MEMBER for Bega and NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance was a special guest at the Bega Valley Business Forum on Thursday night.
The forum is a regular meeting of the Bega Valley’s combined chambers of commerce, representing over 600 businesses across the shire.
Mr Constance, who is also a recent recipient of the State Government Industrial Relations portfolio, addressed the forum on everything from the state of NSW’s economy and recent budget measures, to the potential of local government amalgamations and boundary changes.
He hinted at a “major announcement on local government in coming weeks” but revealed no other details other than to say “exciting opportunities lay ahead”.
However, he did say local government was in need of reform to improve efficiencies.
“When I addressed the Batemans Bay business forum last month I made the observation we should have a mature discussion on council amalgamations,” Mr Constance said.
“We’re not going to force amalgamations on councils, but do I think the boundaries are perfect? No.
“Local government is right to expect greater efficiencies, in areas like buying power and procurement, and even billing.
“We have 152 councils with 152 different billing methods for ratepayers!” he said.
“We can’t continue to see the duplication happening between the state and Commonwealth and, dare I say it, local government.”
On the NSW front, Mr Constance said “the state’s got its mojo back” with strong surpluses predicted for the years ahead and “the strongest infrastructure budget in many years”.
“The state is buoyant on the back of property and we are very focused on housing and how to incentivise housing.
“At the same time we are seeing a lot of interest in NSW as the mining states ease back on capital investment.”
Mr Constance highlighted the $6.7billion sitting in the state’s infrastructure purse, freed up from offering 99-year leases on the ports of Newcastle, Botany and Port Kembla – as well as how those funds are directly benefitting this region through the Port of Eden redevelopment and Princes Hwy upgrades.