Torbay calls for alternative regional government

By Adam Coleman in Coffs Harbour, NSW

NSW Legislative Assembly Speaker, Richard Torbay surprised few people when he borrowed a quote from a former Prime Minister and told local government representatives “the Federal and state governments are doing you slowly”.

Speaking at the Local Government Association of SNW annual conference in Coffs Harbour, Mr Torbay told delegates about the "great" opportunity that exists for an alternative model of regional government.

“The time is right for proactive measures by local government, it needs to come up with an alternative model for regional government, and wouldn’t that be an exciting challenge? A model that increases its power and authority on local issues," he said.
"The new model could be pushing power and authority down he said, “not letting it settle at the top, as we have seen as state and federal levels”.

Mr Torbay said there should be clearer boundaries between Commonwealth, state and local jurisdictions.

“The opportunity has never been greater than now and it is up to local government to unite and lead the charge and fire up its communities to demand a more equitable share of taxation, revenue and a greater local autonomy," he said.
“Is it achievable? Yes it is. But we have to stand together and have our communities come with us.”

The Minister called for a national debate on new federalism that was “led by local government and reinforced by the most important people and that is the communities themselves”.

“Many councils still prefer to compete against each other in useless turf wars rather than unite and change what is an untenable situation," he said.
“I remember speaking at a debate on the floor of this very conference about local government coming together and speaking with one voice. That was in 1992. I understand you are still debating that.”

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