NSW shires conference attracts Premier

A review of the Local Government Act 1993, allowing councils to explore running Local Government elections, as well as a promise to address cost-shifting and rate pegging, are just some of the many commitments made by the O'Farrell Government at the Shires Association Annual Conference this week.
Premier Barry O'Farrell attended the conference with the Minister for Local Government, Don Page, the Minister for Primary Industries – Katrina Hodgkinson MP and the Minister for Roads – Duncan Gay.
Several of the announcements will have a long-term positive impact on local government in NSW, according to the President of the Shires Association, Bruce Miller.
"NSW councils couldn't have asked for much more from all of the Ministers' speeches today – from a commitment to allow councils to explore taking back the running of local government elections by October this year, to the release of the DLG's Code of Conduct Discussion Paper," Cr Miller said.
"It's very encouraging to hear that the Minister has ticked so many of the boxes in our election priorities, we will be ensuring that the State Government follows through on these promises," he said.
The Association  welcomed the State government's commitment to review and redraft the 'Inter-governmental Agreement' – including the section to address cost-shifting, which was seen as a 'huge step'.
"We've been warning for many, many years of the dangers of ignoring the impact that cost shifting and rate pegging is having on the financial sustainability of NSW councils. It's great that we're finally being listened to and something is finally happening to address these concerns," Cr Miller said.
"The announcement by the Minister for Local Government to review the Local Government Act 1993 and in particular the commitment to remove the body politic provisions is a very encouraging step.
"In particular, we're positive about the review of Section 358 of the Act – we're hopeful that this will lead to more flexibility for councils to explore different and more effective corporate structures for their different businesses, such as recreation centres and other business activities."
Cr  Miller welcomed the DLG's release of the Code of Conduct Discussion Paper and the Collaborative Arrangements between Councils Survey Report, as well as yesterday's announcement by Premier O'Farrell to conduct an audit of infrastructure, council by council.
"We're pleased that they are looking at our concerns regarding the $6.3 billion infrastructure backlog, though we do feel that this audit needs to be completed sooner than 2013," he said.
"The Division of Local Government's Destination 2036 strategic planning exercises in August with all NSW councils also compliment our work on the Modernisation of Local Government."

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