For the last 19 years the Orana Region of Councils (OROC) has achieved some incredible things and seen 12 councils work closely and productively together.
Unfortunately, that partnership came to an end on Friday, with the majority of councils making the disappointing decision to shut down the organisation.
We went to the Friday's OROC AGM at Coonamble knowing it was possible that it would be the last time we'd gather.
Many of the councils have elected to join a Joint Organisation (JO) and had flagged their determination to leave OROC. I went up there hoping to convince them otherwise and I had what I thought was a very convincing offer. Dubbo Regional Council would manage OROC, meaning the other councils could enjoy the benefits without placing any strain on their existing resources.
Once we got into the meeting, it became clear most Mayors and general managers would not agree to that.
Instead OROC will come to an end, endangering the link between the members of the Orana JO, the Far West JO and three councils who have elected not to join these organisations, Brewarrina, Coonamble and Dubbo. Dubbo Regional Council has elected not to be part of a Joint Organisation for a number of reasons I have been quite clear on in the past. I have had concerns from the outset about Dubbo shouldering the load in this JO, given we are significantly larger than any other council in the organisation.
Our council is still dealing with the consequences of the merger between Dubbo and Wellington and has challenges to overcome including staff shortages. The JO has the power to effectively call up Council staff to help with their projects and we don't agree with that, especially at a time when we are short.
The level of funding the state government has provided for the JO project is below where we think it should be, and I fear that those that have joined may be hit with financial requests they didn't see coming.
While I respect the decision of other Councils to join these JOs, I feel strongly that there was still a place for OROC. I believe Dubbo will be largely unaffected by the changes and will not suffer because of our decision to not join the Orana JO.
Dubbo will continue to remain the Hub of the West. We acknowledge that we are the main service centre for around 130,000 people from Western NSW that do their shopping, business and medical in our city. It’s a terrible shame that we no longer have any official connections to the councils on which we are interlinked to.
In other outcomes from the final OROC meeting, those present were part of a Central West Freight Taskforce Workshop, where members of the taskforce talked about the investigation they are carrying out into the way freight and passenger transport operates. It is part of a state-wide study.
The taskforce will look at the way freight and public transport is delivered by road and rail, with the aim of improving services. The discussion with OROC was fruitful, with a particular focus on how links between Dubbo and the towns it services out west can be improved.
We also heard from the NSW Drought Co-ordinator Pip Job, who gave an update on the worsening drought across NSW and some of the extra initiatives that are being carried out to farmers, businesses and communities that are struggling. Both were important and informative discussions but are an example of what will be missed out on now OROC is gone.