THE seemingly endless process of tinkering with local government models continues in the latest efforts to restructure local government in the far west of the state.
While it is certainly welcome to see an appetite from decision makers to actually address issues rather than sitting on their hands, the process is leaving us concerned as to what we might actually end up with at the end of the day.
For those that live in the far west of the state, the work being undertaken under the “Far West Initiative” (developed in response to recommendations from the Independent Local Government Review Panel as part of the Fit for the Future reform package) has the potential to make quite large changes to the way government services are delivered in these areas.
The Country Womens’ Association of NSW (CWA) will be making a submission to this review.
The initiative aims to combine eight councils “to deliver better ways of delivering services and infrastructure for the people of Far Western NSW”. Yet, to many of our members, it appears to merely add another level of unnecessary bureaucracy.
Our initial review of the consultation material raises a number of concerns for the CWA.
First and foremost, we are concerned with the lack of genuine consultation and transparency around the process to date.
Yes we are told there have been a few hand selected people and organisations from different regions that have come together for meetings to talk about us westerners.
But the meetings with the people that matter, the actual residents, have been left until the eleventh hour. There are also serious questions to be answered around where the funding for this new government body will come from?
It may well be that the initial aim for the Western Division had genuine intent. But there is a risk in what we are seeing proposed now will ultimately reduce services along with removing the democratic rights exercised and entitled by all electorates.
We believe a board made up of elected and unelected members, with differing ideas and needs, covering such a huge diverse area, will be unworkable.
Various claims that all councils will remain intact cannot be relied on as many of the services currently under council's jurisdiction will come under the responsibility of the Far West Initiative board.
Job losses are inevitable in a region which can ill afford reduced employment.
The attention and focus on better ways of doing things in the west is very welcome, but when government makes the leap to addressing what it believes to be the desirable outcome, without first defining the problem, there will always be issues.
Residents of the far west don’t want government to dictate to them what they think is best for their communities.
If we are to achieve real outcomes for communities in this area, then I have a relatively simply idea for the decision makers. Listen to the people that live there.