Western NSW councils want government to make their future direction clear

Ross Earl, General Manager of the Bourke Shire, writes on Far West issues.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, MP tabled legislation in the parliament last week to establish the Fire and Emergency Levy (FESL).

The proposed levy, previously known as the Emergency Services Property Levy (ESPL), will be collected by local councils alongside council rates from July 1. The ESPL was previously attached to insurance policies.

Much  work has been undertaken by councils to prepare for the introduction of the levy and Bourke Shire Council has been working with Local Government NSW to ensure councils in this part of the state are adequately compensated for both the preliminary and ongoing work.

The levy introduction requires all properties to be given an FESL classification and councils have to notify landowners of the classification by April 30.

Bushfires. The Mayor and I attended the quarterly meeting of the Orana Regional Organisation of Councils (OROC) in Dubbo last Friday. The meeting touched on several issues including a report from Steve Loane, the general manager of Warrumbungle Shire, on the recent fires that impacted his council, Upper Hunter and Mid-Western councils and the magnitude of the losses.

FWI. While in Dubbo the opportunity was taken to meet with the other three councils, Cobar, Walgett and Brewarrina, proposed for the Far West Initiative (FWI) to discuss options leading up to a meeting of Western Division in Broken Hill on March 24. It was decided to seek a meeting with the Premier, Deputy Premier and Local Government Minister to ascertain a clear direction.

The fact that each council had already spent considerable resources on reviewing several proposals and models over the past three years with little in the way of tangible results has proven frustrating for all councils. Each of the councils had expressed a desire to retain their affiliation with OROC and the Orana region.

Councillor Leigh Byron from the Western Division of Councils, has convened the March 24 meeting and all council mayors and general managers are invited. Bourke Mayor Barry Hollman will attend.