The NSW government has announced $1.95 million for the state’s 13 joint organisations in a second funding round of the JO capacity building fund.
That amounts to $150,000 per joint organisation, which collectively represent 87 regional councils as well as state agencies and key stakeholders.
However, there are concerns that won’t be enough to address questions about the long-term financial sustainability of JOs.
The organisations were established under legislation that passed in 2017 and are designed to encourage collaboration between the state and local government sectors and fund regional projects.
CEO of the Canberra Region Joint Organisation (CRJO) Kalina Koloff says the new funding round is welcome but doesn’t address the issue of ongoing financial security for JOs.
Ms Koloff says while joint organisations were brought forward by an act of parliament they weren’t provided with any ongoing funding, leaving them heavily reliant on stimulus funding, competitive grants and membership fees.
$150,000 over two years is great to help us do some project work but it doesn’t resolve the ongoing financial sustainability for joint organisations.Kalina Koloff
“$150,000 over two years is great to help us do some project work but it doesn’t resolve the ongoing financial sustainability for joint organisations,” she told Government News.
However, Ms Koloff says the model has been valuable for CRJO’s ten members and allowed them to do important work on issues including regional workforce, housing, and resilience-building after the Black Summer Bushfires including co-designing a climate resilience housing tool kit.
It’s also enabled aggregated procurement across JOs, with CRJO working with the Riverina, Namoi and Central JOs.
“The idea is that working together as a group we can get really great value in any consulting bids we take to market,” Ms Koloff says.
Councils recently leveraged aggregated procurement to prepare their community strategic plans, Ms Koloff says.
“We joined together to commission a consultant to assist us,” she says.
“Each council does their own but CSP but we worked together to get quality consultants. It also means we can identify issues with a regional priority flavour.”
JOs also increase regional capacity and foster peer-to-peer learning and support.
Ms Koloff says an independent review looking at the financial sustainability of JOs is expected to be handed to local government minister Shelley Hancock by the end of July.
But Ms Hancock says the new funding round will help improve regional infrastructure and services and provide assistance for organisations impacted by covid.
“Joint organisations have transformed the way the NSW government and local councils collaborate and set priorities to take on important regional projects,” she said.
The thirteen joint organisations are: Canberra Region, Central NSW, Far North West, Far South West, Hunter, Illawarra Shoalhaven, Mid North Coast, Namoi, New England, Northern Rivers, Orana, Riverina and Murray, and Riverina.
Current JO projects cover regional food donations, tourism infrastructure, freight transport, water security, recycling, skills shortages and procurement.
Last year the Illawarra Shoalhaven Joint Organisation was named overall winner of the Community Waste Services Award at the LGNSW Excellence in Environment Awards, one of the state’s top annual awards for council-led environment initiatives.
The NSW government has invested $6.25 million to establish and resource them since 2017.
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