May was a month for collaboration.
In New South Wales (NSW) a number of regional councils voluntarily aligned in regional groups creating Joint Organisations (JOs) which will align planning and development goals and add scale, weight and ambition to projects for regional advancement.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW, John Barilaro, in November 2017 when announcing the new laws to enable the JOs, said, “Councils choosing to take up this option will get a seat at the table in planning infrastructure and investment for their region, with support and funding from the State Government.”
The inducement has worked as the 2015 pilot project involved 66 councils making up five JOs, which has now grown to 74 councils and 11 JOs, which will become operational in July 2018.
The attention of the new organisations will be given regional priorities including improving freight transport, prioritising infrastructure, attracting investment and increasing (youth) employment.
Meanwhile in Tasmania, the Councils of Circular Head and Waratah-Wynyard have entered into a new five-year resource sharing agreement continuing their existing arrangement that has run since 2010.
While there is still disagreement on the surety that economies of scale always result in efficiency and savings, Tasmanian councils have had success with personnel sharing (Waratah-Wynyard), implementing training across regions (Brighton, Sorell, Tasman, Central Highlands and Southern Midlands councils) and joining forces to drive regional investment (the northern councils).
With all the acrimony, distress and money wasted on legal fees brought about by forced amalgamations, the plethora of harmonious and successful resource and service sharing agreements in existence should point the way forward to achieving such collaboration in the future.