The new Central NSW Joint Organisation of councils will be a strong voice for the region like its predecesor Centroc, but will be better placed to get results, the chairman of the organisation has said.
Central NSW launched with its inaugural meeting at NSW Parliament House last week, with a number of government ministers addressing representatives of the group, including chairman John Medcalf.
Mr Medcalf, the Lachlan Shire mayor, is the chairman of Centroc and was seen as the logical choice to also steer the new body, while Blayney mayor Scott Ferguson was elected deputy chairman.
Mr Medcalf said the group would continue to push state and federal governments on important issues such as improved road links to Sydney, better telecommunications, upgraded health facilities and continued development of regions.
While Centroc was a volunteer body, Central NSW JO is official and recognised by government, which would give it more weight with government, he said.
“The interaction with government will also be better. We had eight ministers come through the room [at launch] and speak to us and we think that is a sign of the communication we can expect going forward,” Mr Medcalf said.
There are 10 member councils in the Central NSW JO: Bathurst Regional Council, Blayney Shire Council, Cabonne Council, Cowra Shire Council, Forbes Shire Council, Lachlan Shire Council, Oberon Shire Council, Orange City Council, Parkes Shire Council and Weddin Shire Council.
Central Tablelands Water and the Department of Premier and Cabinet are also associate members.
There have been changes to the boundaries of the new body compared to Centroc. The state government has made it mandatory for JOs to follow the boundaries of Planning Regions, with only councils in that region able to be a full member.
Hilltops Council falls outside the Central NSW planning region and will join a South NSW JO when it is formed. However they will remain an informal part of the Central NSW JO and will be involved in discussions where relevant, Mr Medcalf said.
And while Mid-Western Regional Council was part of the pilot organisation, it will join an Orana JO when it is formed in the future.
The other major change from Centroc members was Lithgow council’s decision not to be involved. Mr Medcalf said it would be a decision Lithgow could regret but said it wasn’t too late for them to sign up.
“It is still possible for Lithgow to join. We wouldn’t shut the door on them. It’s sad they decided not to be involved but it wasn’t from a lack of trying on our part,” he said.
“In my opinion it is a decision that will hurt them.
“The government has already provided capital to become a JO and there is the remainder of the money from amalgamations that will flow to JOs so that money will benefit members.”