Coffs Council votes in favour of joining JO despite concerns
AFTER some debate, Coffs Harbour Council has made the decision to become part of a Joint Organisation, a rather new concept which was passed by the NSW Government in November last year.
At this week's Council Meeting, 7 out of 9 councillors voted in favour of pursuing the formation of a JO which includes Bellingen Shire, Clarence Valley, and Nambucca Shire Councils.
According to the State Government, the benefits of JO's include better alignment of state, regional and local priorities; improved collaboration between councils; and stronger recognition of the role of local government in regional planning.
The initial recommendation to join a JO with the addition of Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and Kempsey Shire Council was rejected over an alternate recommendation made by Cr Sally Townley.
"I'm sure we all feel a sense of uncertainty on Joint Organisations, it's brand new, we don't really know what they are about," she said.
"One of the key criteria for forming a JO is about having a community of interests."
"I know there's a fear that if we don't play along with what the overlords want us to do we may be left out but I really feel that it's a low risk.
"We need to be clear that our loyalty is to our local government area and if we were to become part of a JO we need to choose which configuration (of councils) would best serve the needs of our community."
Cr Keith Rhoades agreed with Cr Townley.
"I share the same concern of two major regional centres in one room competing for that tin of money in the middle," he said.
"This is about the NSW Government not wanting to deal with 120 councils. This is about all the government agencies of health, education and all those others that want to deal with a dozen or so JO's, it makes life easier for them.
"We could find ourselves on the very outer of getting funding... It's our nature to do that, to source every dollar and cent for our community, so does that mean we will be loggerheads with our neighbours down south?"
Cr Jan Strom and Cr George Cecato voted against the recommendation.
JO's are being rolled out across regional NSW under a strategic plan developed by the University of Technology Sydney Centre for Local Government.
The JO, if approved by the Minister for Local Government and proclaimed, is expected to be operational by July 2018.