TAMWORTH mayor Col Murray is helping to form a new super-group of councils which will lobby to the state government for a better deal in regional NSW.
It’s hoped the group will be formally up-and-running by the end of the year with up to 15 regional councils potentially interested in signing-on.
Inspired by the work of federal lobby group Regional Capitals Australia and interstate bodies in Victoria and Queensland, Cr Murray said regional NSW had been at a disadvantage with no seat at the table when it came to policy decisions.
“It’s more about having a seat at the table when it comes to regional policy,” Cr Murray told The Leader.
“We don’t have a collective voice to have a dialogue with the state government.”
He said the formation of the group had already been about eight months in the making and a working group with a number of general managers had been formed to help “take it to the next level”.
The Tamworth mayor was adamant the new group, which would impose a membership fee, wouldn’t undercut any work currently done by other council collectives, including Evocities, the Country Mayors Association and Local Government NSW.
“Absolutely not,” he said.
“It’s a good thing for regional councils to have a higher level of engagement with state government.
“There are other mechanisms, Evocities does have discussions with state government on specific issues.
“The Country Mayors Association has a platform to engage … But it represents about 50 councils and discussion is usually dominated by smaller shires.
“We have different issues.”
He said the group would likely be named ‘Regional Cities NSW’ and while it wasn’t set to target “specifics”, Cr Murray said it would hopefully become a go-to voice on regional policy development.
“We tend to function in arrears of policy making,” he said.
“We want to change that in get in front of it.”
While the group wasn’t out to champion specific items, Cr Murray said investment in infrastructure and development would be high on the agenda for a lot of the potential members with growing populations.
Regional Cities Victoria, an established body which does comparable work across the border, sees the mayors and chief executive officers from 10 regional councils collaborate with state government on policy.
They are billed as “the 10 largest cities in regional Victoria”, including Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Horsham, Latrobe, Mildura, Shepparton, Wangaratta, Warrnambool and Wodonga.
One of its key aims is: “Develop long-term policy positions that support and encourage the growth of regional Victoria in its own right, that develop the regions as a viable alternative to metropolitan Melbourne, and that encourage, enable and support government to deliver these policies”.
Cr Murray said the list of NSW members would be revealed later in the year.