NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole last week announced the five successful Joint Organisation pilots to be rolled out across the state, as part of the government's 'Fit for the Future' reforms that aim to strengthen local government and communities.
Mr Toole said Joint Organisations will enable councils to work together more effectively within their regions, as well as transform the way state and local government collaborate on key community priorities that cut across traditional boundaries such as jobs, planning and infrastructure.
"Establishing these new regional structures will make it easier to manage important projects, to better deliver the jobs, education, housing, roads, bridges, sports grounds, libraries and other facilities and services that regional and rural communities need," the Minister said.
The NSW Government is providing funding of $5.3 million, part of the Fit for the Future Fund worth up to $1 billion, to support the creation of Joint Organisations. The five regional groups of councils to pilot Joint Organisations are: Central West; Hunter; Illawarra; Namoi; and Riverina.
"The selected pilot regions include a diverse mix of councils which have demonstrated a strong history of effective collaboration and are ready to partner with the State to tackle some of the key issues in regional communities," Mr Toole said.
"The NSW Government understands that one size does not fit all for regional communities. It is critical to get Joint Organisations right so that they foster consistent collaboration, yet are flexible enough to meet individual community needs and to operate with minimal cost and red tape.
"The pilots will commence shortly, beginning with a workshop in November to help initiate the process."
The announcement was welcomed by property development industry group, Urban Taskforce, who described the roll out of Joint Organisations as an excellent opportunity to take a more regional approach to planning.
"The Urban Taskforce has supported a joint organisation of councils approach for some years and it is therefore good to see the five pilots now getting underway," said CEO of the Urban Taskforce, Chris Johnson.
"The two urban groups of the Hunter and the Illawarra can demonstrate a successful model that could be applied to Sydney councils if amalgamations do not occur in all areas.
"The current Hunter Councils model where 11 councils share services is a good beginning but the big issue of a single centre of excellence for planning needs to be part of the pilot.
"A central planning office can develop specialist skills in strategic planning, assessments and infrastructure planning while increasing career prospects for young planners. The planners will also take a more independent position in the assessment of projects.
"It is encouraging to see that the Minister for Local Government has identified planning as a key community priority that cuts across traditional local government boundaries along with jobs and infrastructure.
"The Urban Taskforce is keen to be involved in the pilots to give a consumer perspective on how a shared service centre that includes planning can help with housing supply and the delivery of infrastructure. The future form of urban areas must come from a partnership between local government and the private sector development industry," Mr Johnson said.