COUNCIL'S general manager on behalf of the Mid North Coast Joint Organisation (MNCJO) of councils will give the Minister for Local Government until November to respond to concerns about the lack of ongoing operational funding for the group.
The MNCJO consists of Port Macquare-Hastings, Kempsey and Bellingen councils with general manager Craig Swift-McNair appointed as executive officer until June 2021.
The group was established in 2018 as a new model of regional council collaboration and planning.
The inaugural meeting followed the state government's direction to establish 11 joint organisations across regional NSW.
The JOs are to pave a way for how they will work with the state government, secure funding and deliver high priority projects in the region.
The state government provided $300,000 in seed funding to establish each new regional body.
On the Mid North Coast, some of those collaborative projects include the replacement and upgrade of the Mid North Coast's 91 timber bridge network and the koala recovery project.
At Port Macquarie-Hastings Council's May 6 meeting, concerns were raised about the state government's ongoing financial support of the MNCJO, particularly when councils are now under significant pressure to focus on the local implications of bushfires, drought and COVID-19.
Cr Justin Levido said in the next two years, council is going to be forced to focus on its "needs, rather than wants" and will be faced with significant financial challenges.
"We should keep our eye on the main game," he said.
"The State Government has a golden opportunity to make this work by funding it.
"We will have enough problems on our own plate come November 2020. We need to absolutely solely focus on the Port Macqarie-Hastings LGA moving forward."
Mr Swift-McNair agreed there is an enormous challenge ahead for all councils in terms of recovery.
However, he said there are benefits in being in a regional joint organisation from a recovery perspective and to work with other councils in getting Mid North Coast communities back on their feet.
Mr Swift-McNair said local councils should not have to fund the JO to keep it viable.
"We are putting ourselves on the line," he said.
"An opportunity is being missed by the state government to do what they intended to happen with the joint organisations."
Cr Geoff Hawkins said the JO should give the state government "one last chance" to financially support the group.
Port Macquarie-Hastings Council has allocated a financial contribution to the MNCJO of $25,000 in its current 2019-2020 operational plan.
Member for Port Macquarie, Leslie Williams said joint organisations provide a strong regional voice for councils and ensure that state and local government work together to strengthen delivery of regional infrastructure and services.
"Joint organisations flourish when they are supported by all councils in the region so that they can work together, and with State agencies, to deliver regional priorities," Mrs Williams said.
"Now is not the time for councils to be diminishing their commitment to joint organisations which will play a key role in regional economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
"The NSW Government has provided $6.25 million to help establish the state's 13 joint organisations and assist them to deliver their regional priorities."
Mr Swift-McNair will table a report at the November 2020 council meeting detailing any developments in relation to ongoing funding for the Mid North Coast Joint Organisation and related issues.