Western council group insist overall body not amalgamation

THE FUTURE of Western Division Councils of NSW could rest in a singular "overarching" body designed to oversee funding and policy - but Western Division Shires Association president and Bogan Shire mayor Ray Donald insists it is not a move towards amalgamation.

The Western Division met for its annual conference in Nyngan this week where population decline, financial and infrastructure delivery challenges were high on the agenda.

The division has called for a more collaborative approach to the way services are delivered by all levels of government - particularly to western NSW councils, which Cr Donald considers amongst the most susceptible to "unprecedented pressures" in the state.

A blanket body would create an additional layer of local government more expertly equipped to handle funding and service delivery, freeing up local councils to focus on administration, Cr Donald said.

"I stress that amalgamation is not an option for larger rural councils, that's not what we want or are calling for... but certainly an over-arching central body would be a better way for these councils to tackle some of the challenges, like infrastructure, that are being pulled away," he said.

"Fundamental to the economic well-being of western NSW communities is a formal partnership between the state and local government and for a 'whole of government' collaborative approach ... to remove inefficiencies and duplications in service delivery."

Cr Donald said the division is concerned new Local Land Services (LLS) touted for NSW will strip communities of local government representation.

The division is awaiting the Local Government Independent Review Panel's final discussion paper to soon be released.

The panel has already flagged mandating county councils, creating community councils and redefining shire boundaries as potential options for the future of local government in Australia.

President of the NSW Local Government Association Cr Keith Rhodes told the conference concerns were "justified".

"Many councils ... are worried that local government will be used to collect landholder rates on behalf of the new LLS," Cr Rhodes said.

"Local government is not the tax-collector for the state."

Western Division Councils of NSW?comprises 13 shires including Balrandald, Bogan, Bourke, Brewarrina, Broken Hill, Carrathool, Central Darling, Cobar, Hay, Lachlan, Moree, Walgett and Wentworth.


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