Stronger Communities Fund
New councils are enjoying a local infrastructure boom thanks to significant funding from the NSW Government’s Stronger Communities Fund.
Up to $15 million was provided to each new council created in 2016 to kick-start delivery of new and upgraded community facilities including parks, roads, pools, playgrounds, footpaths, cycleways, libraries, and community centres.
This level of funding for new councils was unprecedented with significant investment in larger scale projects delivering long-term economic and social benefits to local communities.
Local junior sporting teams, neighbourhood centres, men’s sheds and other community groups also received grants of up to $50,000.
Each council established a Stronger Communities Fund Assessment Panel with responsibility to assess projects and make recommendations to council for funding.
The Stronger Communities Fund allocations are to be spent or committed by 30 June 2019 and all funding acquitted before 31 December 2019.
More information about funded projects is available here.
Councils in rural and regional areas of NSW face unique challenges in sustaining their communities and maintaining local services.
The NSW Government has provided $4 million in innovation grants to help rural councils with populations of less than 10,000 explore new ways of working.
The Innovation Fund supports small councils in regional NSW to develop new ideas and innovative ways of working to improve their performance to benefit their communities. These include developing more efficient processes, different ways of delivering services, sharing resources with other councils, or using technology to help overcome the challenge of distance.
The first round of grants in 2016 provided $2 million for 13 projects covering 19 councils. The second round in 2017 provided an additional $2 million for 18 projects across 24 councils.
- A list of projects funded in Round 1 is available here.
- A list of projects funded in Round 2 is available here.
The NSW Government has introduced an Australian first for regional communities, with the establishment of a Joint Organisation network to help drive better planning, economic development and service delivery.
Joint Organisations will transform the way the NSW Government and local councils collaborate, plan, set priorities and deliver important projects on a regional scale. These new partnerships will benefit local communities in regional NSW by working across traditional council boundaries.
The Local Government Amendment (Regional Joint Organisations) Act 2017 passed NSW Parliament in November 2017.
Ninety four councils can now voluntarily opt to join a Joint Organisation to strengthen regional co-ordination and improve delivery of important infrastructure and services.
Joint Organisations will focus on the issues that matter most to regional communities such as growing local economies, creating more jobs, securing water supplies, and improving regional transport, community infrastructure and services.
The NSW Government is providing $3.3 million in seed funding for the establishment of Joint Organisations. Funding for each Joint Organisation will be based on the number of councils choosing to join a Joint Organisation, with maximum funding provided where all councils in a region want to be members of the new body.
Councils choosing to take up the option of joining a Joint Organisation will get a seat at the table in planning infrastructure and investment for their region, and access to better ways to get things done, with support and funding from the State Government.
Joint Organisations will be up and running by July 2018, comprise a minimum of three councils and align with NSW planning regions.
The Office of Local Government is providing hands on support to councils wishing to become a member of a Joint Organisation and will work closely with them once established to ensure they are successful.
Councils have until 23 March 2018 to nominate to be a part of a Joint Organisation, with the network and funding allocations to be finalised in May.
Consultation and pilot process
The Joint Organisation model is the outcome of an extensive three-year process of collaborative design and consultation with local government across regional NSW.
That process began in 2014, when the Independent Local Government Review Panel recommended that new options were needed to drive better collaboration between councils and State agencies to deliver infrastructure and services in regional areas.
Throughout 2015 and 2016, 43 councils across five regions trialled Joint Organisations as part of a $1.5 million pilot to test and understand the different working relationships and priorities of each area.
The successes of these pilot Joint Organisations in Central NSW, the Hunter, Illawarra, Namoi and Riverina showed that they worked and delivered real benefits to regional NSW.
In the Namoi region the Joint Organisation led an investment prospectus to attract private investment to the region.
In Central NSW the Joint Organisation focused on a tool to prioritise regional infrastructure needs that is closely aligned with Infrastructure NSW criteria.
In the Illawarra, a Youth Employment Action Plan was developed to address issues around the higher-than-average youth unemployment in the region.
In the Riverina, the Joint Organisation worked hard to enhance a Regional Freight Transport Plan and mapping tool to identify new corridors for grain, livestock, timber and general freight to provide the region with a significant edge in economic development.
In the Hunter a regional tourism model was developed aimed at building and sustaining strategic tourism capacity in the region.
An independent evaluation of the pilot process showed that over 80 per cent of participants agreed Joint Organisations resulted in better alignment of state, regional and local priorities, as well as improved collaboration between councils and better working relationships with State agencies.
How to nominate to be in a JO
Interested rural and regional councils need to take the following steps in order to complete the nomination process:
1. Identify your council’s planning region according to the map provided in the information pack. Only councils in the Far West have the option to join a JO outside their planning region
2. Consult with councils within your preferred regional grouping to reach agreement on JO membership, noting that each JO must have a minimum of three member councils
3. Once the proposed membership is agreed, ensure each member council endorses the proposal by a resolution of council
4. By 23 March 2018, submit your nomination to form a JO by email to email@example.com, marked ‘Nomination for Joint Organisation’. This is to include a copy of the resolution and the date council made that resolution
5. Councils should also complete and return a Forming a Joint Organisation – checklist with the nomination.
Unlike a normal council resolution, the legislation provides a fixed 28 day period for councils to rescind such a resolution. As such, councils are also asked to undertake a further step, which may fall after 23 March:
6. After the expiry of a period of 28 days from the making of council’s resolution, the General Manager inform the Minister in writing that council’s resolution has not been rescinded.
The JO network and funding allocations will be announced in May, with JOs operational by July 1.
To answer queries and provide support in this process, OLG Council Engagement Managers are making contact with each council eligible to join a JO. Councils can speak with their Council Engagement Manager at any time by calling OLG on (02) 4428 4100.
The NSW Government looks forward to working with JOs and member councils to ensure each region can grow to its full potential.
Far West Initiative
The Far West Initiative was established in response to recommendations from the Independent Local Government Review Panel and as part of the reforms to local government. The panel identified the need for a new approach to governance in the Far West that would improve service delivery in the region and provide better community outcomes.
The Far West Initiative brings together eight local councils: Balranald, Bourke, Brewarrina, Broken Hill, Central Darling, Cobar, Walgett and Wentworth with the Unincorporated Area, non-government organisations (NGOs) and key government agencies to develop solutions to address the unique challenges faced by communities in the region.
The NSW Government is committed to addressing those challenges in a way that creates meaningful long-term change in the region.
On 1 December 2017, the Government announced that Far West councils have been invited to form Joint Organisations, which will transform the way councils collaborate, capture economies of scale and plan for regional development. The Government will continue to work in partnership with the councils to explore these and other opportunities.