Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed Deputy Premier John Barilaro's promise that the state government is not only working on a roadmap out of the COVID lockdown impacting much of regional NSW, but that local government is an integral part of it.
LGNSW president Linda Scott facilitated an online meeting with Deputy Premier Barilaro for more than 120 local government mayors, councillors and general managers from across NSW to discuss issues ranging from boosting vaccination rates, potential COVID impacts on upcoming elections and the threat to local infrastructure posed by planned developer contribution rule changes.
Mayor Peta Pinson said she appreciates that the state government has invited local government officials to collaborate closely on the roadmap towards recovery.
"Communities and local businesses have been experiencing enormous challenges and stress during this time and are increasingly looking to our local councils for help," Cr Pinson said.
"Local government leadership will be crucial in Australia's economic and social recovery. We must focus our effort on taking the lead on adapting local infrastructure and services to COVID-normal conditions and providing stimulus to local economies.
"I'm pleased that the goals of our state and local government align. We are working together to keep our community safe, and facilitate a full recovery from the impacts of COVID-19."
Cr Scott said the meeting was robust and vitally important for local councils to speak openly about the challenging circumstances created by COVID-19.
"The high attendance is testament to the level of concern among our regional leaders and it was heartening that the Deputy Premier acknowledged the frontline leadership councils are providing our communities," Cr Scott said.
"Councils need answers on vaccinations audits where rates are low, such as Cessnock and in our Indigenous communities, as we all work together to increase the statewide vaccination rate.
"Mr Barilaro also committed to follow up the worrying issue emerging from local government elections in December, which will see around 90 of NSW's 128 councils without an elected mayor for up to 6 weeks after the elections."
Cr Scott said while the meeting focused on COVID-related issues, the Deputy Premier also acknowledged council concerns surrounding rule changes to infrastructure contributions that threaten to strip councils of their ability to build vital infrastructure communities need to cope with increased development.
"The NSW government is planning on pushing through rule changes to infrastructure contributions that threaten to take us back to the bad old days of suburbs with no drainage, and communities with no parks," Cr Scott said.
Cr Scott said many other challenges were raised at the meeting, including:
- lack of COVID vaccination centres in some regions, forcing people to travel for vaccination;
- the potential for some regions to be overwhelmed by city visitors once travel restrictions lifted; and
- ongoing affordable housing shortages starkly illustrated by the impact of the pandemic.
"I thank the Deputy Premier for accepting our invitation and taking the time to listen to the many concerns our regional and rural mayors have as they continue to work day and night to support our communities through this COVID crisis," she said.
"The Deputy Premier has taken the issues on board and promised to follow up with answers.
"Local government has exactly the same goals as state government - to keep our communities safe, get out of lockdown as soon as possible and provide a locally led economic recovery that creates new jobs.
"We want to know the state government is committed to working with us, and that is the message Deputy Premier Barilaro sent our regional local government sector."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: