Population decline, financial and infrastructure delivery challenges faced by councils, and the need for a more collaborative approach in service delivery by all levels of government were key issues discussed at the Annual Conference of the Western Division Councils in NSW* held in Nyngan on 25-26 February.

President of the Shires Association of NSW, Cr Ray Donald, said he was pleased the Minister for Local Government, the Hon. Don Page MP opened the conference by recognising the unprecedented pressures on Western NSW councils, which increasingly provide services to their communities that are beyond the scope of Local Government, including health services.

"Fundamental to the economic well-being of Western NSW communities is a formal partnership between the state and local government and for a 'whole of government' collaborative approach, which includes the Australian Government, to remove inefficiencies and duplications in service delivery” said Cr Donald.

"Speaking at the conference, Local Government Review Panel member, Glen Inglis, highlighted the compliance and regulatory impositions on rural councils in West NSW, acknowledging the need for more flexibility when reporting to the Division of Local Government."

"It's evident that the NSW Government is moving away from the one-size-fits-all approach for councils and that a new governance model for Western NSW is on the cards."

"Councils in Western NSW are eager to see what suggestions will be made in the third and final discussion paper by the Independent Local Government Review Panel, which flagged mandating county councils and their functions, creating village/community councils, and boundary changes as options."

President of the Local Government Association of NSW, Cr Keith Rhoades AFSM, said conference delegates were also highly vocal about their concerns with the new Local Land Services (LLS) being established by the NSW Government.

"The Local Government and Shires Associations of NSW want to ensure that when established, Local Land Services will not result in the closure of offices in small rural communities or see them moved to a regional centre, simply so the NSW Government can reduce their costs," said Cr Rhoades.

"Western NSW encompasses a vast region and it is imperative local communities have easy access to agricultural services and advice. After all, agriculture is the heart and soul of many of these rural towns."

"Many councils, not just those in the far West, are also worried that Local Government will be used to collect landholder rates on behalf of the new Local Land Services. The NSW Government needs to think of a different solution, as Local Government is not the tax-collector for the State."

"Given the raft of issues that need to be refined, including the boundaries of each LLS region, the types of services that will be provided and their cost, I strongly encourage rural and regional councils and communities to visit the Local Land Services Have Your Say website and make a submission.”