By VINNIE RODI
WENTWORTH Shire Councillor Jane MacAllister, PICTURED, has expressed grave concerns about the NSW Government’s proposed service delivery and governance plans for the Far West of the State.
According to a report tabled to Councillors at last week’s ordinary Council meeting, the NSW Government is planning to form two Joint Organisations (JO) in the Far West – one in the south and one in the north.
So far the State has formed 11 JOs across NSW, however until now no moves had been made in the Far West, which is made up of eight councils, including Wentworth.
Wentworth Shire Council general manager, Peter Kozlowski, and Wentworth Mayor Melisa Hederics, met with Deputy Premier John Barilaro on May 18 alongside representatives from all eight Far West councils, with the government presenting its governance model for the Far West at that meeting.
The NSW Government also outlined a funding package to make the two JOs a reality, including a number of one-off grants.
• $500,000 to establish an Executive Officer and support staff required.
• $250,000 for financial assistance towards contracting public works for planning support.
• $250,000 to update existing western roads, which is recognised by the NSW Roads and Maritime Services.
• $5million in tourism and culture funding towards a program which aims to build infrastructure that will drive growth in the visitor economy.
The NSW Government has also promised $8million in funding to re-establish air services to Cobar, Bourke and Walgett/Lighting Ridge as part of the move, with part of this funding to potentially become available to the two new Far West JOs to further improve airport infrastructure.
This could include helping to fund ongoing upgrades to the Wentworth Aerodrome – a project that has been on Council’s radar for several years, according to Mr Kozlowski.
All Councillors, except Cr MacAllister, agreed to ratify Council’s previous stance to become part of a four-Council JO alongside Balranald, Central Darling and Broken Hill, while also accepting the funding package put forward by the Government.
Cr MacAllister, however, said the move to form a JO was “dangerous”, and feared it could “end local councils as we know them.”
“No amount of money on the table is going to convince me that this is a good idea,” she said.
Mr Kozlowski also made it clear last week that the NSW Government’s move to establish two JOs in the Far West effectively meant the end of the Far West Initiative, which had been formed to bring councils, non-government organisations and key NSW and Australian Government agencies together.
The Far West Initiative Advisory Committee was established in August 2015 with representatives from each Far West council, including Wentworth Shire, the Murdi Paaki Regional Assembly, non-government service providers and the NSW and Commonwealth governments.
Wentworth Shire Council was represented by Cr Don McKinnon, with Mr Kozlowski attending as an observer.