The NSW Government has announced 11 regional Joint Organisations, which will see more than 70 councils teaming up with regional neighbours in formalised alliances, designed to develop strategic influence and develop economies of scale.
74 councils in regional NSW are now members of the 11 joint organisations: Canberra Region, Central NSW, Hunter, Illawarra Shoalhaven, Mid North Coast, Namoi, New England, Northern Rivers, Orana, Riverina and Murray, and Riverina.
The new voluntary partnerships, involving more than 90 per cent of eligible councils, will benefit local communities across regional NSW by working across traditional council boundaries.
The NSW Government has allocated a total of $3.3million in seed funding for the network, with $300,000 in seed funding for each joint organisation, to help them become established.
In 2017 Parliament passed legislation to establish a network of Joint Organisations to strengthen regional collaboration. Councils across regional NSW, including those in the Far West were invited to nominate to join a joint organisation.
A number of regions across NSW have a 100 per cent take-up by councils with full Joint Organisation membership in the Illawarra Shoalhaven, Hunter and Canberra regions.
Each Joint Organisation will comprise member councils, a representative of State Government agencies and other key stakeholders as determined by each joint organisation board.
Joint Organisations will undertake a number of tasks to be operational by July 1, including electing a chairperson, employing an executive officer, adopting a code pf conduct and developing a charter.
Those regional councils that are not yet a member of a Joint Organisation are encouraged to consider resolving to join a joint organisation in their planning region. It is not too late to become a full voting member of a joint organisation before they become operational from July 2018.
LGNSW President Linda Scott has welcomed the announcement but cautioned that the long-term success of the Joint Organisations would come down to ongoing collaboration and funding.
“LGNSW has advocated for the creation of Joint Organisations for NSW councils and we welcome the NSW Government’s actions to create them in the regions,” Clr Scott said.
“We want to help ensure that these legislated bodies genuinely do take the Regional Organisation of Councils model, instigated by local government, to the next level.
“That’s why we will continue to call for the same opportunity for metropolitan councils.
“The benefits of Joint Organisations do not just apply in the regions, which is why metropolitan councils should also be eligible for funding to form these formal organisations.”
Clr Scott said the legislation governing Joint Organisations was also lacking.
“At present there is no legislative mechanism for a council to join the Joint Organisation of their choice, nor to leave if the process fails to deliver for their community,” she said.
“The decisions are at the discretion of the Minister, and this is a matter for concern.
“There are councils that have sought to form a Joint Organisation, and the NSW Government has not allowed them to proceed.
“If councils – such as those in the far west of NSW – wish to form a Joint Organisation, the NSW Government must respect their wishes and allow them to do so.”
LGNSW welcomed the $300,000 in seed funding granted by the NSW Government to establish each new regional Joint Organisation, but Clr Scott noted the Government had not offered any longer-term funding.