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$20m allocated for joint deal

Thursday, 17th May, 2018

By Emily Roberts

A funding package was announced for a Joint Organisation initiative yesterday, but City Council will need to weigh up all the options before joining.

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro yesterday announced a $20 million deal for councils in the state’s Far West to help establish two Joint Organisations.

Mr Barilaro made the announcement after presenting a multi-million dollar funding package to a meeting of representatives from eight Far West councils at Parliament House in Sydney yesterday morning.

Local mayor Darriea Turley and Council’s General Manager James Roncon attended the meeting.

While Mayor Turley welcomed the announcement, she said it would need to be considered by all councillors.

So far, 90 per cent of councils across regional NSW have already volunteered to join a Joint Organisation.

“Broken Hill Council resolved that they would join a JO but the biggest issue for us was the funding,” Mayor Turley said.

“This included that recurrent funding was critical for its success.

“At the end of the day, Council will have to resolve whether they will join the JO under the new criteria that was set out yesterday.

“As it stands the criteria does not provide recurrent funding but an establishment grant.

“This is an opportunity up to Council to make the decision whether they move forward or not.”

Councils committed to a Joint Organisation in the south include Balranald, Broken Hill, Central Darling and Wentworth. 

Councils that have not yet made a commitment include Bourke, Brewarrina, Cobar and Walgett.

“The biggest issue was the discussion of Joint Organisations (JO) developed within councils,” Mayor Turley said.

“The discussion, for the city, started with the Far West Initiative in 2011. 

“Since then there has been a lot of back and forth, we’re pleased it looks like we have finally come to a resolution.”

Late last year the NSW Government introduced legislation to allow local councils in regional NSW to join forces and voluntarily form Joint Organisations.

“When it was announced that the JOs would replace the Far West Initiative, the big issue for us was that the initiative would bring non-government organisations and the Government to the table,” Mayor Turley said.

“We were concerned that wouldn’t happen with the JOs.

“The government has announced it will give $750,000 to each organisation and we are in the Southern area which will include Broken Hill, Central Darling Shire, Balranald and Wentworth.

“Of that funding $500,000 will go to establishing an executive staff and the rest will be for public works and support.

“There will also be an update to the Western Roads plan.

“There is the added bonus of $5 million in tourism and cultural funding that could be accessed by the JOs.”

Nationals candidate for Barwon Andrew Schier also attended the meeting.

“Mr Schier being in attendance certainly made things uncomfortable, given that he knew about the proposal before our own councillors did,” Mayor Turley said.

Mr Schier said he could see the Far West battling the “tyranny of distance and remoteness”.

“The meeting made it clear to me that this government gets that, and wants to see our Far West thriving,” Mr Schier said.

Funding from the $20 million package will be made available in the new financial year.

Current Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries said Joint Organisations are designed to improve the collaboration between local councils and the NSW Government on important regional projects, and in turn improve service delivery for people in rural and remote areas.

“Joint Organisations in the Far West would mean better collaboration across government, which would lead to better planning and more big-picture projects,” Mr Humphries said.

The NSW Government is encouraging the Far West councils to join one of two Far West Joint Organisations - north and south.

The proposed funding package includes:

* $250 000 to each Joint Organisation to update existing western road plans in their region;

* $500,000 to each Joint Organisation to employ an Executive Officer and any support staff required;

* $250,000 to each Joint Organisation towards planning support with NSW Public Works;

* $5 million to each Joint Organisation to invest in tourism and culture infrastructure projects to grow the visitor economy; and

* Funding to re-establish Far West Air Services to Cobar, Bourke and Lightning Ridge or Walgett with the opportunity to upgrade airport facilities in both the north and south.

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