No simple answers for NSW country councils

Independent Local Government Review panel member Glenn Inglis.
Independent Local Government Review panel member Glenn Inglis.

THE TYRANNY of distance in far western NSW?makes it difficult for councils to share staff and resources, so amalgamating these councils is simply not a realistic option.

This was the opinion of one of the panel members of the Independent Local Government Review and former Tamworth Regional Council general manager Glenn Inglis.

Mr Inglis said there was no "pot of gold" or "silver bullet" to cure the ills of rural councils in NSW, according to the review panel's latest findings.

The panel has released its discussion paper Better, Stronger Local Government proposing a broad package of measures to strengthen the "strategic capacity" of councils across NSW.

Mr Inglis said country councils were being hit hard by declining populations, increasing infrastructure backlogs and pressure to fill the gap as vital services disappear from their communities.

The panel was considering options for rural, regional and coastal councils and expects a blend of boundary changes, new regional organisations and shared services may provide the answer.

Mr Inglis visited the Walgett, Bourke and Brewarrina communities earlier this week, meeting with councils and community organisations.

"Addressing the challenges of the far west will require new approaches to governance that effectively combine the capacities of local, state and federal agencies," he said.

Mr Inglis is leading a project to focus specifically on remote councils and the unincorporated area of the State, with a view to developing a new "collaborative governance" model.

"There are currently 70 rural and regional councils with populations of less than 20,000 and many of these are expected to experience population decline over coming decades," he said.

"There is no one-size-fits-all solution for rural and regional councils and we will need to take the time to look at local circumstances and communities of interest. The panel has commissioned further research to inform its investigations and to discuss with councils."


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