Canberra Region Joint Organisation meets with ministers

Canberra Region Joint Organisation chair and Yass Valley mayor Rowena Abbey prepares for ministerial meetings in Sydney this week. Photo: Melissa Adams
Canberra Region Joint Organisation chair and Yass Valley mayor Rowena Abbey prepares for ministerial meetings in Sydney this week. Photo: Melissa Adams

Drought assistance, water and transport links are high on the agenda for the Canberra Region Joint Organisation's (CRJO) meetings with state ministers in Sydney this week.

The mayor and general manager of Bega Valley, Eurobodalla, Goulburn Mulwaree, Hilltops, Queanbeyan-Palerang, Snowy Monaro, Snowy Valleys, Upper Lachlan, Wingecarribee and Yass Valley Councils will attend the meetings and have a chance to ask questions about their local government areas.

New South Wales minister for water Melinda Pavey will meet the CRJO on Wednesday and six other ministers will meet the CRJO on Thursday, following the Local Government NSW Annual Conference 2019 on Monday and Tuesday in Warwick Farm.

There are about 58 water and water waste projects across the Canberra Region and the councils will propose completing the projects together to Mrs Pavey, CRJO chair and Yass Valley mayor Rowena Abbey said.

"A lot of these projects had funding commitments in the last election, so the government wants us to spend the money, but there is a lack of resources to deliver them," Cr Abbey said.

Part of the problem is attracting skilled workers such as engineers into the regions to complete the projects, Cr Abbey said.

"We're competing with Western Sydney Aerotropolis and Snowy Hydro 2.0, which attract highly skilled employees," she said.

"So, if there are three new water treatment plants of a similar design that need building, why not try to do all three together?"

By grouping projects together, the CRJO hopes tenders will become more attractive to contractors and to reduce costs, Cr Abbey said.

"It's public money so we've got to make sure it's spent right," she said.

Construction of the new Yass water treatment plant could be one of the projects combined under the one contractor, Cr Abbey said.

On Thursday, the councils will meet with the New South Wales:

  • Minister for transport and roads Andrew Constance;
  • Deputy premier John Barilaro;
  • Minister for local government Shelley Hancock;
  • Minister for water Melinda Pavey for a second time;
  • Minister for regional transport and roads Paul Toole;
  • Minister for agriculture Adam Marshall;
  • Minister for planning and public spaces Rob Stokes;
  • Department of Planning, Industry and Environment secretary Jim Betts; and
  • Shadow minister for local government, Western Sydney and veterans Greg Warren.

The councils gave questions on notice to the ministers and staffers, and will expect answers on Thursday.

They have asked why some councils in the CRJO, including Yass Valley and Queanbeyan-Palerang, missed out on recent drought funding and what the NSW Government's plans are for the drought.

"It's not just the drought now, but the recovery time," Cr Abbey said.

The CRJO will also be asking Mr Marshall about the government's plans to cull kangaroos and brumbies and address obnoxious weeds.

Questions about the progress of the Barton Highway duplication, Canberra to Eden transport links and bridge upgrades across the Canberra Region, and whether dirt roads to Snowy Hydro 2.0 will be upgraded. will be directed to Mr Constance and Mr Toole.

There will also be discussion around upskilling people in the Canberra Region to prepare for jobs at Snowy Hydro 2.0 and replace those who leave. The councils will propose cadet programs and new TAFE courses.

The councils will be asking Mrs Hancock about reducing local government election fees, which are set to go up by 34 per cent in Bega Valley and Eurobodalla and by 32 per cent in Goulburn Mulwaree, the increasing emergency services levies and audit fees, Cr Abbey said.

"We're not against paying the levies or having the audits, but we want more transparency if it's going on our rate bases," Cr Abbey said.

These meetings take place once a year and are, "an opportunity to sit across the table from ministers and discuss the issues the councils in our region are facing," Cr Abbey said.

"It's really hard for the 13 councils to get individual meetings with ministers. Plus, we have a bigger voice if we do things together," she said.

Australian Community Media will follow up with Cr Abbey to discuss the outcomes of the meetings.