North Coast councils on the verge of instability: report

WITHOUT a helping hand from the State Government, the financial future of New South Wales North Coast councils is bleak, NSW Treasury reports have revealed.

The results of the independent check on the financial health of the state's 153 local governments showed North Coast councils, in particular, were on the verge of instability.

NSW Treasury Corporation found that councils in the region faced unique challenges to the rest of the state now and in the next 10 years.

Managing the risk of natural disasters and susceptibility to climate change were at the top of the list while the report also noted the combination of a booming, ageing population was placing an ever-increasing demand on infrastructure and services.

There was some good news.

Compared to southern neighbours Grafton and Coffs Harbour - Lismore, Byron and Ballina reported a relatively low level of infrastructure backlog and rated well in terms of maintenance work.

But the common threat to region's financial stability was debt.

The reports revealed that while Ballina in particular, had been "well managed", borrowings for projects like the $63 million Lennox Head sewer upgrade would force the council further into the red.

It was also suggested that while most councils could improve their finances in the next 10-years, additional funding to fix rural bridges and other ageing infrastructure would have to be borrowed.

Byron Shire Council General Manager Ken Gainger said the reports only confirmed what local councils had known for a long time - they need more money.

He said the report vindicated the council's long standing position on the need for financial reform and a review of existing revenue restrictions like rate pegging which "severely hamper council's ability to fund current and future levels of service".


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