Council amalgamations key to Sydney’s planning growth: Urban Taskforce

Council amalgamations key to Sydney’s planning growth: Urban Taskforce
Council amalgamations key to Sydney’s planning growth: Urban Taskforce

The New South Wales government have acted upon many of the recent Samson report on local government, however further reform is needed to ensure an effective council structure, particularly in Sydney’s metropolitan areas, said Urban Taskforce CEO Chris Johnson.

The New South Wales government have announced its 'Fit for the Future' blueprint for local governments, which includes a package of financial incentives to encourage amalgamations across Sydney and joint organisations of councils in rural areas.

“The final report by the Independent Local Government Review Panel released in October 2013 proposed amalgamating councils in metropolitan Sydney to form between 12 and 18 new councils to replace the 41 smaller existing councils,” said Johnson.

“The government’s incentive package strongly encourages individual councils to fit into the review panel’s structure. The Urban Taskforce supports more efficient councils particularly if they relate to the state government’s regional structure for planning and other service delivery.”

This incentive package totals $1 billion, according to New South Wales Premier Mike Baird who launched the program. This is broken down into $258 million to assist councils who merge, cheaper finance for councils who need to build and maintain community facilities and up to $100 million in savings through cuts to red tape. Another $5.3 million has been set aside to establish regional joint organisations.

He noted that councils could acquire more planning powers with critical mass, with larger planning offices able to help Sydney’s growth – particularly when taking a regional approach.

“A number of large Western Sydney councils are already demonstrating a pro-growth professional attitude to planning and this needs to continue,” Johnson said.

“The proposal for regional councils to create new regional Joint Organisations where savings can be made through shared services is a good move and could also apply in Sydney if not enough councils want to amalgamate.”

At present, there are 41 councils in Greater Sydney. The blueprint notes that: “This means multiple licences, fees and approvals for small business and different development rules for people who want to build or renovate their homes.”

Councils are required to submit proposals on “how they plan to be Fit for the Future” by 30 June 2015 for an independent review.

The official timeline expectations see the changes taking place by September 2016, when new local government elections will occur. Mergers are expected to be complete, with a new Local Government Act in place, rural councils commencing and the regional joint organisations established.

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke was a property writer at Property Observer

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New South Wales

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