NSW LGA meets in Dubbo

In welcoming over 900 delegates to the 1999 NSW Local Government Association Annual Conference, Mayor Gerry Peacocke said Dubbo was an ideal location to host such an event. Located at the crossroads of the major highways west of the Blue Mountains, he said that Dubbo is not only a major service centre but very much the regional capital of New South Wales.

Following the opening ceremony at the Civic Centre, delegates were entertained at an evening function at Dubbo's world famous Western Plains Zoo. With the theme 'It's a Jungle out There', the Conference used Dubbo's popular tourist attraction to draw a parallel with Local Government's struggle to achieve a real partnership with the other spheres of government.

"Central governments must end their overbearing and arrogant belief that there is a hierarchy of importance," said LGA President, Peter Woods. "The three spheres of government must understand reciprocity and cooperation. One sphere is no more important than the other. We have different but complementary roles.

"The question each sphere of government should ask is who can do what more efficiently." Peter Woods said that by better utilising the total resources of government, elected members in all spheres can better serve 'our greatest resource - the citizens of our democracy'.

Referring to the voluntary amalgamation process taking place in NSW, Peter Woods said, "We owe it to our communities to undertake a genuine process of structural reform. I continue to speak strongly against any process which is forced upon us. "Local Government must be allowed to get on with the process itself, free from interference by government bureaucrats."

Referring to the Deputy Premier, Andrew Refshauge's announcement, during his address to the Conference, of establishing a Mayoral Advisory Forum, Peter Woods said that this is the sort of partnership he is calling for 'where Local Government as the sphere closest to the people, takes its rightful place in our system of government'.

Delivering the theme address, the Deputy Premier referred to voter volatility. "The Victorian election should be a lesson to all of us - as new or returned Councillors or MPs, we cannot afford to be complacent and we cannot afford to act without involving our communities," he said.

As Minister for Urban Affairs and Housing, Andrew Refshauge said that in planning matters too often the neighbourhood has been left out of the development. "That is why we established the Urban Improvement Program in February this year," he said. "This is about creating better urban environments and quality public spaces."

Referring to Local Government's positive response to the program, he announced six Local Government projects that will be funded to the tune of $2 million over the next three years. "All these projects provide great opportunities between State agencies, Local Government and communities to manage urban change," the Deputy Premier said.

Announcing the establishment of the Mayoral Advisory Forum, he said that this will see regular meetings between himself and a group of Mayors to exchange ideas, discuss policy and enable Local Government to directly feed into how New South Wales is planned. "Local Government is a major player in implementing change," he said "As Planning Minister I need to hear from you."