$20M carrot for council to join others in the west

Deputy Premier John Barilaro has offered a $20 million “carrot” for councils in the state’s Far West to establish two Joint Organisations (JOs).

He said the money could be used to fund air services, better roads, tourism and culture projects in the region.

Mr Barilaro made the announcement at a meeting of representatives from eight Far West councils (including Cobar’s mayor Lilliane Brady) at Parliament House in Sydney last week.

“As Minister for Regional NSW, I recognise the unique needs and challenges of the vast Far West which covers almost half the land area of NSW,” Mr Barilaro said.

“We’ve put millions of dollars on the table to help encourage councils in the Far West to voluntarily join a Joint Organisation,” he said.

Late last year the NSW Government introduced legislation to allow local councils in regional NSW to join forces and voluntarily form JOs.

So far, 90 per cent of councils across regional NSW have already volunteered to join a JO.

Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries said JOs are designed to improve the collaboration between local councils and the NSW Government on important regional projects, and in turn improve service delivery for people in rural and remote areas.

“Joint Organisations in the far west would mean better collaboration across government, which would lead to better planning and more big-picture projects,” Mr Humphries said.

The NSW Government is encouraging the far west councils to join one of two far west JOs– north and south.

The proposed funding package includes: $250,000 to each JO to update existing road plans in their region; $500,000 to each JO to employ an executive officer and support staff; $250,000 to each JO towards planning support with NSW Public Works; $5million to each JO to invest in tourism and culture infrastructure projects to grow the visitor economy; and funding to re-establish air services to Cobar, Bourke and Lightning Ridge or Walgett with the opportunity to upgrade airport facilities in both the north and south.

Mr Barilaro said four of the far west councils have already committed to a JO in the south and he encouraged remaining councils to consider the opportunities in the north.

“The NSW Government has been working with these councils for some time, and I hope today’s commitment shows we are serious about seeing strong and effective local government in the far west,” Mr Barilaro said.

“We are doing everything we can to make regional NSW a location of choice, where people can get great jobs, run great businesses and enjoy a great lifestyle – and a commitment from Far West councils to join a Joint Organisation would no doubt go a long way in helping achieve that,” he said.