Community Cabinet a chance to address issues pressing the west

THE Warren Shire Council was represented at two meetings at Dubbo this month.

Firstly, the NSW government held a Community Cabinet Meeting at Dubbo on Monday February 11. This also gave councils an opportunity to have pre-arranged meetings with ministers.

Our meetings were with Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian, Roads Minister Duncan Gay, Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson and Police and Emergency Services Minister Michael Gallacher.

Although only of short duration and with representation from other councils present, the meetings enabled some of our most pressing issues to be raised.

The ministers were well briefed on most of our concerns and we look forward to some prompt action where possible.

It is well understood by most participants that the NSW budgetary position does not permit the immediate provision of funds to address some of our most pressing needs.

However, at the halfway point of Premier O'Farrell's first term, there is an expectation responsible election commitments should be able to be met.

The Premier is to be commended for bringing his cabinet to Dubbo and hopefully the government will be able to respond positively.

An example of what is meant by such a statement, would be the Inter-Governmental Agreement between local and state government being signed off.

This agreement should be a starting point to finally make a concerted effort to address what is known as "cost shifting".

Surveys of local government in NSW during recent years have consistently shown more than 5 per cent of total income, amounting to more than $500 million, is being taken from local government budgets to fund functions and services previously provided by either the state or federal Government.

Such a situation is clearly not sustainable for local government.

Secondly, the OROC (Orana Regional Organisation of Councils) also met at Dubbo.

With the Shires Association no longer in existence from the end of this month, the opportunity was given to update the meeting on the establishment of Local Government NSW which is the new body established following the merger of the Shires Association (basically representing rural and regional councils) and the Local Government Association (representing metropolitan councils and some larger regional centres).

The mayor and general manager from the Warrumbungle Shire made an excellent presentation on the recent devastating bushfires, supported by some vivid slides.

The Member for Dubbo, Troy Grant, Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries and Member for Parkes Mark Coulton all addressed the meeting, as did Rod Crawfoot who outlined progress on what is known as Dubbo Base Hospital Accommodation Incorporated.

This is a most worthwhile project designed to provide affordable accommodation for those needing out-patient care after discharge from hospital.

There was considerable discussion during the meeting with many of the contentious issues such as the preliminary findings of the Review Panel into local government, the Local Government Acts Taskforce, the Emergency Services Levy, the Constitutional Recognition Referendum and the Local Land Services proposals all getting attention.

Shires Association President Ray Donald was present to outline and update the position of Local Government NSW on these and other matters.

The meeting concluded with a presentation from Glenn Inglis, a panel member of the Independent Local Government Review Panel. Two of four reports have already been handed down with another due shortly, before a final one mid year which all in local government, with degrees of apprehension, wait for.

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