President's Message

Cr Linda Scott

Working for you – The LGNSW Board’s working committees met in Sydney this week to progress a range of issues including uptake of the Local Government Capability Framework, the results of a recent skills shortages survey, joint organisations, our response to the value audit of LGNSW and current campaigns – Renew Our Libraries and Save Our Recycling. We continue to be very focused on delivering value for members and ensuring they are aware of the support and services we provide.

Meeting with rural and regional colleagues – Congratulations to Katrina Humphries on her re-election as the Chair of Country Mayors Association of NSW, and to all those elected to the executive at the AGM today.

It was a great pleasure to address members in Parliament House in Sydney. We’re working together on a range of priorities, including drought and water infrastructure funding. We’re also planning to co-host a forum for leaders of state parliamentary parties in the lead up to the NSW State Election – we’ll be in touch with details soon.

LGNSW Planning Breakfast: Where will the children play?We’re excited to have NSW Planning Minister Anthony Roberts join us for our LGNSW Planning Breakfast (Parliament House, Sydney, 27 November). At this latest event in our planning series we’ll discuss maintaining open space for communities in the face of population growth and increased housing density. Places are limited so register online today to ensure you don’t miss out.

LGNSW advocacy success on electoral funding – We welcome the release of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters’ Impact of expenditure caps for local government election campaigns report, tabled last Friday, which delivers several significant wins relating to expenditure caps and third-party campaigners.

The report aligns with much of what LGNSW has been calling for, however, we continue to call upon the NSW Government to urgently undertake detailed modelling of the proposed reforms to determine any unintended consequences on electoral law and NSW council elections.

We’re urging the NSW Government, in the final few sitting weeks, to accept and legislate to adopt the proposed amendments to the Electoral Funding Act so that fair and democratic local government elections can be held on 2020. Read more.

If you have any questions email Damian Thomas, LGNSW Senior Policy Officer, or call 02 9242 4063.

Supporting multicultural communities – Last week, I had the honour of addressing the NSW Local Government Multicultural Network’s Mental Health and Wellbeing in CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) Communities Symposium, hosted by Penrith City Council, on the vital role of local government in empowering diverse communities through inclusive policies. It was wonderful to see collaboration between council staff and mental health professionals towards improving services.

100 years of Anzac – Finally, with Remembrance Day  fast approaching (Sunday 11 November) branding resources – reflecting a nationally-consistent brand developed by the federal government in consultation with states and territories –  are available on the Anzac Centenary website. Councils can raise awareness and participation in their communities by encouraging people to wear a red poppy as a symbol of remembrance and to stop at 11am on 11 November to observe a minute’s silence.

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Electoral Funding Report

LGNSW welcomes the release of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters’ Impact of expenditure caps for local government election campaigns report, tabled last Friday.

LGNSW raised concerns regarding inconsistent expenditure caps on local government candidates, parties and third-party campaigners after the Electoral Funding Act 2018 was rushed through Parliament in May without consultation with local government.

Following our advocacy, the NSW Government referred the act to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters for inquiry.

We appeared before the committee in October and called for a wide range of variables to be considered when determining adequate electoral expenditure caps to ensure the electoral expenditure regime is fair, consistent and promotes the objectives of the Act.

While it doesn't adopt all of our recommendations, the report does align with many of our requests, including that expenditure caps reflect the number of enrolled voters in an electorate.

The committee also recommends the model for expenditure caps apply equally to candidates, or groups of candidates, whether endorsed by a party or independent, an approach which was supported by majority of respondents to our recent survey.

Other recommendations which reflect LGNSW’s advocacy are that NSW Electoral Commission provide candidates with the number of enrolled electors in their electorate and the relevant expenditure cap for which they will be subject.

This information should also be published on the NSW Electoral Commission website, making compliance with the Act’s obligations easier for candidates and promoting broader participation.

Another significant win for LGNSW is the recommended change to expenditure caps for third party campaigners, previously set at $2,500 per local government area.

The report recommends that expenditure caps for third‐party campaigners be set at one-third of the relevant cap that applies to a candidate running in the ward or undivided local government area in which the expenditure occurs. This will allow for a reasonable level of campaigning.

If the government accepts the recommendations, we will call upon it to share an exposure draft of the proposed amendments to the Act, to enable us to review it and identify any irregularities or loopholes before it is legislated.

To discuss the issues raised, email Damian Thomas, LGNSW Senior Policy Officer, or call 02 9242 4063.

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Extreme Events Policy

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The NSW Government this week released an Extreme Events Policy, providing a framework for managing water resources when supplies are under stress.

It establishes the principles by which all water resources within the NSW Murray-Darling Basin will be managed during an extreme event.

Extreme events are defined under the NSW Water Management Act 2000 and the Commonwealth Water Act 2007 as:

  • prolonged dry periods,
  • water quality events that risk local uses and values
  • any other event that has led to a management plan being suspended in the past 50 years.

It also provides a staged approach and includes a range of measures for water managers to deploy as conditions deteriorate.

While the policy has been developed specifically for the Murray-Darling Basin, it provides clarity for all councils and local water utilities about how the NSW Government intends to manage water resources during the current drought and any future extreme events.

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Asbestos Awareness Month

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LGNSW and Penrith City Council marked the beginning of Asbestos Awareness Month 2018 on Thursday with a best practice asbestos management forum in Penrith attended by 70 council representatives from 25 councils.

Representatives from the Environment Protection Authority, SafeWork NSW, Department of Planning and Environment, Asbestos Removal Contractors Association, and Fire and Rescue NSW presented on best practice asbestos management and regulation.

Held each November, Asbestos Awareness Month educates Australians about the dangers of asbestos in and around homes as Australia has one of the highest rates of asbestos-related diseases in the world.

Councils are encouraged to raise awareness in their communities through local media and events.

For more information email LGNSW Project Manager Daniel Adler or call 02 9242 4128.

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Draft Asbestos Waste Strategy 2018-22

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The NSW Environment and Protection Authority’s draft NSW Asbestos Strategy 2018-22 is open for comment until 20 November 2018.

LGNSW welcomes the proposal to remove the waste levy from sorted non-friable (bonded) asbestos.

The strategy aims to improve asbestos waste management by:

  • making asbestos waste disposal easier
  • making asbestos waste disposal cheaper
  • increasing awareness and changing behaviour
  • closing loopholes and increasing transparency
  • disrupting unlawful business models
  • monitoring and evaluating.

LGNSW will hold a teleconference for councils at 1pm on 13 November 2018 to discuss the strategy and develop a sector-wide response.

Register online or email comments to Daniel Adler, LGNSW Project Manager.

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New Role for Greater Sydney Commission

Recent changes to planning legislation give the Greater Sydney Commission (GSC) a new endorsement role in relation to councils’ local strategic planning statements.

The Planning Legislation Amendment (Greater Sydney Commission) Bill 2018 amends the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) and the Greater Sydney Commission Act 2015 to give the GSC strategic oversight of local strategic planning statements and other planning processes.

The Bill gives the GSC a new endorsement role in relation to councils’ local strategic planning statements.

Before a council makes these statements, the GSC must confirm in writing that they are consistent with the Greater Sydney Region Plan and applicable district plans.

The intention is to ensure the statements align with the NSW Government's overall vision for Sydney.

Other key changes of interest to councils are that the Bill:

  • Requires the Planning Minister to consult with the GSC before certain state environmental planning policies are made which relate to the Greater Sydney region.
  • Requires the Planning Minister to consult with the GSC before determining a planning proposal for a local environment plan. This requirement applies if the planning proposal relates to land within the Greater Sydney Region and the minister considers the proposal is likely to significantly affect implementation of a strategic plan. The GSC must then advise the Minister if it supports the planning proposal.
  • Extends the timing for the next review of the Greater Sydney Region strategic plan by 12 months from 2022 to 2023, to allow the next Greater Sydney Region Plan review to be informed by the latest census data, which will become available in 2022.

For further information about local strategic planning statements go to the Department of Planning and Environment website.

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New Legislation for Building Certifiers

The Building and Development Certifiers Bill 2018, which replaces the Building Professionals Act 2005 (BP Act), was passed in the NSW Parliament last week.

LGNSW welcomes the Bill as a long-overdue tightening of the regulatory framework governing certification and supports provisions to:

  • include a greater range and size of penalties
  • emphasise the responsibility of the certifier as a public officer (i.e. to act in the public interest)
  • clarify the role of the certifier and improve understanding of the certifier’s role
  • include stronger provisions to address potential and perceived conflicts of interest
  • enable the secretary to issue requirements on certifiers (e.g. standards, methodologies which may include a practice guide), as a condition of the licence.

While LGNSW welcomes stronger penalties and new regulatory powers, the Bill will only be effective if it is adequately resourced. We advocated for increased resourcing in our submission.

The NSW Government is considering additional provisions to address certifier independence and potential conflicts of interest, following public consultation on the Improving Certifier Independence: Options Paper which closed on 30 October.

For further information visit the Department of Planning and Environment website.

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Community Participation Plan

Councils are encouraged to provide feedback on the NSW Department of Planning and Environment’s draft community participation plan by 6 December 2018.

The plan outlines the department’s approach to community engagement and how it plans to provide opportunities for communities to have their say on planning assessments, policies or changes to regulations.

Councils and other public authorities with planning functions under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 are required to develop community participation plans. Councils must complete these by 1 December 2019.

The department will host a webinar on Monday (5 November) from 12.30-1.30pm to provide an overview of the plan and answer questions. Find out more and register.

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Land Release and Housing Supply Report

The Legislative Assembly Committee on Environment and Planning has released a report following its inquiry into land release and housing supply in NSW.

It makes several findings and recommendations in relation to:

  • the planning system, planning agencies and how they work together
  • improving inter-agency collaboration in planning decisions and overcoming the problem of fragmented land ownership
  • simplifying infrastructure funding arrangements and investigating alternative funding models
  • overcoming a current shortage of planners
  • defining the terms liveability and character better
  • the need for more effective, evidence-based advocacy to manage the debate about higher densities
  • identifying opportunities to increase the supply of affordable housing.
  • The NSW Government’s response to the report is due on 25 April 2019.

For more information email the committee secretariat or call 02 9230 3095.

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Accessible Housing Options Paper

The Australian Building Codes Board (ABCB) has released an options paper outlining the costs and benefits of applying a minimum accessibility standard to all new residential dwellings in Australia.

ABCB has been commissioned by the Council of Australian Governments to undertake research with a view to including a minimum accessibility standard for housing in the National Construction Code (NCC).

The NCC provides the minimum necessary requirements for safety and health, amenity and accessibility, and sustainability in the design, construction, performance and liveability of new buildings (and new building work in existing buildings) throughout Australia.

Accessible housing is any housing that includes features that enable independent living for people with disabilities.

The options paper is seeking feedback to refine the objectives, options and terminology that will be considered in a formal regulation impact statement.

Find out more and provide feedback.

LGNSW is preparing a submission on behalf of the sector. To provide input email Senior Policy Officer Chris Maclean by 20 November.

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Rock Fishing Safety Initiative

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Coastal councils opting in to the rock fishing safety initiative will be eligible for grants of up to $30,000 to assist with implementation costs.

The NSW Government, in partnership with Randwick City Council, recently concluded a 12-month trial of the Rock Fishing Safety Act 2016, which promotes rock fishing safety via education programs, including the importance of lifejackets. 

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has prepared a toolkit for councils including:

  • information on the legislation
  • resources for signs, leaflets and social media
  • advice on organising rock fishing workshops, data collection and evaluation.

Participating councils will be declared as high-risk rock fishing areas, meaning that lifejacket use would be mandatory.

Compliance will be managed by NSW Police Marine Area Command in the participating areas.

For more information email Jim Harnwell, DPI Fisheries Manager, or call 02 4424 7407.

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Local Drug Action Teams

Councils can apply for funding to establish local drug action teams to minimise harm from the use of crystal methamphetamine (ice), alcohol and other drugs in communities across Australia.

The Alcohol and Drug Foundation supports programs that:

  • improve young people’s health and wellbeing
  • foster leadership and personal development
  • increase employment skills and opportunities
  • use sport to develop a better connection with the community.

Each successful team will initially receive $10,000 to develop a community action plan and implement projects, with additional funding available later.

Find out more and apply online.

Applications close 7 December 2018.

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Outdoor Dining Policy

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Councils are invited to comment on the NSW Small Business Commissioner’s outdoor dining policy, which applies to cafes, restaurants and takeaway food stores.

The new policy, which is opt-in for councils, proposes that outdoor dining applications, administration and ongoing usage of council assets be fee-free.

Councils opting-in would receive a decision-ready outdoor dining application via Service NSW’s Easy to do Business online platform, reducing the administrative burden for councils.

The policy was developed after a successful year-long trial in seven local government areas, resulting in faster turnaround on applications from cafes and restaurants and reduced administrative effort for councils.

Outdoor dining is a key part of the NSW Government’s Easy to do Business program, which aims to reduce red tape for both businesses and councils.

The closing date for submissions is 23 November 2018.

Following consultation, the policy is expected to be finalised and launched early next year.

For more information visit the Small Business Commissioner website.

LGNSW is preparing a submission. To provide input, email Damian Thomas or call 02 9242 4063.

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Heavy Vehicle Access Forum – Armidale

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The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR), in partnership with Armidale Regional Council and LGNSW, will hold a free forum to explore the issues and challenges of Australia’s freight task – predicted to double by 2030 and triple by 2050 (Armidale, 22 November).

The forum will bring together industry and road managers to collaborate on the best ways in which we can keep local communities strong and safe.

It is important that stakeholders work together to improve productivity and safety in the growing freight task in NSW.

Transport operators and industries that use them, council engineers, councillors and economic development officers are encouraged to attend.

For more information email Tim Hansen, NHVR Stakeholder Specialist.

Register online.

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