Wednesday 23rd Sep, 2020

Baird’s council busting good for freight: ALC

Michael Kilgariff, managing director, Australian Logistics Council. Photo: Oliver Probert
Photo: Oliver Probert

The Australian Logistics Council says New South Wales Premier Mike Baird’s controversial plan to merge scores of councils following a review by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.

ALC managing director Michael Kilgariff said the IPART report, ‘Fit for Future’ showed the system of local government in NSW “is broken and needs urgent repair”.

IPART found 71% of councils in metropolitan Sydney are ‘not fit’, primarily because they did not propose a merger with a neighbouring council, despite clear benefits which would help them become ‘fit’ in the future.

It made the same finding of 56% of regional councils, primarily due to not proposing a merger despite clear benefits, ongoing deficits, or both.

Kilgariff says it’s about time attention was paid to the state’s local government system.

“The logistics industry agrees with the report’s recommendation to merge councils that are deemed ‘not fit’ as a way to improve the delivery of major infrastructure, achieve more efficient service delivery and to better integrate strategic planning and policy,” he said.

“As the report card indicates, there is a need to enhance the scale and capacity of local councils to improve how they deliver services to both local communities and industry, and the logistics industry is a good case in point.

“All too often, and to the frustration of the industry, councils take different approaches to such things as ‘last mile’ access, the loading and unloading of goods, delivery curfews and other restrictions which impact on the efficient movement of freight.”

Kilgariff said a lack of size meant many local governments did not have the skills and resources to make sensible or well-informed decisions when it comes to infrastructure.

“Merging councils would not only bring with it economies of scale, it would help to deliver more ‘joined up thinking’ on such matters as road access decisions, planning and curfews,” he added.

Premier Baird said four years of independent research from IPART showed the situation was now “critical,” and that “the current system of local government is not working as well as it should be”.

IPART’s report found reducing waste and red tape through government mergers could free up close to $2 billion over the next 20 years for NSW ratepayers, which could in turn stabilise council rates and fund better services and new infrastructure.

“For many councils this is a final opportunity to do the right thing for the future of their communities, which in many cases may include merging with neighbouring councils,” Baird said.

NSW local government minister Paul Toole said that despite numerous council-commissioned business cases showing the potential benefits of mergers, the majority of councils had resisted change.

Toole said many councils had proposed rate increases to improve their financial performance, noting 32 councils had proposed a rate rise to ‘get fit’, including 15 who had proposed rises above 30%.

Just two merger proposals were received from metropolitan councils during the IPART review.

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