The NSW government has announced that all council elections scheduled for September will be postponed until September 2021.
Local Government NSW President Linda Scott said the extraordinary circumstances created by the global pandemic and desperate attempts to slow its spread within Australia meant all levels of government were being forced to consider actions that would have previously been unthinkable.
"Councils are the closest level of government to the community, and we are only too aware of the need to keep our communities safe and healthy," she said.
"It is democracy that makes Australia the country it is, and while we should always be cautious about any action that has the potential to weaken that democracy or diminish the right of the community to have a say in their own lives, these changes by the NSW government are welcome at this time.
"Mayors and councillors are working hard to ensure good governance continues during the COVID-19 crisis and will continue to do so.
"When asked to serve for an additional year, I'm confident mayors and councillors will understand the need to provide stability and continuity of governance."
She noted that some elected leaders may need to stand down and LGNSW would work with councils to support them during any necessary periods of transitions.
Bellingen Shire mayor, Cr Dominic King, said he thought delaying the elections was the right move as we don't know how long COVID-19 will take to play out.
"I was certainly intending to run again," he said. "And I know that both Jennie [Fenton] and Toni [Wright-Turner] had committed to running again."
He added that although he believes Steve Klipin, Garry Carter and Desmae Harrison were intending to stand aside in September, he hopes they are able to stay.
"It would be great to have the existing councillors there for the next 18 months, because we know the processes, we've got relationships with staff, and we've shown that we can work together," Cr King said.
He also pointed to council's efforts to foster a shire-specific pandemic response as an example of local government's effectiveness and a reason it should receive more funding to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
"It shows really clearly that the best people to deal with this is not state or federal government, it's the local government areas," he said. "Whatever money they put in will be well utilised."