NEW South Wales has too many local councils that suffer from out-dated boundaries, a lack of resource sharing, poor planning and a lack of leadership, according to a new policy paper released by the Property Council of Australia.
The policy paper, Local Government Reform, also states that councils face challenges including financial instability, an over reliance on development levies, an infrastructure deficit and a shortage of skilled professionals.
"Reforming councils to give them a strong financial base will in turn allow them to invest properly in the infrastructure needed to keep pace with growth. Local government reform happened seamlessly in Victoria and Queensland. It is now time for NSW to do the same," said Property Council NSW Executive Director, Glenn Byres.
Focused around ten themes, the policy paper makes a number of recommendations for local government reform, including:
- An independent public review into local government that reports within 12 months;
- A focus on redrawing boundaries to reflect the modern shape of our cities;
- Improved resource sharing between councils;
- The abolition of rate pegging – post-amalgamation – subject to compliance with a Fiscal Responsibility Framework;
- Winding back the over-reliance on development levies;
- Using alternative finance methods such as Growth Area Bonds; and
- Full-time mayors with fixed terms.
"We need to give local government the tools it needs to meet community demand for better infrastructure and services," Mr Byres said.
"Local government is currently hampered by a choked financial base. NSW is the only state that applies rate pegging – and the strain on revenue forces councils to turn to developer levies and other taxes that damage housing affordability."
Mr Byres said that existing council boundaries were set 100 years ago and lack relevance to existing transport corridors and commercial centres.