New Collaboration Is Good But Not Enough For Communities
While the NSW local government sector broadly welcomes the new voluntary Joint Organisation legislation being introduced by the NSW Government, Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW says there is no need to wait for this final legislation. There is a lot more right now, that all NSW councils can do to develop a clearer picture of their entire region’s capacity in preparation for taking up the option - available from July 1 next year.
Local Government Professionals Australia, NSW Chief Executive Officer Annalisa Haskell has great confidence in regional councils to work together but says they need the right tools to make real change happen.
“It’s not enough to just say you are ‘collaborative’ councils and regions should ideally follow best practice because it’s here now. Three NSW regions are analytically engaging with each other in developing a much deeper data-enabled understanding about their council, their council in context of their region and their region overall. Without data as a foundation for their joint decision making it’s impossible to truly create and deliver the best possible regional community outcomes,” Ms Haskell said.
This year LG Professionals, NSW has launched a new analytical tool within the groundbreaking Australasian LG Performance Measurement Program providing not just councils, but now entire regions with the opportunity to boost their capability for collaboration, and already an impressive number of pro-active councils are leveraging this asset.
“In NSW, the Canberra Joint Organisation (CBRJO) is the latest region taking up the Regional Window feature bringing the total number of participating councils to nineteen after the NSW MIDROC and NOROC regional groups took it on, and it is also thrilling that in NZ, the Northland Region has now joined,” Ms Haskell said.
“These four regions are leading the way in safely opening their ‘books’ to each other ditching any sense of patch protection and supporting their Executive Officers in being able to plan ahead with more empirical data to hand. Having a strong evidence base will enable the strategic model for long-term regional collaboration – whether metropolitan or regional/rural areas.”
Canberra Joint Organisation now uses strong data foundation
As one of the five Joint Organisations trialled in NSW, CBRJO has had first-hand experience to understand the great potential that data-based evidence has to contribute to success in regional collaboration. Yass Valley Council General Manager and CBRJO General Manager Advisory Committee Chair, David Rowe says their councils share a lot of the same issues and they are covering some exciting ground together – and so are now looking to the new Regional Window to further boost existing regional strategic planning capabilities.
“The Regional Window provides the opportunity to gather and see objective data that would identify priorities and back strategic planning decisions,” Mr Rowe said.
“We all have an idea of the challenges we face and we all know what the issues are in our own backyards but we don’t necessarily talk about that with our neighbours.”
“The council benchmarking data and comparative analysis in the Regional Window is designed to give us a very clear picture of our region and its individual councils which will give us an understanding of where we have differences, where the strengths and weaknesses are and how we can help each other create opportunities for improvement and sustainability.”
Ms Haskell says there is growing understanding that this new Regional offers practical support in industry planning because to have effective, meaningful collaboration, NSW Joint Organisations will need a solid baseline of data showing where each council sits within the region.
“Our councils can see quickly where they lie in relation to each other regarding their regional performance and therefore how they may play an active role to provide further regional support. They can find out more about where there are things to work on together such as workforce planning, shared services and resources and in the end, ultimately scale up and do more for their communities – not less,” Ms Haskell said.
With 146 councils across NZ and Australia and 63 in NSW benchmarking in the Australasian LG Performance Excellence Program (including many newly amalgamated councils), there are more entire regions who have the data ready now to see a Regional Window for themselves. The feature provides the unprecedented ability to specifically measure a council’s impact and significance within a region, as well as the region, as a whole.
Other states also engaged with the Australasian LG Performance Excellence Program are looking at how best to utilise this feature as it can support both geographic regions (like Joint Organisations) and also virtual regions such as ‘similar councils’. For example; the Regional Window could provide reporting on NSW Evocities or in NZ ‘like’ councils such as Unitary councils or Regional Councils.
As the leading association representing local government professionals, LG Professionals, NSW CEO Annalisa Haskell says there is a deep commitment to develop programs that will create better partnerships between the councils and all levels of government because to date, there has been nothing giving all councils regardless of size and resources, equity of access to the best in class business tools.
Joel Schubert 0409 445 735