STATE BUDGET DELIVERS MIXED FORTUNES FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT – There was good and bad news for councils in this week’s budget, with more money for drought support, water infrastructure, libraries and roads, but no allocation to address the recent increase to the emergency services levy and a failure to respond to the growing waste crisis.
Thanks to everyone for campaigning on our advocacy priorities – by standing together on key issues we have been able to secure significant wins for the sector.
Local government highlights
The good news
- An additional $355m for drought assistance, over and above the commitment of $400m made during the election campaign.
- Substantial investment in water infrastructure to secure town water supplies, primarily through the $1b Safe and Secure Water Program.
- Public library expenditure will increase by $12.9m from $23.5m in 2018-19 to $36.5m in 2019-20 - an increase of 55 per cent. Congratulations to all councils who helped secure this increase in funding for public libraries ($60m over four years) by supporting the Renew our Libraries campaign.
- Stronger Country Communities Fund extended by one year, with, up to half the $100m funding dedicated to regional youth infrastructure and programs.
- $97.2m in 2019-20 for the Regional Connectivity program with a total of $518.8m to be allocated over four years.
- As promised during the lead-up to the election, $1b in new funding to fix local roads and timber bridges.
- The Restart NSW budget for 2019-20 includes $268.4m for the freight-based Bridges for the Bush Program, $354.3m for the Fixing Country Roads program (also a freight-based initiative) and $222.8m for the Fixing Country Rail program designed to ease network constraints affecting rail freight.
- A significant spend on public transport infrastructure over the next four years in metropolitan Sydney.
- $57m for the development of new walking and cycling infrastructure across the state in 2019-20.
- Investment in vocational education and training, totalling $2.3 billion in 2019-20, with around $1.85b allocated to TAFE NSW.
- $2.8b to recruit a total of 8,300 frontline health staff, over four years, with 45 per cent located in regional NSW.
- $37.5m in 2019-20 to fund new and improved parklands under the government’s $150m Strategic Open Space program.
- $5.4m ($22.4m over four years) to expand the Local Landcare Coordinator Initiative, which will see a continuation of an ongoing partnership between Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.
- $32.3m in 2019-20 ($65m over three years) to protect threatened plants, animals and ecological communities, through the State’s Saving Our Species program and New South Wales Koala Strategy.
- $54m for councils to manage the NSW coastline and mitigate future coastal risks and hazards as part of the Coastal and Estuary Grants Program.
- $20m over four years in new and existing community preschools to provide for an additional 2300 preschool places.
The bad news
- No transitional funding to smooth the government’s shock transfer to councils of an additional $19 million in annual contributions to the Emergency Services Levy (ESL). Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock has been very receptive to our concerns so far and we’ll continue to advocate as she works with her government colleagues to find a resolution to this issue.
- No specific allocation to support the development of Joint Organisations of councils, but we are hopeful a positive announcement will be made soon.
- Insufficient funding to help councils comply with the government’s new requirement that they prepare plans for Crown lands under their management.
- Failure to effectively respond to the growing waste crisis by reinvesting the Waste Levy – which now stands at $772m per year – in a coordinated state-wide approach to drive down waste generation and move the NSW economy to a circular economy.
FOCUS ON NATIONAL ISSUES – I was in Canberra at the start of the week for the Australian Local Government Association’s (ALGA’s) National General Assembly and was honoured to have the opportunity to address delegates.
We were grateful that our new federal Minister Mark Coulton MP, Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government, Assistant Minister for Trade and Investment took the time to meet LGNSW Board members Darriea Turley, Julie Griffiths, Ruth Fagan, Michael Regan, Marianne Saliba, Ben Shields and Phyllis Miller who were attending the ALGA Conference at Parliament House, Canberra, and held a special session for available NSW mayors and delegates to introduce himself.
During the assembly, it was good to hear Deputy Prime Minister of Australia Michael McCormack committing his personal support to local government constitutional recognition to ensure local governments can best support our communities.
Thanks also to Shadow Federal Minister for Local Government Jason Clare MP for attending the Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA) breakfast and congratulations to new ALGWA president, and LGNSW Board member, Shellharbour City Council Mayor Marianne Saliba.
REGISTER NOW FOR OUR ANNUAL WATER MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE – LGNSW’s Water Management Conference is the premier event for NSW councils to get up to date with all the latest developments in water policy, water management, and water supply and sewerage services provided by council-owned and operated local water utilities. Read more.
THINKING BIG ABOUT SMALL BUSINESS IN NARRABRI – I’m excited to invite you to the next LGNSW Summit, co-hosted by Narrabri Shire Council, on the topic of ‘Councils thinking big about small business’ (Wednesday 24 July). During the summit, mayors, councillors and general managers will explore opportunities for small businesses in their communities and share initiatives and experiences with neighbouring councils. We’re delighted NSW Small Business Commissioner Ms Robyn Hobbs OAM will be our guest speaker. Find out more and register on the LGNSW website.
Photos: LGNSW President Linda Scott addressing ALGA’s National General Assembly; LGNSW Board members with Mark Coulton MP, Minister for Regional Services, Decentralisation and Local Government, Assistant Minister for Trade and Investment; Shadow Federal Minister for Local Government Jason Clare MP attending the ALGWA breakfast.