley and Chief Executive Scott Phillips continued their member council visits, travelling to the Hunter and Mid North Coast regions to hear first-hand about issues concerning our members' communities. Cr Turley is pictured with Port Stephens Council members.
8 March 2023
#EmbraceEquity for International Women's Day 2023
We’ve delayed our publication to Wednesday this week so we can officially mark International Women’s Day 2023.
As a sector, local government has much progress to celebrate, but also much more to do as we #EmbraceEquity. As this edition of The Weekly is published, I’ll be addressing about 250 of our colleagues at our annual International Women’s Day event in Sydney with both good and bad news.
The bad news is that the latest Workplace Gender Equity Agency Scorecard shows a systemic and sobering reduction in gender equity across Australian workplaces. The Scorecard found every single industry in Australia has a gender pay gap that favours men, across all levels of management and non-management. And just to back that in, the Economic Policy Institute reports that gender pay equity has stalled across all age groups and all pay scales.
The good news is that we have pushed women’s representation on NSW councils to an all-time high of 39.5%, and we are well paced to lift the rate further at the next local government elections in September 2024. Now is the time to be encouraging smart, committed women to start thinking about standing for local government, where they will join their colleagues in providing a reflective and representative voice for their local community. If we can lift the number of successful women candidates by another 8%, we will be truly knocking on the door of gender equity for the state’s 1293 councillors.
There is also a need to improve gender equity amongst the staff who do so much to implement council strategy and deliver infrastructure and services to our communities. According to the 2022 Workforce Skills and Capability Survey the gender breakdown of the local government workforce shows only 39% of our fulltime council employees are women.
Proposed Changes To Councillor Code Of Conduct
Late last week, Local Government Minister Wendy Tuckerman announced a returned Coalition Government would legislate for a new accountability framework for councillors involving an independent Councillor Conduct Commissioner, supported by a number of equally independent review panels.
The Coalition’s proposed reforms also include more extensive mandatory training for councillors.
The proposed reforms are certainly not a laydown misère. The legislative amendments that would be required for its introduction are not scheduled for introduction to Parliament until the end of this year, which means the current Government needs to be re-elected before it can even think about putting this proposal into effect.
It’s clear that there are some advantages in a truly independent and transparent process: the potential reduction in vexatious or politically motivated complaints and long investigative delays. But as always the devil lies in the detail.
The current Government has also given a commitment that councils, via LGNSW, will be fully involved in the design of the roadmap required to implement these proposals. We will be working tirelessly on your behalf to ensure the roadmap involves effective and genuinely independent complaint handling, but does not impose unreasonable costs on councils which divert funds away from community infrastructure and services.
Read our media release about this Government proposal
I was very pleased to see the statement from the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE) confirming it would not be proceeding with a proposed appeal pathway for planning proposals to the Land and Environment Court.
This deeply unpopular planning reform was part of the government’s Planning Reform Action Plan and would have introduced a new appeal mechanism to the NSW Land and Environment Court for development proponents who were unhappy with a rezoning outcome.
LGNSW strongly opposed the reform because it would have undermined local strategic plans and diminished the important role of councillors in making strategic land local use policy decisions.
This is a significant win for locally determined planning decisions and a welcome outcome of our tireless advocacy on behalf of our members.
In a related matter though, we remain highly concerned about the NSW Government’s ceaseless efforts to undermine agreed strategic land use plans and override councils – the latest example of this being the NSW Government’s Rezoning Pathways Program.
This program seeks to sideline councils and the community and is using confidentiality agreements that prevent the community and elected councillors from learning what areas developers are proposing to have rezoned.
LGNSW continues its advocacy on this matter and is calling on all parties and candidates to commit to democratically elected councils being empowered to make decisions about development that affects their communities.
NSW Labor roads pledges
NSW Labor last week announced it would create a new Emergency Road Repair Fund worth $670 million over two years for regional roads – a commitment that would provide an additional $390 million on top of the $280 million for regional roads that is already being distributed to councils.
However, it is disappointing that NSW Labor appears to be walking away from the Roads Classification and Regional Roads Transfer reviews announced by the Coalition prior to the 2019 State Election. We all would have liked a commitment to faster progress on these processes from the current NSW Government, and it is concerning that short-term emergency repair funding – while critically important – is only considered possible at the expense of measures that make a meaningful contribution to better local roads and long term financial sustainability for councils.
LGNSW Election Priorities - Responses From Parties And Candidates
We continue to fight local government’s corner on each of our NSW State Election Priorities as we get ever closer to polling day on March 25. The responses we’ve received to date from NSW Labor, NSW Greens, NSW One Nation and Independent MP Phil Donato are now available for you to view online. As we enter the final weeks of the campaign, I urge you to keep pursuing the local government priorities most important to your council with candidates for your local electorate(s).
There still remains much that we as a sector would like to see from all sides of politics. This week’s Local Government Election Focus article emphasises the need for the next government to provide greater recognition, funding and support for councils so that we can continue to invest in stronger and more resilient communities.
Good News for Pet Lovers
I was pleased to see the Coalition Government recently announce more than $15 million for an upgrade of the NSW Pet Registry. The whole community will benefit from a more efficient and user-friendly portal, which is used by councils right across NSW.
LGNSW has long been calling for an upgrade to this registry, following a 2019 Annual Conference resolution from Willoughby City Council, and most recently a 2022 Annual Conference motion put forward by Camden Council.
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