Reforming NSW’s Local Government

19/07/2013 12:13 am

Council amalgamations are clearly a priority with the NSW Government’s Independent Local Government Review Panel (ILGRP). In their report “Future Directions for NSW Local Government – Twenty Essential Steps”, ILGRP sets out key actions that will assist in improving and enhancing the strategic ability and financial capacity of local Councils in NSW.


The report refers to the NSW Treasury Corporation’s (TCorp) recently released report which highlights the serious financial problems that many local governments face, where many issues have gone unnoticed and now pose a major threat to the long-term sustainability of local communities, the State and associated infrastructure projects.


TCorp concluded that almost half of NSW’s Councils will be rated as ‘Weak’, ‘Very Weak’ or ‘Distressed’ in three years time if these major financial problems were not addressed.


ILGRP concludes that NSW needs new approaches to transform the culture, structures and operations of local government in order to deliver efficient and effective services, infrastructure and improved representation for communities.


With regards to structural reform, the ILGRP report recommends:


  • Establishing a network of 20 multi-purpose County Councils to undertake regional function outside the Sydney metropolitan.
  • Establish a network of around 20 ‘new look’, multi-purpose County Councils to undertake regional-level functions outside the Sydney metropolitan area.
  • Introduce the option of Local Boards to service small communities and to ensure local identity and representation in very large urban councils.
  • Encourage voluntary amalgamations of smaller rural councils to improve their sustainability, and convert small (in population) councils (generally less than 5,000) to Local Boards.
  • Promote a series of voluntary amalgamations in the Lower Hunter and Central Coast regions, including Newcastle-Lake Macquarie and Gosford-Wyong.
  • Seek to reduce the number of councils in the Sydney basin to around 15, and create major new cities of Sydney, Parramatta and Liverpool, each with populations of 600-800,000.
  • Introduce a package of incentives for voluntary mergers that offers a higher level of support to ‘early movers.


For the Sydney Metropolitan, the ILGRP report recommends that the number of local councils should be significantly reduced, in particularly in the inner and eastern suburbs, the lower North Shore and near Parramatta and Liverpool. ILGRP notes that these Councils will be unable to develop strategically and function effectively, if consolidation does not occur.


The ILGRP report envisage that when Sydney’s population reaches 7 million, approximately 15 councils is appropriate to provide effective services to the local community. The map below details the amalgamation options outlined in the ILGRP report for the Sydney Metropolitan.


More information about the key proposals and options set out in the ILGRP report can be accessed via their website: