THE fledgling local government co-op in the south-east, SEROC (South East Regional Organisation of Councils), has volunteered to be the guinea pig for new cooperative templates for regional councils across the state, following a recommendation contained in the ongoing Independent Review into Local Government.
SEROC is a unique test case in New South Wales as it crosses a state boundary and includes the ACT Government, along with the regional councils of Bombala, Boorowa, Cooma-Monaro, Eurobodalla, Goulburn-Mulwaree, Harden, Palerang, Queanbeyan, Snowy River, Upper Lachlan, Yass Valley and Young.
Chair of SEROC and Upper Lachlan mayor John Shaw met with John Barilaro and new NSW Minister for Local Government Paul Toole in Queanbeyan last month and volunteered SEROC as a pilot model for resource sharing and cooperation that other regions across the state could follow.
"We would like to be a pilot project," Cr Shaw said. "The ACT Government is also part of our regional organisation of councils (ROC) and a very important part. So we'd like to be part of a pilot project and call it Capital Region [ROC]," he said.
SEROC is already assisting smaller regional councils across the region by sharing information and resources, as well as increasing purchasing power by buying Council equipment as a group. Cr Shaw said a Capital Region pilot organisation would further formalise the group.
"It'd become a mandatory organisation where every Council would have to be in it, where at the moment you can hop in and hop out; it's voluntary at the moment," he said.
But first they'd have to overturn a recommendation contained in the Independent Review into Local Government to establish two separate ROCs in this part of the state.
"There were 65 recommendations in the review- we're only opposing three of those, and one of them was around the joint regional organisations where the SEROC area was to be divided into two different organisations," Cr Shaw said.
"We're opposing that because we think the way we're set up now is the way to go."
The minister said he welcomed SEROC's proposal.
"This is very refreshing for the communities in this area," Minister Toole said.
"They're putting their hand up to be able to lead the way for the rest of the state in relation to forming a regional joint organisation
"I want to make it clear though that there's no one-size-fits-all [for local government]. I understand there's a huge difference between metropolitan, regional and rural communities And therefore, as the minister, I'm open minded to how these regional joint organisations will look like," he said.
ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher also attended SEROC meetings in Queanbeyan last month along with mayors and general managers from across the group.
She said the ACT was benefitting from the bargaining power in being part of a larger governing bloc, particularly in forming a regional response to the recent federal budget.
"We're a Council as well, so we have many of the shared areas ... on any number of areas I think we're already making process since we joined about 18 months ago," Ms Gallagher said.
"But this will be a real test for us- the response to the federal budget- because it gives us the opportunity to speak with the voice of a region, which we haven't been able to do in the past."