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Council upset at weeds management funding change

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Council continues to fight over changes to weeds management funding

Coolamon Shire Council will express its disappointment and concern in representations to NSW Farmers regarding the Department of Regional NSW recent changes to the funding model for weeds management.

Coolamon Council received a response to the correspondence sent by the three councils of Coolamon, Junee and Temora in regard to the changes.

The major concern with this issue has been around the inability for collaboration between councils to continue to undertake the Weed Action Program (WAP).

The combined RENWA model endorsed by the three councils has now been determined as no longer compliant. This letter of response appeared to indicate that no change had been made other than meeting guidelines that were insinuated to have been in place previous to concerns being raised.

“This begs the question, what is wrong with the RENWA model now that was previously accepted? In all other areas of Government we are encouraged to collaborate and provide regional solutions that improve operational efficiencies. The RENWA model has been held up as an excellent example of regional collaboration in the past by LLS,” said Coolamon General Manager John Scarce.

“This response seems to be a counter productive step.”

The Local Government Act allows Council under Section 377 (2) to delegate to any other Person or Body (not including another employee of the Council) any function of the Council under this or any other Act. The clause goes onto describe who this cannot apply to, however The Biosecurity Act is not mentioned as one of the following identified reasons.

“Surely the Councils can delegate this responsibility to another party to act on their behalf. The main disappointment with this letter is that it puts process over outcome,” Mr Scarce said.

“Weed regulation has reached a point where barely any chemical hits the ground and all costs are associated with managing programs. This Council is now receiving further confirmation that the program favours bureaucracy over effective weed management solutions.

“Initially this response needs to be provided to RENWA for their assessment and comment, but ultimately the correspondence, as provided, does not address the reasons the three Councils wrote to the Minister expressing of our disappointment over the new interpretations and lack of funding support from the Government.”

The joint letter from the three councils to the Acting DPI Director General drew attention to some growing shortcomings that have become increasingly problematic in the biosecurity weed management system currently administered by the DPI and LLS.

Coolamon Council now intends writing to direct to the Department of Regional NSW expressing its disappointment and concern over this matter.

The joint councils letter to the DPI Acting Director General points out that while the Weeds Action Plan concept is on a financial year basis Councils had become used to the funding allocation being released midway through the second period, which whilst not idea from a cash flow perspective Councils had reluctantly carried the costs incurred because they knew they would be reimbursed some time in the second or third quarters of the financial year.

“However, now in the eighth month of the fourth year of the DPI’s own Weed Action Plan the DPI was withholding available funds until eligible councils re-applied for the funds for already committeed and expended on on-ground works.

“The method and details required to access the funds is unknown at this time but anyadditional layer of administration would add to an already unnecessary and overly complex process that saps time and financial resources from the program that could otherwise be spent on delivering more positive on-ground outcomes.

“This latest imposition makes the current system no longer workable – process is preventing practice!” 

Narrandera Argus 2 May 2024

This article appeared in the Narrandera Argus, 2 May 2024.

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