Neighbouring Nambucca and Coffs Harbour not included

NSW Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton. Photo: AAP Image/Paul Miller
NSW Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton. Photo: AAP Image/Paul Miller

Joint Organisations are set to be a key mechanism through which the NSW government delivers important programs and funding to regional NSW.

On Tuesday, eleven Joint Organisations made up of 70 councils across regional NSW were announced by the Minister for Local Government Gabrielle Upton, but Nambucca, Coffs Harbour and Clarence Valley are not included in any of them.

There is a Mid North Coast Joint Organisation – it is made up of Bellingen, Kempsey and Port Macquarie-Hastings.

However, Bellingen’s partners in the peak body that the JO replaces, the Mid North Coast Regional Organisation of Councils (MIDROC), were our neighbours Coffs Harbour and Nambucca, as well as the more southerly Kempsey and Port Macquarie-Hastings.

General Manager of Bellingen Shire Council Liz Jeremy said Bellingen had worked cooperatively and deliberatively with the member councils of MIDROC over many years around regional cooperation and advocacy, shared servicing, joint projects, as well as supporting staff subgroups such as IT, HR, planning, governance and waste.

“In mid-2017 MIDROC developed a strategic plan which was subsequently adopted by the MIDROC Board and in late 2016 the NSW government set out a process for formal establishment of Joint Organisations,” Mrs Jeremy said.

“In this context council determined at the January 2018 meeting to join a Joint Organisation, utilising the guidance and wording specified by the NSW Office of Local Government.”

At this meeting, Bellingen Shire Council voted in favour of a JO being established “to cover the Council’s area and any one or more of the following local government areas: a) Clarence Valley b) Coffs Harbour c) Bellingen Shire d) Nambucca Shire e) Kempsey Shire f) Port Macquarie-Hastings.” 

Mrs Jeremy said the decision to establish the Mid North Coast JO as it has occurred was not anticipated and as a consequence discussions have been held with the OLG both at individual council and MIDROC levels. 

“Detailed correspondence is being forwarded to the Office of Local Government as a matter of urgency seeking clarification for the decision made, the proposed way forward and anticipated next steps.”

A spokesperson for Office of Local Government said the three councils (Bellingen, Kempsey and Port Macquarie-Hastings) had voluntarily joined the Mid North Coast Joint Organisation and “shown strong civic leadership by signalling their intention to work together and with the NSW government for better regional outcomes”.

“These councils will have a seat at the table in planning infrastructure and investment for their region, with support and funding from the state government,” the spokesperson said. 

“With the exception of the Far West region, the government will not be proclaiming any additional joint organisations in regional NSW. 

“Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour and Nambucca councils are strongly encouraged to act quickly and join the Mid North Coast Joint Organisation.”

Nambucca Shire mayor, Rhonda Hoban, said Nambucca was a casualty of decisions made by Coffs and Clarence as to their JO preferences.

“We had made it clear to the minister that we would prefer to be with Coffs Harbour as that was where the shire’s greatest community of interest lies,” the mayor said.

“Now we’ll just have to wait and see what is sorted out with the other two councils.”

Ms Upton said the government had allocated a total of $3.3 million in seed funding for the Joint Organisation network.

She said the new organisations would deliver real benefits for local communities throughout regional NSW by working across traditional council boundaries to plan and prioritise important initiatives.