Council initiates policy directions

By Robert Muir

Motions relating to water management, waste and recycling, solar farm regulation, trade waste, council categories, Crown Land management, skills and training, and councillor remuneration were moved by Federation Council at this year’s NSW Local Government Conference.

“Federation Council certainly put their name up in lights, by submitting motions of local and regional and in some cases, state significance,” council’s General Manager Adrian Butler told The Free Press.

“All motions received overwhelming support and will now form policy for lobbying and advocacy.”

The annual state conference was held from October 14 to 16 in Sydney. Federation Council was represented by Mayor Pat Bourke, Deputy Mayor Shaun Whitechurch, and Mr Butler.

This event is the premier policy setting event for NSW councils each year. Councils are invited prior, to submit motions for consideration at the conference.

Motions put by Federation Council were:

Water management: That Local Government NSW calls on the NSW Government to develop, in consultation with local government and Aboriginal custodial communities:

1. A comprehensive, integrated and funded emergency plan to address the immediate water supply crisis afflicting NSW towns and communities, and a disaster recovery plan for when the drought breaks. These plans should:

a) provide greater flexibility, such as allowing temporary transfer of water, where the water does not have current allocations/licensing and it is within the same water source;

b) ensure that town water supplies will be secured and maintained; and

c) ensure that appropriate consultation is undertaken, when issuing bore licences and other relief measures.

2. Long term (30-40 year) water supply strategies for catchments throughout the State that mitigate the risks from future droughts and the predicted impact of climate change to help ensure population and economic growth targets can be achieved and supported. These strategies should not exclude ambitious infrastructure projects of the scale of the Snowy Mountain Scheme, while storm water harvesting, reuse and recycling and demand management initiatives should feature as key elements of those plans.

Waste and resource recovery/recycling: That Local Government NSW calls on the NSW Government to reinvest the waste levy to:

1. Fund regions of councils to develop regional waste plans for the future of waste and resource recovery in their regions, which include infrastructure and circular economy solutions to address the needs of our cities and regions.

2. Fund the delivery of priority infrastructure and other projects, procured by local government, that are needed to deliver the regional-scale plans, particularly where there is market failure identified in the regional plans.

3. Increase local and state government procurement of recycled goods made with domestic content, for example by:

a) adopting recycled content targets to help drive demand and provide incentives to deliver on these targets.

b) funding further research, development and delivery of recycling technologies and products generated from recyclables, particularly by local or regional councils.

4. Fund and deliver state-wide education campaigns on the importance of recycling to encourage the right way to recycle, the purchase of products with recycled content, as well as promote waste avoidance.

5. Work with the Federal Government to introduce producer responsibility schemes for soft plastics and other emerging problem wastes.

Waste to energy: That Local Government NSW calls on the NSW Government to:

1. Initiate research to determine world best practice in the establishment and management of waste to energy facilities; and

2. Ensure that any approvals granted for any Energy from Waste plant include conditions that adopt world’s best practices in emissions, emissions monitoring and residual waste disposal and incorporate any scientific or technology advances that have an impact on energy-from-waste development, and

3. Incorporate findings on community and environmental impacts on health, safety and the environment into existing or new legislation; and

4. Urgently commit to working with LGNSW and NSW councils where waste to energy proposals are being considered; and

5. use some of the waste levy funding to facilitate the research and engagement process

Trade waste: That the NSW Government engages with local government and relevant State Government agencies, and industry representatives, to develop a strategy to strengthen end point disposal solutions for trade-waste, especially in regional and rural NSW.

Crown Lands management: That Local Government NSW calls on the NSW Government to provide increased assistance to councils to enable them to effectively perform their new roles and responsibilities under the Crown Lands Management Act (2016). Specifically, the Government is requested to:

a) Fully fund the development and implementation of Plans of Management for Crown Lands Reserves within each local government area;

b) Extend the 30 June 2021 deadline for councils to prepare the Plans of Management for Council Reserves as required under the new Crown Land Management Act 2016;

c) Fully fund the costs of training staff to assess native title matters associated with management of Crown land and any related costs resulting from the need to engage expert advice and guidance;

d) Expedite the Crown Land Review Program so that ownership of more land agreed to be primarily of local significance is transferred to councils;

e) Provide additional funding for the implementation of the Biosecurity Act 2015 for land being transferred to councils and a statement of Biosecurity Risks be provided to councils prior to the handover; and

f) Stop charging councils commercial rents for crown land used for council purposes (eg: easements) to enable councils to apply the savings to Crown land management.

Skills and education: That LGNSW advocates to the State Government and Federal Government to address the skill shortages and impediments to employment and training by:

a) Allowing occupational licensing portability by mutually recognising State/Territory based occupational qualifications and licensing for building, construction, and maintenance related services.

b) Expediting a review of current regional education offerings, this review would identify current and future regional skills shortages based on current State Governments regional investment strategies and State Significant Development and that priority be given to implementation of action from such a review for trade associated pathways that align with regional investment strategies and State Significant Development.

c) Working with TAFE NSW and registered training organisations to develop and deliver accredited training programs in specialist skill areas such as trade waste.

d) Reducing or removing the HELP liability for new graduates who secure employment in rural and remote local government areas.

e) Injecting significant funds into TAFE and the higher education system to redress recent funding cuts and the impacts of TAFE deregulation.

Councillor remuneration: That the NSW Government engages with councils, and prepares new increased councillor remuneration thresholds for all councils, to more adequately reflect the workload, training and increased representation demanded of councils, especially those in merged councils.

Council categories: That the NSW Government determines new categories to reflect councils of a size that is between the current rural, and regional-rural status, to more adequately compensate those councillors in larger geographical councils that may not have a 20,000 population.

Solar farm regulation: That the State Government liaise with the Federal Government and local councils to have a more strategic approach to the approval of large scale solar farms, and their impact on farm land to be more adequately considered, especially irrigated land, and for improvements to legislation to automatically allow councils to receive development contributions for State approved developments.

Sustained support for Joint Organisations: That Local Government NSW lobbies the NSW Government to:

a) Follow through on its commitment to work collaboratively with Joint Orgaisations (JOs) to develop strategic priorities, business plans and action plans in the interests of delivering regional outcomes.

b) Continue its investment in JO operating costs in order that this State Government initiative can continue to operate sustainably.

c) Report annually on its engagement with JOs and the results delivered.

The conference was attended by over 500 voting delegates representing NSW councils.

“It’s a great annual event where councils both metropolitan and regional rural, come together and debate on all matters of importance to our sector, ultimately our communities,” Mayor Bourke said.

“We look forward to working with LGNSW and our Local Members, relevant Ministers and agencies to progress these policy directions.”