NSW Parliamentary Secretary Katrina Hodgkinson.
NSW Parliamentary Secretary Katrina Hodgkinson.

Wires crossed about rural Fit for Future council model

NSW Parliamentary Secretary Katrina Hodgkinson has her wires crossed about the removal of the "rural model" for local councils, according to Local Government NSW president Keith Rhoades.

Cr Rhoades congratulated the Nationals member for opposing forced amalgamations, but said she was mistaken in her claims councils were prevented from embracing the rural council model in the Fit for the Future review.

The response follows an ABC report in which Ms Hodgkinson said the rural category had been eliminated under pressure from LGNSW.

Cr Rhoades said the first rural template was a "rigid, one-size-fits-all model" that was later replaced with a more flexible category.

Kyogle Council applied for rural classification under the new criteria, only to be deemed unfit on "scale and capacity" criteria.

"The original rural council model removed decision-making powers and many functions from rural councils," Cr Rhoades explained.

"It would essentially turn them into a kind of sub-council who had ceded power and responsibility.

"The model was rejected outright by our rural members, who felt it would diminish them and their communities.

"LGNSW lobbied successfully on members' behalf, and this 'non-council' model was replaced by the rural council template which maintained the structure, powers and responsibilities of councils seeking this option, while recognising the challenges they faced."

Cr Rhoades said Ms Hodgkinson's mistake was a simple one and should not overshadow her courage in speaking up against forced amalgamations.

"It's encouraging to see a very senior local MP prepared to back local democracy and the stand-alone wishes of residents and ratepayers in the councils of her electorate," he said.