Displaying items by tag: local government

The peak body representing councils in Western Sydney, the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of a $1.9 billion investment boost to infrastructure projects in the region.

The Western Sydney region includes 13 local council areas covering 8,982 square kilometres and is home to 2.7 million people, who together power the third largest economy in Australia.

“The Federal Government’s commitment to funding infrastructure on that scale acknowledges the importance of Western Sydney as the fastest growing region in Australia and demonstrates the benefits of inter-governmental partnerships,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

“Continued investment in the region by both the federal and state governments, working alongside local councils, will not only improve the quality of life for Western Sydney families but will create new jobs arising from development opportunities around the Western Sydney International Airport precinct.

The new $1.9 billion federal funding includes:

  • A $500 million investment in Mamre Road Stage 2 (added to the $253.6 million allocated by the NSW Government for Stage 1 of the project).
  • A $400 million investment to deliver priority sections of the Elizabeth Drive upgrade. This builds on the NSW Government’s $200 million commitment to Elizabeth Drive safety and enabling works.
  • A further $115 million Federal Government commitment for Mulgoa Road Stage 2 will allow the NSW Government to move ahead with upgrades to the pinch point.
  • The new $500 million Federal investment for Richmond Road, Garfield Road and Memorial Avenue will support the NSW Government’s existing $385m commitment.
  • A $100 million Federal investment to deliver new infrastructure to support bus services to the Western Sydney International Airport.
  • A $20 million Federal investment to support the delivery of the final business case for Stage 1 of the Western Sydney Freight Line.

“It is pleasing to also see additional Federal funding to continue such vital projects as Appin Road, Spring Farm Parkway and bus infrastructure for the future Western Sydney International Airport,“ said Councillor Calvert.

“The fact that the Federal Government is prepared to commit to investment on such a scale underscores the importance of supporting growth in Western Sydney, which is expected to be home to over four million people by 2041.”

“Joint investments by the NSW and Federal governments in road and transport projects across the region are especially welcome.

“WSROC’s advocacy is increasingly focused on impressing on all levels of government of the need for and benefits from working in partnership, including with local government.

“For example, Western Sydney councils are very keen to work with both the Federal and NSW Governments to build greater connectivity around the planned section of the Metro Western Sydney International Airport line north to Tallawong and south to Macarthur.

“That section of line has the capacity to have stations at two-kilometre spacings, resulting in 30 new stations supporting communities that could actually accommodate the growth of Western Sydney."

“Also, a north-south rail link that links Tallawong to St Marys, and an extension to Leppington from Western Sydney International Airport.

“We are calling on the Federal and NSW Governments to at least fund business cases for such projects and to show further top-level strategic commitment in that space.”

Published in Media releases

The NSW Legislative Council has taken on board a swathe of recommendations from local councils on how to radically improve public transport services in Western Sydney, including building at least 30 new railway stations in Sydney’s west to boost investment, create local jobs, reduce car dependency, and improve access to services and leisure facilities.

The sprawling Western Sydney region includes 13 local council areas covering 8,982 square kilometres, and is home to 2.7 million people, who together power the third largest economy in Australia.

The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), the peak body representing councils in Western Sydney, submitted wide-ranging proposals to the Legislative Council’s inquiry into 'Current and future public transport needs in Western Sydney’ (Portfolio Committee No. 6 - Transport and the Arts), chaired by Cate Faehrmann MLC.

The inquiry was set up to examine:

  • the availability and accessibility of public transport services across Western Sydney,
  • current and anticipated levels of demand for public transport services,
  • the changing nature of public transport needs due to shifting demographics,
  • the social, economic and planning impacts of motor vehicle dependency,
  • the affordability of public transport compared with other areas of Greater Sydney and New South Wales, and
  • the role of public transport and future transport technologies in reducing car dependency,

- among other matters impacting transport in Western Sydney.

The cross-party Committee report, released on 29 April 2024, contains 20 recommendations to improve public transport services in Western Sydney in line with WSROCs proposals, including:

  • delivering two further stations west of Sydney Olympic Park on the Metro West line to help boost housing and economic revitalisation,
  • the government assess the feasibility of additional stations on the Metro Western Sydney Airport line,
  • the government create business cases for the extensions of the Metro Western Sydney Airport line from Leppington to Western Sydney Airport via Oran Park to include 30 new stations,
  • completing a north-south rail link and connection to Leppington by 2032,
  • extending Stage 2 of the Parramatta Light Rail Project to Lidcombe railway station
  • increase the frequency of bus services,
  • prioritise the delivery of a rapid bus network across Western Sydney, and
  • the Government provide local councils with a legislated role in the planning and delivery of Transport-Oriented Development precincts in their local government area,

— among other proposals.

In its testimony before the Committee, WSROC stressed that “there is an inequitable provision of transport options and infrastructure in Western Sydney.Mind The Gap SMALL

“In particular, we emphasised the inequitable distribution of public transport services between the east and west of Sydney," said WSROC President, Clr Barry Calvert.

“In response to our submission, the parliamentary committee acknowledged that the residents of Western Sydney 'deserve' an equitable approach to the provision of transport infrastructure and services and that anything less discriminates against them.

“The committee’s report noted that ‘The people of Western Sydney deserve a public transport network which, adjusted for density, is the same as that in the east’ and that it is not that in its current form.

 “They also acknowledged that our citizens deserve the same density of heavy rail and metro railway lines and stations, the same density of bus routes and bus stops with the same regularity of services.

"In fact, they noted anything less would discriminate against the residents of Western Sydney who, on average, have lesser educational, employment and recreational opportunities than the wealthier residents of the east.

“For example, in February this year the NSW Government announced that Sydney Metro would investigate two potential additional stations to the west of Olympic Park, including one at Rosehill Gardens which could support a significant increase in housing.

“WSROC was keen to point out, however, that the benefits of the Metro for Western Sydney residents and businesses would be severely limited if it did not include enough stations.

“The number of stations proposed by the government was based on short-term budgetary considerations rather than a proper assessment of the number that are needed.

“Local connectivity is just as important as quick travel between major centres. Otherwise, the utility of that line is greatly diminished from the Western Sydney residents' and business' perspective.

"The planned section of the Metro Western Sydney Airport line north to Tallawong and south to Macarthur has capacity to have stations at two-kilometre spacings, resulting in 30 new stations supporting communities that could actually accommodate the growth of Western Sydney."

"In addition, WSROC questioned why a commitment had been made to connect the airport and Aerotropolis by rapid bus with Liverpool, Penrith and Campbelltown while the metropolitan centre of Blacktown – one of the largest local government areas in the nation - had been left out."

“The current transport plans developed for Western Sydney lack both vision and sufficient detail'.

“In our submission to the inquiry, we made it clear that Western Sydney needs a transport plan that ties in land use, projected population growth, aspirations for investment and job creation outcomes.

“Only when such a plan is in place would it allow for the identification of transport priorities and facilitate greater levels of investment.

"Once this end-state plan is developed, it would allow the identification of regional transport infrastructure priorities and their optimum times for delivery and establish the appropriate funding mechanisms to make it happen.

"More importantly it would facilitate the attraction of greater levels of investment and allow an orderly development of new higher density communities around transport nodes."

WSROC stressed that better interconnectivity across Western Sydney would encourage investment, create local jobs, reduce car dependency and facilitate the needs of local people to access nearby services and leisure facilities.

“This will be a key issue for Western Sydney, particularly in view of rapid growth that will see the region’s population nearly double by 2041.

“I was heartened by the fact that the committee’s report recognised that local councils are experts in the public transport needs of their communities and must be included as key stakeholders in the planning for housing, services and infrastructure in the local government area.

“There has been an unacceptable delay between infrastructure planning and provision and the development of new suburbs, particularly in the southwest of Sydney,

“It is unacceptable that new suburbs in Western Sydney, such as Wilton and Appin, could be left without public transport despite prior commitments and that development on the outer fringes of Western Sydney continues apace with limited, if any, plans for public transport provision.

"This inquiry comes at a pivotal moment for Western Sydney, a region that is undergoing rapid development, population growth and changing public transport travel patterns."

" WSROC made clear from the outset of this inquiry that many Western Sydney residents are sick and tired of having extremely limited choices when it comes to being able to get to their destination of choice by bus, train or bicycle.”

“About a third of our resident workers must commute outside the region daily.

"It is clear from this inquiry that many areas of Western Sydney are grossly underserved by public transport."

"Investment in public transport has largely prioritised moving people from Western Sydney into the Sydney CBD.

"While the construction of the Metro Western Sydney Airport line to St Marys is a positive step, the committee sees enormous benefits in extending the line to Tallawong and Macarthur and across to Leppington, ultimately completing this important north-south rail link.

"This connection is critical to Western Sydney's economic and employment growth and recommendations to ensure the extensions occur have been made.

"But without the additional stations WSROC has proposed, the benefits of these projects may not be fully realised."

"The Government has got to stop approving housing development on the outer fringes of Western Sydney without commitment to or investment in public transport infrastructure and services."

“To its great credit, the committee has therefore recommended that the Government prioritise the immediate public transport needs of existing and approved, but not yet built, areas of Western Sydney's outer fringes prior to approving more housing development in those precincts.

WSROC’s submission to the inquiry can be seen in full here ➡️ bit.ly/WSROC_Transport_Submission

The Legislative Council’s Report No. 21 - PC 6 - Current and future public transport needs in Western Sydney can be seen in full here ➡️ bit.ly/Legislative_Council_Report_Transport

Published in Media releases

Recently it was my pleasure to welcome NSW Premier Chris Minns to one of our regular WSROC Board of Directors Meetings (22 February) along with mayors, councillors and executive staff representing councils and communities of Greater Western Sydney.

I and others attending were able to discuss with the Premier a wide range of issues, including housing affordability, public transport, cost of living pressures, business investment, job creation, public service reform, and other concerns affecting the 2.1 million people of our region.

Premier Minns was particularly appreciative of what he called our member councils' "all-encompassing" work.

"Your efforts are the very definition of civic spiritedness. You do things because you care about community and want to be part of positive change," said the Premier.SMALL LR Premier Minns Barry Calvert 1

"WSROC's leadership helps hold Western Sydney together."

The Premier also mentioned that since this and other recent meetings with Western Sydney's mayors, there was a "far more productive and collaborative approach to new housing" and other topics vital to the region.

"The mayors of Western Sydney are not NIMBYs. All the hard work on housing supply and affordability has taken place in Western Sydney."

WSROC’s advocacy is increasingly focused on impressing on all levels of government of the need for and benefits from working in partnership.

With the integration of the Cities Commission into the Department of Planning under the Minns Government especially, the time is ripe for collective progress.

We extend our invitation to the NSW and Commonwealth governments to collaborate with WSROC in crafting solutions to the many pressing issues confronting Greater Western Sydney.

These include addressing housing shortages, enhancing public transport accessibility, managing energy and waste sustainably, and tackling the challenges of extreme heat in Western and South-Western Sydney, among other concerns that directly impact our economy, environment, and society.

There’s no doubt that collaborative partnerships can bring substantial benefits to our member councils.

Such an approach has recently resulted in nine Western Sydney councils saving an additional $34 million in street lighting energy costs over the next five years,

This result was the outcome of a joint submission by WSROC councils and environmental consultancy Ironbark Sustainability to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) in response to proposed council street lighting tariffs by Endeavour Energy for the 2024-2029 period.

In our submission to the AER, WSROC and Ironbark challenged Endeavour Energy’s cost estimates for the maintenance of its streetlighting network in Western Sydney.

This had immediate effect.

Endeavour Energy, to their credit, worked with WSROC, Ironbark and the AER to make changes to the streetlight tariffs, reducing the overall cost to councils by $34 million.

More information about that excellent result can be seen here

Meanwhile, co-design of Greater Sydney’s first coordinated plan for addressing heat risk has continued under the Greater Sydney Heat Taskforce.

The Plan’s detail is not due to be released until the second half of 2024, however WSROC has seen enormous value in bringing together diverse stakeholders to workshop the collective challenges we face.

The most rewarding part of this process has been observing new networks and partnerships bloom between state and federal agencies, councils as well as industry and community stakeholders.

An early piece of work from one of our Taskforce partners is the ‘Burning Money Report’ released by the Committee for Sydney on 18 March.

The report addresses a key need identified by the Taskforce – better quantifying the economic impacts of heat on our city.

According to the report, heatwaves are costing $1.6 billion annually in health, energy and productivity losses in Western Sydney — and it will only get worse.

‘Burning Money’ finds Western Sydney experiences 10 days a year above 35C - a figure expected to double by the 2070s.

Partly due to geographical differences, suburbs in Western Sydney are typically 6C to 10C hotter than coastal suburbs during heatwaves.

Sam Kernaghan, from the Committee for Sydney which commissioned the report, said heatwaves were making Sydney's west less liveable and more expensive.

The report makes five key recommendations:

  • Appoint a lead agency to deliver integrated heatwave adaptation.
  • Integrate heatwave risk into a new Disaster Adaptation Plans across Greater Sydney.
  • Embed the economic costs of heatwaves in the next NSW Intergenerational Report.
  • Explore heatwave insurance options for business and households.
  • Accelerate action on Decarbonising Sydney and NSW.

I would particularly like to commend WSROC’s ‘Turn Down the Heat’ project team members whose excellent work has greatly strengthened the report.

Barry Calvert — President, WSROC

Published in Media releases

The peak body representing councils in Greater Western Sydney, the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), has welcomed the latest Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) investigation into NSW local council finances — but is urging IPART to undertake a rigorous review of how Federal and State level policy impacts the financial sustainability of Councils.

On 30 January, the NSW Minister for Local Government Ron Hoenig announced the government had asked IPART to examine the financial model for councils and key factors impacting councils’ financial sustainability.

“Our concern is the government’s draft terms of reference for the investigation omit critical external factors such as Federal and State Government policies that impact the financial model underpinning local government funding,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

“WSROC supports the NSW Government undertaking a rigorous review into the financial resilience of Councils but urges it to focus not just on what can be done better by councils but also on how Federal and State level policy impacts the financial resilience and sustainability of Councils.rapidly growing population

“This is especially important at a time when local councils are under pressure from government to provide more housing, infrastructure and services for rapidly growing populations.

“For example, ‘cost shifting’ by the NSW Government and the Australian Government onto local councils in NSW in the financial year 2015/16 was estimated to have been $820 million — up from an estimated $380 million in 2005/06.

“The NSW Government is responsible for most of the cost shifting, however, with just two per cent attributed to the Australian Government.

“The increase is mainly driven by the NSW Government’s $800 million annual waste levy. 

“So, while the NSW Government shifts responsibility to local government for funding vital services and functions, it ensures the means to funding those services lie with itself.

“We are seeing growing community expectations regarding services and infrastructure delivery, and in a growing region such as Western Sydney, expectations far exceed what current funding mechanisms – in the form of rates, grants and developer contributions – can provide.

“Greater Western Sydney’s population is growing at such a rate that we will need to house more than one million additional people by 2036.

“To address long-term financial pressures and to deliver on community priorities, we especially need the Government to closely examine how Councils can achieve financial sustainability where community expectations are rising and the cost of providing services is increasing at a greater rate than revenue.

“Councils are especially sensitive to a growing liability for unfunded infrastructure - particularly in growth areas such as Western Sydney which is being impacted by growing costs as the climate changes, populations age, technology advances and work patterns change.

“The demand for ever more housing also compounds other significant challenges Western Sydney councils are dealing with, including finding ways to ensure our communities have access to reliable, and affordable energy and rebuilding local infrastructure after recent disasters such as floods and bushfires.

“In October 2019, the NSW Government’s independent, expert panel released a discussion paper, NSW Review of Federal Financial Relations, examining how the NSW and Commonwealth Governments can work to build a stronger economy, encourage state-led reform, and ultimately, deliver better value for taxpayers.

“WSROC is urging the NSW Government to examine how all three levels of government can work together to build a stronger economy and, ultimately, deliver reform that offers better value for taxpayers and ratepayers.

“Particular focus should be given to finding a fairer, more efficient, and more reliable system of Commonwealth and State funding for local government,” said Councillor Calvert.

“A critical shortcoming of the current approach is the lack of focus on how councils’ financial relations with the state and federal governments impact the delivery of both infrastructure and services.

“Ad hoc grants programs must be replaced by longer-term funding streams that are fair and equitable. This will ultimately deliver better community outcomes because councils can plan better.

“As councils in Greater Western Sydney look to the future, the demands of population growth and other internal and external factors are putting ever greater financial pressure on them. Not the least of which is the constant cost-shifting from state to local government,” said Councillor Calvert.

Published in Media releases

Western Sydney councils are on track to save an additional $34 million in street lighting energy costs over the next five years, largely thanks to work by the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) and environmental consultancy Ironbark Sustainability.

The savings come after a joint submission by WSROC and Ironbark in response to proposed council street lighting tariffs by Endeavour Energy for the 2024-2029 period.

Endeavour Energy is the electricity distributor for much of Greater Western Sydney, including supplying electricity for streetlights in nine of the region’s council areas.

Western Sydney is one of the most rapidly growing regions in Australia; home to 2.4 million people with its population expected to increase to 4.1 million by 2041.

In their submission to the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), WSROC and Ironbark challenged Endeavour Energy’s cost estimates for the maintenance of its streetlighting network in Western Sydney.Liverpool Councillor Karress Rhodes, Blacktown Mayor Tony Bleasdale, and Endeavour Energy Business Services GM Andrew Pitman with a new energy saving LED streetlight

“Endeavour Energy, to their credit, worked collaboratively with WSROC, Ironbark and the AER to propose changes to the streetlight tariffs, reducing the overall cost to councils by $34 million.

“Public street lighting costs ratepayers millions of dollars each year, dominating councils’ energy costs,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

“So, anything councils can do to lower the costs of streetlighting will allow them to redirect funding to other projects, infrastructure and wider services.”

“The combined work of WSROC and Ironbark has significantly contributed to the revised position by Endeavour, and we are grateful for that.

“The Australian Energy Regulator determination refers to the WSROC and Ironbark submission in several places, particularly in relation to Endeavour Energy’s estimate of its corporate overheads.

“As a result, Endeavour Energy proposed to revise its divisional and corporate overhead rate from 129.43 per cent to 65.0 per cent." 

“Overall, the impact of the changes is to reduce average operating tariffs by 27 per cent and operating and capital tariffs by 17 per cent from those originally proposed by Endeavour.

The nine communities to benefit in Western Sydney are Blacktown City, Blue Mountains City, Camden, Cumberland City, Hawkesbury City, The Hills Shire, Lithgow City, Liverpool City and City of Parramatta local government areas.

This work is part of the Western Sydney Energy Program, a WSROC-coordinated collaboration between Western Sydney councils to reduce energy use and emissions across the region. 

Ironbark Sustainability has worked with councils and their communities for nearly two decades to reduce greenhouse emissions, tackle climate change and implement sustainability projects and programs.

WSROC also participates in Endeavour Energy’s Peak Customer and Stakeholder Committee meetings and is an independent member of the Regulatory Reference Group that provides feedback to Endeavour Energy and the Australian Energy Regulator as part of an agreed engagement process in the drafting of Endeavour Energy’s Draft Revenue Proposal 2024 – 2029.

***

Published in Media releases

WSROC has welcomed the NSW Government’s announcement of a review into the financial model for local government to address rising cost pressures facing councils across the state – but urges fairness and equity.

On Tuesday (30 January), the NSW Minister for Local Government Ron Hoenig announced the government has asked the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to examine the financial model for councils and key factors impacting councils’ financial sustainability.

“WSROC, the peak body representing councils in Greater Western Sydney, has for years been urging the NSW Government to review not only its rate-pegging methodology but to look more broadly at the financial resilience of councils,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

“To address long-term financial pressures and to deliver on community priorities, we especially need the Government to closely examine how Councils can achieve financial sustainability where community expectations are rising and the cost of providing services is increasing at a greater rate than revenue.

“In October 2019, the NSW Government’s independent, expert panel released a discussion paper, NSW Review of Federal Financial Relations, examining how the NSW and Commonwealth Governments can work to build a stronger economy, encourage state-led reform, and ultimately, deliver better value for taxpayers.

WSROC has been urging the NSW Government to examine how all three levels of government can work together to build a stronger economy and, ultimately, deliver reform that offers better value for taxpayers and ratepayers.

“Particular focus should be given to finding a fairer, more efficient, and more reliable system of Commonwealth and State funding for local government,” said Councillor Calvert.

“We consider such an independent review could provide greater transparency of councils’ financial sustainability.

“A critical shortcoming of the NSW Government’s approach is the lack of focus on how councils’ financial relations with the state and federal governments impact the delivery of both infrastructure and services.

“Ad hoc, sometimes politically expedient, grants programs must be replaced by longer-term funding streams that are fair and equitable. This will ultimately deliver better community outcomes because councils can plan better. 

“Greater Western Sydney’s population is growing at such a rate that we will need to house more than one million additional people by 2036.

“As councils in Greater Western Sydney look to the future, the demands of population growth and other internal and external factors are putting ever greater financial pressure on them. Not the least of which is the constant cost-shifting from state to local government.

“They must also cope with a range of increased levies, such as the Emergency Services Levy, the introduction of State mandated services such as the introduction of FOGO waste services and the continually rising costs of asset maintenance.

“Another galling example is the government forcing councils to fully account for Rural Fire Service assets they neither own nor control — an accounting ploy that makes council ledgers look worse and State Government accounts look better.Bushfires BellsLineRd Credit Hawkesbury City Council SMALL

“Western Sydney councils, like other councils around NSW, have been increasingly burdened by state and federal governments’ expectation that they make a greater contribution towards program delivery.

“In addition, we have seen growing community expectations regarding services and infrastructure delivery, and in a growing region such as Western Sydney, these expectations far exceed what current funding mechanisms – in the form of rates, grants and developer contributions - can provide.

“Recent IPART and Productivity Commission reviews into local government, such as IPART’s ‘Review of Domestic Waste Management Charges’, have taken a piece-meal approach to local government funding, and this limited scope fails to capture ‘whole of business impacts’ or ‘whole of sector’ outcomes.

“Councils are especially sensitive to a growing liability for unfunded infrastructure - whether ‘social’, ‘green’ or ‘grey’ - especially in growth areas such as Western Sydney and significant and growing costs as the climate changes, populations age, technology advances and work patterns change.

“The demand for ever more housing also compounds other significant challenges our councils are dealing with including finding ways to ensure our communities have access to sustainable, reliable, and affordable energy; rebuild local infrastructure after recent disasters such as floods and bushfires; provide reliable and sustainable transport solutions, and so much more.

“While Western Sydney councils are determined to keep rates as low as possible, we are also required to deliver services and infrastructure that our communities expect and deserve.

“We simply cannot do this with a system that appears to be incapable of pre-empting or reacting to a rapidly changing economic landscape.”

“It would be timely for the NSW Government to initiate an independent investigation into the financial model for councils in NSW, including the broader issues highlighted in the Tribunal’s report. It can’t come quick enough!”

Published in Media releases

The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) has welcomed the announcement by the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) of long overdue reforms to its council rate-pegging methodology, the method by which council rates are capped.

“The proposed new rate peg methodology is both simpler and more realistic than the old method and will hopefully result in council rates that more accurately reflect the changing costs to councils of providing services to their communities,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

WSROC, the peak body representing councils in the Greater Western Sydney region, has for the better part of half a decade been urging the State Government to review not only its rate-pegging methodology but to look more broadly at the financial resilience of Councils.

“We are particularly heartened by IPART’s statement that it would be timely for the NSW Government to initiate an independent investigation into the financial model for councils in NSW, including the broader issues highlighted in the Tribunal’s report on the rate peg methodology.

“To address long-term financial pressures and to deliver on community priorities, we especially need such an independent investigation to closely examine how Councils can achieve financial sustainability where community expectations are rising and the cost of providing services is increasing at a greater rate than revenue.

“In October 2019, the NSW Government’s independent, expert panel released a discussion paper, NSW Review of Federal Financial Relations, examining how the NSW and Commonwealth Governments can work to build a stronger economy, encourage state-led reform, and ultimately, deliver better value for taxpayers.

WSROC has been urging the State Government for a similar review that should examine how all three levels of government can work together to build a stronger economy, encourage reform across all three levels of government, and ultimately, deliver better value for taxpayers and ratepayers.

“Particular focus should be given to finding a fairer, more efficient, and more reliable system of Commonwealth and State funding for local government,” said Councillor Calvert.

“We consider such an independent review could provide greater transparency of councils’ financial sustainability.

“A critical shortcoming of the NSW government’s 2019 discussion paper was its lack of focus on the part played by local government in delivering the services that communities need, and how councils’ financial relations with the state and federal governments impact the delivery of both infrastructure and services.

“In WSROC’s view, any review of the public sector’s capacity to deliver better outcomes for taxpayers and ratepayers must include local government; the primary delivery vehicle of many state and federal programs.

“Ad hoc, sometimes politically expedient, grants programs must be replaced by longer-term programs that are fair and equitable, and that ultimately deliver better community outcomes because Councils can plan better. 

“Greater Western Sydney’s population is growing at such a rate that we will need to house more than one million additional people by 2036.

“As councils in Greater Western Sydney look to the future, the demands of population growth and other internal and external factors are putting ever greater financial pressure on them. Not the least of which is the constant cost-shifting from State to Local Government.

“They must also cope with a range of increased levies, such as the Emergency Services Levy, the introduction of State mandated services such as the introduction of FOGO waste services and the continually rising costs of asset maintenance.

“Western Sydney councils, like other councils around NSW, have been increasingly burdened by the expectation from state and federal governments that councils make a greater contribution towards program delivery.

“In addition, we have seen growing community expectations regarding services and infrastructure delivery, and in a growing region such as Western Sydney, these expectations far exceed what current funding mechanisms – in the form of rates, grants and developer contributions - can provide.

“Recent IPART and Productivity Commission reviews into local government, such as IPART’s ‘Review of Domestic Waste Management Charges’, have taken a piece-meal approach to local government funding, and this limited scope fails to capture ‘whole of business impacts’ or ‘whole of sector’ outcomes.

“Councils are especially sensitive to a growing liability for unfunded infrastructure - whether ‘social’, ‘green’ or ‘grey’ - especially in growth areas such as Western Sydney and significant and growing costs as the climate changes, populations age, technology advances and work patterns change.

“The demand for ever more housing also compounds other significant challenges our councils are dealing with including finding ways to ensure our communities have access to sustainable, reliable, and affordable energy; rebuild local infrastructure after recent disasters such as floods and bushfires; provide reliable and sustainable transport solutions, and so much more.

“While Western Sydney councils are determined to keep rates as low as possible, we are also required to deliver services and infrastructure that our communities expect and deserve.

“We simply cannot do this with a system that appears to be incapable of pre-empting or reacting to a rapidly changing economic landscape.”

“IPART has gotten it very right. It would be timely for the NSW Government to initiate an independent investigation into the financial model for councils in NSW, including the broader issues highlighted in the Tribunal’s report. It can’t come quick enough!”

Published in Media releases

The President of Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), Councillor Barry Calvert, has rejected suggestions that councils are responsible for a slowdown in housing development applications in New South Wales and has called on the NSW Government to improve the overall performance of the state planning system.

“Councils in NSW have approved more than 85,000 new homes in the last 12 months alone — representing 97 per cent of all housing applications submitted to councils. Clearly, councils are fully and actively engaged in processing housing approvals,” said Councillor Calvert.

“The state's housing crisis is a complex issue with multiple contributing factors and blaming councils trivialises the problem.”Housing estate in Western Sydney seen from the air

“The housing crisis in NSW has not been caused by councils but is influenced by factors including shortages of construction materials and labour, rising interest rates, and now falling housing prices.

“Successive failures by NSW governments to consult with local councils are complicating the housing approval process.

“For example, the NSW Government’s e-planning portal through which home-builders prepare, lodge and track development applications was created with very little local government consultation and has been a disaster for local government and home-builders.

“The e-portal has layers of complexity for home-builders, has increased the administrative burden on local government and is plagued by substantial performance deficiencies.

“The e-portal is more like an outdated document management system than a sophisticated and comprehensive e-planning tool.

“Also, I get the impression from home builders that staff turnover in the State Public Service and the difficulty and delays in getting responses from government agencies are contributing to delays and lack of responsiveness in processing housing applications at the Department of Planning.

“The sheer number of agencies and functions within the NSW Department of Planning and Environment cluster, too, is not conducive to efficient Government.

“The span of control and the roles and responsibilities of the Department does not allow for effective oversight of those processes responsible for delivering the State’s planning outcomes.

“Western Sydney councils are urging a review of the State public service’s end-to-end processes and capabilities to identify delays to planning outcomes. 

WSROC has proposed a range of actions the government can take to address the housing and homelessness crisis, including investing in public and social housing, incentivizing owners to return housing stock to the rental market, working closely with councils and communities to plan density effectively, and addressing industry and market barriers to housing supply.

“Solving the housing crisis will require the cooperation of all levels of government rather than finger-pointing, and local government is ready to play its role in addressing the issue,” said Councillor Calvert.

“There’s a need for a more comprehensive and cooperative approach to addressing the housing crisis in New South Wales, involving all stakeholders, rather than placing blame solely on local councils.

Published in Media releases
Friday, 29 September 2023 15:33

Helping councils plan for heatwaves

WSROC, in partnership with Resilient Sydney, has kicked off development of a Heatwave Management Guide to support Greater Sydney councils better prepare for heat.

The Guide is one of a series of projects funded under the Greater Sydney Heat Taskforce.

The Greater Sydney Heat Taskforce is funded under the joint Australian Government — NSW Government National Partnership Agreement on Disaster Risk Reduction.

WSROC President, Clr Barry Calvert said:

 “The need for practical guidance to support local heatwave planning preparedness has never been higher.

“Council staff have told WSROC they are increasingly concerned about the impacts of heat on council operations and community wellbeing.

“Unfortunately, there are currently no standard risk assessment, guidance, or risk management protocols to support councils planning for heat events – whether low intensity or extreme heatwaves.

Councillor Calvert noted that while councils don’t have a clearly defined role in NSW’s emergency arrangements for heatwave, they still need to manage heat impacts.

“Councils have a responsibility to manage community and staff safety across our facilities and ensure business continuity of essential services such as waste, childcare centres and community transport,” he said.

“We know that communities expect councils to support them during times of extreme heat, whether through formal programs or more informal measures such as extending opening hours of cool council facilities.

“Councils need practical, evidence-based guidance to help us understand our options and manage limited resources effectively. This is what the Guide hopes to provide,” said Clr Calvert.

The Heatwave Management Guide will be designed by councils, for councils. We are currently seeking input from staff across all areas of council operations to understand the types of resources, information and guidance they would find useful. This includes areas such as:

  • Emergency and resilience planning
  • Facilities management
  • Community development
  • Communications
  • Governance and administration
  • Strategic planning
  • Human resources

I encourage all councils grappling with this issue to get involved in the Heatwave Management Guide.

Have your say

User needs survey:

The below survey has been designed to help us understand current practice and user needs across all areas of council operations. It takes around 7 minutes to complete.

Survey link here.

 

Co-design workshops:

WSROC will also be running a series of workshops with council staff to help develop the content of the guide. Workshops will cover a range of disciplinary areas. If you would be interested in participating in one of these workshops please contact Kelly Gee (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Published in WSROC news stories

The peak body representing councils in Greater Western Sydney, the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), has applauded the Minns government’s 2023-2024 budget focus on critical infrastructure and housing affordability.

However, Western Sydney councils are urging Premier Minns to meet with them to find better ways to fund the long-term needs of Western Sydney’s rapidly growing population.

“The government’s announcement of a $2.2 billion Housing Infrastructure Plan is a welcome step in the right direction, especially the Minns government’s $1.5 billion commitment to build infrastructure such as roads, parks, hospitals and schools to support the construction of new homes across Sydney,” said WSROC President, Councillor Barry Calvert.

“Our member councils were very pleased, too, to hear of the government’s $3 billion commitment for long-overdue new and upgraded hospitals in Western Sydney.

“I know, too, many struggling Western Sydney families have welcomed the Premier’s announcement of a $60 weekly toll cap on motorways, as well as the $1 billion investment Sydney Metro City and South West rapid transit project and the $300 million to upgrade trains stations across the transport network to make them more accessible.

“Greater Western Sydney’s population is growing at such a rapid rate that we will need to house more than one million additional people by 2031.

“So, the government’s new $ 38 million Faster Planning Program, $ 224 million Essential Housing Package and $2.2 billion Housing and Infrastructure Plan will all help address the historic neglect of new housing supply across Western Sydney.

“However, our councils will need to find the funds to provide the infrastructure to support housing development to accommodate that extra million people arriving in Western Sydney over the next eight years.

“By 2031, Western Sydney will have more than three million residents. And it will surpass four million by 2041.

“That means the $1.5 billion the government has promised to build infrastructure works out at just $375 per man, woman and child in Australia’s most rapidly growing area.

“That won’t be near enough — and somehow councils will have to find the additional billions of dollars needed to address Western Sydney’s infrastructure and liveability needs.

“The demands of population growth are also putting ever greater financial pressure on councils already trying to cope with a range of increased levies and the rising costs of asset maintenance.

“I’m calling on Premier Minns to meet with WSROC and our member councils to find a way to fix the ongoing financial sustainability crisis confronting local government and does nothing to address the restrictions it puts on council operations and services.

“While Western Sydney councils are determined to keep rates as low as possible, we are also required to deliver services and infrastructure that our communities expect and deserve.

“As councils look to the future, the demands of population growth and other internal and external factors are putting ever greater financial pressure on them.

“Councils and ratepayers will incur significant costs to meet this requirement, with grants provided to councils and fees and charges for council services covering only part of the costs incurred.

“We need the NSW government to join with councils in re-thinking the methodology it employs to calculate the financial needs of councils, including so-called ‘rate capping’.

“With the current annual inflation rate now at nearly 7.0 per cent, the 3.7 per cent rate cap represents a decrease in local communities’ real spending power.

“We need robust, well-resourced councils to ensure that we can deliver for communities – roads libraries, swimming pools and sports fields,” said Councillor Calvert.

Published in Media releases
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