Narrabri absent from New England Joint Organisation

JOINT FORCES: Narrabri Shire Council mayor Catherine Redding. Photo: Northern Daily Leader
JOINT FORCES: Narrabri Shire Council mayor Catherine Redding. Photo: Northern Daily Leader

NARRABRI is noticeably absent from the New England Joint Organisation and Namoi Unlimited.

Mayor Catherine Redding said it’s been radio silence from the Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton or Deputy Premier John Barilaro on the outcome.

“What I find disappointing on behalf of Narrabri is the fact we’ve had no correspondence from any government agency in regard to this, even in regard to the proclamations,” she said.

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“I find that extraordinary that nobody has bothered to contact us and discuss why we wanted to join the New England JO, or the courtesy to tell us it’s been proclaimed.”

Mr Barilaro today announced 11 new joint organisations made up of 70 different councils.

“It’s extremely pleasing that more than 90 per cent of eligible councils in NSW have formally resolved to voluntarily form a Joint Organisation.

“The huge response shows councils can see the benefits that will stem from joining forces, namely putting themselves in a stronger position to deliver for people in their region,” he said.

On February 16, Narrabri Council mayor Cathy Redding set out the concerns her council had with the joint organisation boundaries.

Cr Redding felt the boundaries weren’t a true reflection of the relationships between council areas and extended a hand toward New England.

“Council currently has an undecided position of joint organisation membership,” she said.

“Council seeks feedback from the members of the New England groups of councils, on the potential membership of Narrabri Shire Council.”

All the councils in the New England Joint Organisation voted on whether or not to allow Narrabri into the fold.

On February 23 the NEJO Board voted to express its goodwill toward Narrabri’s mayor, but pointed out concerns about conflicting interests.

NEJO felt Narrabri’s extractive industries developments could clash with the New England focus on renewable energy and sustainable agricultural land.

On March 22, Narrabri resolved to join forces with NEJO.

An Office of Local Government spokesman said Narrabri was not included in the first round of joint organisation proclamations as its formal resolution didn’t align with the resolutions of all member councils of the NEJO.

“The Office of Local Government will continue to work with the council on the next steps required to ensure its local community benefits from joint organisations as they start to make key decisions and progress important regional initiatives,” he said.

Cr Redding said she felt the gas industry within Narrabri Shire made it a unique asset, and the road boundaries were better aligned with the western districts.

“Narrabri already has a number of partnerships with Moree in relation to shared services, our waste is aligned with Moree and Gwydir, our road studies are done in conjunction with Moree,” she said.

“The Newell Highway, which is one of the major highways in the state aligns Narrabri with Moree, and we have potential with inland rail.”

The council had a long discussion and overwhelmingly decided to support joining the New England JO.

“We did work well within the NAMOI Councils but we found the road strategy and regional priorities on roads didn’t really align with us,” she said.

“They’ve given us nothing [the OLG], which I find extraordinary and we will be making an application to get a meeting with the Local Government Minister and Deputy Premier to give a rationale for why Narrabri feels the New England JO is a better fit for us.”

The Office of Local Government is still working with some councils to finalise their membership to joint organisations.