Media release - Council push for drought support structure

4 October 2018

A structured system that better assists farmers and communities ravaged by drought tops almost 100 issues scheduled for debate by NSW councils at the sector’s annual policy-setting conference in Albury this month.

Local Government NSW President Linda Scott said the first motion for debate - submitted by Bourke Shire Council - called for a clear mechanism for drought declaration, a common definition of drought applicable to all areas, and transparent criteria for assistance to farmers and small businesses.

“These three critical issues have a very real impact on how we as a nation and a state manage drought,” Clr Scott said.

“There is ongoing debate about what constitutes drought and what assistance should be provided, and too often that debate results in the assistance arriving far too late to be effective.”

Clr Scott said Bourke Shire was just one of the many councils submitting drought-related motions, including Gunnedah, Warren, Wollondilly, Bland and Lachlan Shires, and Coffs Harbour City Council.

Both Warren and Gunnedah Shire motions also focused on the need for a strategic plan and policy to better prepare for and respond to drought, while Bland Shire Council called on the State Government to provide drought rate rebates that could ease the burden on farmers while maintaining council’s ability to fund local infrastructure.

Coffs Harbour City Council has submitted a proposal that would see the local government sector contribute voluntarily to drought-impacted councils, who are often the major service provider and employer in rural communities.

Other key issues scheduled for debate included the need for the NSW Government to address the findings of the IPART Review into the NSW Local Government rating system, which handed down its recommendations and final report in December 2016.

Councils including North Sydney, Hawkesbury, Blacktown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Ryde, Shoalhaven and Penrith all called for action on this long outstanding review.

“The financial sustainability of councils has consistently been identified as a critical issue in the local government reform process and these issues remain largely unaddressed by the NSW Government,” Clr Scott said.

“Despite the importance and significance of the recommendations contained in this report, the State Government has failed to release it to the public nearly two years after it was received.”

Meanwhile, infrastructure and planning policy – the dominant issues at last year’s LGNSW Conference – have accounted for motions submitted by more than 30 councils.

Clr Scott said the issue of private building certifiers was a hot button for many in the sector, with Hornsby Shire, Cumberland Council and Blacktown, Parramatta, Orange and Willoughby City Councils all submitting motions on the issue.

Leading the charge was Blacktown City Council, which has called for legislative amendment to protect and compensate consumers against unsatisfactory professional conduct by private accredited certifiers.

“The local government sector has limited resources which are being wasted on non-compliant developments that have been approved, inspected and certified by private accredited certifiers,” Blacktown City Council submitted.

LGNSW’s 2018 Conference will take place in Albury from October 21-23.


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