A SOLUTION must be urgently found to ensure councils are adequately funded to address maintenance issues or the situation will reach crisis point, our mayor believes.
The final recommendations from a review of local government across the state will be delivered to Local Government Minister Don Page in July. The independent review is examining ways to strengthen the effectiveness of local government.
Port Macquarie-Hastings mayor Peter Besseling said he would make the review results very simple.
“Most, if not all, of the direct funding issues could be solved if the state government took responsibility for roads – pure and simple,” he said. “I know that wouldn’t be popular at all with the state government but it’s either they have the responsibility for it or they adequately fund councils to address the maintenance issues we have.
“We are essentially asset managers and we are unable to manage the road assets that we have with a lack of funds.”
Cr Besseling said councils essentially had their hands tied behind their backs.
“I would suggest something needs to occur urgently or this situation will come to a crisis point in the very near future across all Mid-North Coast councils,” he said.
“Rural and regional communities are completely different to metropolitan communities when it comes to road infrastructure.”
On a revenue front, an Independent Local Government Review Panel consultation paper said the panel was specifically tasked with examining the local government revenue system as well as the financial sustainability of each local government area.
The review will include three rounds of community consultation and research into finances, service delivery, local government boundaries and local decision-making models.
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council will continue to take part in the community consultation.
Cr Besseling believes the review will lead to boundary adjustment plans.
“In layman’s terms, we are talking amalgamations, but it’s unclear at this point whether they will be restricted to metropolitan councils or whether they will work towards amalgamating regional and rural councils as well,” he said.
Our council believes there is more to be gained through cooperation among Mid-North Coast councils without the need for amalgamations.
It has been more than three months since the local government election returned councillors to the Hastings.
Cr Besseling said the community should be pleased that council was working well together.