What’s happened to local government reform?

When the end of the year rolled to a close we all knew where things stood with the NSW Government’s reviews of local government.

The compelling, well-researched and scholarly final report of the Independent Local Government Review Panel had been submitted to the Government in October 2013 and publicly distributed. We all knew what was being proposed and, after committing resources like this, surely the Government would have to do something.

Similarly, the Local Government Acts Taskforce submitted their proposals for a new Local Government Act and Review of the City of Sydney Act around the same time - on 16 October, to be exact.

Both reports and their comprehensive recommendations had followed an intensive period of consultation with local government organisations, unions and the community. It was clearly time to do something - even for a Government constrained by a policy prior to the last election opposed to compulsory amalgamations. 

Well, it’s been three months, how have things progressed since October?

Like this?

Maximum speed a few centimetres a day

Or like this?

Maximum speed 0.3kph

Or even like this?

Maximum speed 1.9 kph

On 8 January 2014 Minister for Local Government Don Page announced to everyone that he was “pleased to advise that the final reports of the Independent Local Government Review Panel and the Local Government Acts Taskforce have been released.” This was reported by the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph (although the Telegraph was unable to find a reason to bag climate science, which was a bit of a surprise) and for those of us on holidays at the time and reading the paper, the reports sounded very familiar.

The reason they were familiar was that, as pleased as the Minister might be, what he had released were the reports we all had since October.

It’s hard to know exactly what’s happened in that three months but the Government has announced that the Division of Local Government will be receiving written submissions now until Friday 7 March. We thought everyone had had a go.

One of the problems about opposition parties winning government is that often they don’t really know how to govern. The embarrassing inaction of the O’Farrell Government in a climate where everyone wants something done about drunk blokes cowardly punching innocents, is one example of the malaise that can affect a government lacking the confidence to do something. 

But the problem about being the government is that you have to do something.

Clearly if the NSW Government is going to do something about reforming local government, in a climate where everyone expects it and the overwhelming majority will welcome it, they should do it a bit quicker.

Unless, like a good chess player, they are playing 17 moves ahead. Give everyone a few more months, then a few more months of consideration and, before you know it, there will be an election in New South Wales and the Government can change its policy about compulsory amalgamations and get on with it.


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