Deputy Premier promises local government involvement in COVID recovery roadmap

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s promise today that the State Government is not only working on a roadmap out of the COVID lockdown impacting much of regional NSW, but that local government is an integral part of it.

LGNSW President Linda Scott facilitated an online meeting with Deputy Premier Barilaro for more than 120 local government mayors, councillors and general managers from across NSW today to discuss issues ranging from boosting vaccination rates, potential COVID impacts on upcoming elections and the threat to local infrastructure posed by planned developer contribution rule changes.

“It was a robust and jam-packed meeting, and I thank Deputy Premier Barilaro for accepting our invitation to speak and answer questions from our regional councils in the current challenging circumstances created by COVID-19,” Cr Scott said.

“The high attendance is testament to the level of concern among our regional leaders and it was heartening that the Deputy Premier acknowledged the frontline leadership councils are providing our communities.

“Councils need answers on vaccinations audits where rates are low, such as Cessnock and in our Indigenous communities, as we all work together to increase the statewide vaccination rate.

“Mr Barilaro also committed to follow up the worrying issue emerging from local government elections in December, which will see around 90 of NSW’s 128 councils without an elected mayor for up to 6 weeks after the elections.”

Cr Scott said while the meeting focussed on COVID-related issues, the Deputy Premier also acknowledged council concerns surrounding rule changes to infrastructure contributions that threaten to strip councils of their ability to build vital infrastructure communities need to cope with increased development.

“The NSW Government is planning on pushing through rule changes to infrastructure contributions that threaten to take us back to the bad old days of suburbs with no drainage, and communities with no parks,” Cr Scott said.

“Deputy Premier Barilaro told today’s meeting that as a former regional councillor he understood the importance of developer contributions – especially in regions where other sources of council income to pay for infrastructure were scarce – and would look into the issue.”

Cr Scott said many other challenges were raised at today’s meeting, including:

  • lack of COVID vaccination centres in some regions, forcing people to travel for vaccination;
  • the potential for some regions to be overwhelmed by city visitors once travel restrictions lifted; and
  • ongoing affordable housing shortages starkly illustrated by the impact of the pandemic.

“I thank the Deputy Premier for accepting our invitation and taking the time to listen to the many concerns our regional and rural mayors have as they continue to work day and night to support our communities through this COVID crisis,” she said.

“The Deputy Premier has taken the issues on board and promised to follow up with answers.

“Local government has exactly the same goals as State Government – to keep our communities safe, get out of lockdown as soon as possible and provide a locally led economic recovery that creates new jobs.

“We want to know the State Government is committed to working with us, and that is the message Deputy Premier Barilaro sent our regional local government sector today.”

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