Queanbeyan City Council seeks community's thoughts on Fit for the Future options

15 May 2015

Queanbeyan City Council has today commenced a 28-day community consultation program regarding the NSW Government's Fit for the Future initiative.

The Fit for the Future initiative is the NSW Government's response to the Independent Local Government Review Panel's report into the future of local government. The Panel's report, which was finalised in 2013, recommended a merger between Queanbeyan and Palerang councils.

"For the past 6-7 months, Queanbeyan City Council has been discussing the Fit for the Future initiative with staff, Palerang Council and a consultant," Queanbeyan Mayor, Cr Tim Overall said. "We are putting forward three possible options for the community to consider and would really like their feedback before we move forward and make our submission to the Minister of Local Government."

"In developing these options, Council had to take into consideration the criteria that have been implemented by the NSW Government in regard to financial sustainability and also scale and capacity."

The three options Council is presenting to the community are:

Option 1 - Regional Services Provider:

This would enable Queanbeyan City Council to remain stand-alone and also provide a number of 'back office' services to Palerang and other neighbouring councils. This option would currently meet six of the seven benchmark criteria and would achieve the seventh criteria by 2018-19.

Option 2 - Queanbeyan-Palerang merger:

This option would only meet two of the seven benchmark criteria and would see Queanbeyan take on Palerang's $82 million asset renewal backlog and the merger entity would have operational deficits of up to $8.9m per year.

This option would also result in job losses in Queanbeyan. Palerang staff are protected under Section 218CA of the Local Government Act as they have regional centres with populations less than 5,000. An independent report suggested a significant number of jobs would be lost from Queanbeyan. Under the Local Government Act, staff positions are preserved for three years after a merger is implemented.

Option 3 - Both councils stand-alone

Queanbeyan could meet six of the seven benchmark criteria and would achieve the seventh by 2019-20, while Palerang would only achieve three of the seven.

As the NSW Government is laying the foundation for a stronger and more viable local government sector and given the Independent Review Panel has identified Palerang as having a long-term unsustainable outlook the Government could well consider other options should a voluntary Merger option not be supported by respective communities and Councillors.

"As has been highlighted in the information Queanbeyan City Council has developed, all three options have their advantages and disadvantages and we are keen to hear the community's thoughts on the options," Cr Overall said.

The consultation program will run from Friday 15 May until Friday 12 June 2015 and residents can provide their feedback in the following ways:

  • Online survey at qccoldsite.staging.elcomcms.com
  • Hard copy survey available at Council's Customer Service Centre and at the Library
  • Reply paid survey - sent with information pack to all ratepayers
  • Community Forum on Tuesday 2 June 2015 at Council Chambers, 257 Crawford St from 5.30-7pm
  • Community Forum on Tuesday 2 June 2015 at Fernleigh Park Community Hall, Swan Drive Googong from 5.30-7pm
  • Telephone survey - random sample survey conducted as part of Council's regular Customer Satisfaction Survey

"Council will be sending an information pack and reply paid survey to all ratepayers in the Queanbeyan Local Govenment Area, with information expected to hit letterboxes in the week ending 29 May. All of the information will also be available on Council's website during the consultation period and at Customer Service and the Queanbeyan Library," Cr Overall said.

Background

An Independent Local Government Review Panel was established in April 2012 to examine the options for establishing a stronger and more effective system of local government within NSW. The Panel produced its final report (Revitalising Local Government) in October 2013. An Independent Local Government Review Panel was established in April 2012 to examine the options for establishing a stronger and more effective system of local government within NSW. The Panel produced its final report (Revitalising Local Government) in October 2013.

The State Government responded with the ‘Fit for the Future’ initiative which is a $1 billion package of incentives to encourage councils to take on board the recommendations and to look at ways to achieve sustainability into the future.

Councils have been requested to look at their current situation and consider the future needs of their communities in relation to the recommendations made in the Panel’s final report. Councils are required to prepare a submission by 30 June 2015 which will be assessed by an independent expert panel that will make recommendations to the Minister of Local Government for final implementation towards the end of this year.