Bellingen has been left stranded in a Joint Organisation that doesn’t include its neighbours after the NSW Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton announced the make up of 11 voluntary JOs comprising 70 regional councils last week.
It’s been grouped with the more southerly Kempsey and Port Macquarie-Hastings in a Mid North Coast JO, but Coffs Harbour and Nambucca, with whom we share arrangements for waste and recycling services, have been left on the outer.
The newly formed JOs are supposed to be a key mechanism through which the state government will deliver important programs and funding to regional councils with common strategic interests.
Bellingen’s partners in the peak body that the JO replaces, the Mid North Coast Regional Organisation of Councils, were Clarence, Coffs, Nambucca, Kempsey and Port Macquarie-Hastings.
It’s understood that Coffs failed to come to the JO party as it preferred not to be allied with the larger council of Port Macquarie, while Nambucca was waiting to see which way Coffs would jump.
Bellingen Council was disconcerted to find it had been separated from its key partners.
“Although it was great news that Bellingen had been included in the newly formed JO, our preference had been to include the six councils between Clarence in the north and Port Macquarie-Hastings in the south,” Mayor Dominic King said.
“Having been a part of MIDROC for many years Bellingen understands the importance and strength that comes from speaking with one regional voice and collaborating with other councils on shared projects and services.
“We believe that it is in our community’s best interest that we work towards welcoming additional local councils to our JO and so talks have been held with the Office of Local Governement both at individual council and regional organisation levels.”
General Manager Liz Jeremy noted MIDROC members had been collaborating for a long time around regional cooperation and advocacy, shared servicing, joint projects, and staff subgroups such as IT, HR, planning, WHS, governance and waste.
“Detailed correspondence is being forwarded to the OLG as a matter of urgency seeking clarification for the decision made, the proposed way forward and anticipated next steps,” Mrs Jeremy said.