Dubbo Regional Council has determined it will not be part of an “unfair” joint organisation.
The NSW government is in the process of establishing Joint Organisations among councils. The organisations would work on projects that cross local government areas.
However, Dubbo councillors, with the exception of Jane Diffey, voted against being part of a joint organisation.
Mayor Ben Shields said if the proposal was similar to OROC and included the western councils he would be interested. As it currently stood, Cr Shields said the smaller councils, who often turned to Dubbo for advice, were getting “a very, very raw deal”.
“Some of those council far out west are so underfunded, are so poor, their rural road network is comparable to third world countries. Some of those councils out west are just not financially viable,” he said.
The solution was not to chuck councils into a joint organisation, Cr Shields said.
Under the plan, joining the organisation is voluntary, but the groups need to be within the NSW Planning Regional boundaries. The boundaries separates Western NSW from the Central West and Orana, dividing the Orana Regional Organisation of Councils (OROC).
Cr Diffey said in the pilot of the joint organisations, 84 per cent of participating councils found an improvement in shared regional planning and priority setting, while 82 per cent reported an improvement in intergovernmental collaboration.
“I see this as a potential way for Dubbo Regional Council to adopt a leadership role and further partnerships benefiting local communities across regional NSW,” she said.
However, councillor Stephen Lawrence said becoming part of a joint organisation would “place imposts on us that really I don’t think we’re in a position to shoulder at this point in time”.
“I see all sorts of bad possibilities with this. The process hasn’t been great,” he said.
“The offer of $330,000 for a joint organisation as of a certain date – take it or leave it. I think that sort of offer isn’t really that attractive. The way that’s it’s put on a take it or leave it basis isn’t really that attractive either.”
The councillor said he was concerned the joint organisation would be another level of government. And with only the mayor being able to make decisions and attend meetings, it lacked democratic accountability, he said.
Councillor Greg Mohr said there had been four western NSW councils who had committed to being in a joint organisation who were planning to rescind their decision after speaking to Dubbo.
“It’s very unfair, it’s not a very well thought out process and I think at the end of the day we’re going to lose out [if we joined],” Cr Mohr said.