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CVC quietly stops printed statutory advertising

Geoff Helisma

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) has confirmed that it will no longer run ‘on exhibition and development application’ advertising in printed mediums.
The council ceased its weekly statutory advertising when the Daily Examiner stopped printing newspapers in May.

The Independent has failed to gain explanations regarding the reasons behind CVC’s decision; however, the outcome means that interested ratepayers will have to access CVC’s website if they want to see what the council is doing.

How it came to this: The NSW Office of Local Government (OLG) advised in its April 17 circular to NSW councils: “…in response to the closure of some local newspapers and to assist councils to reduce their costs, the Local Government (General) Regulation 2005 (the Regulation) has been amended to remove requirements for newspaper advertising.

“This amendment is not temporary and will continue to apply after the COVID-19 pandemic passes.”

Back in April, CVC general manager Ashley Lindsay said that the council will “need to review our position regarding the advertising of statutory information”.
However, when recently asked, ‘Has a decision been made to only advertise … on the website?’, Mr Lindsay said “if people sign up to the noticeboard, they’ll get it in their email”.

This concurs with the OLG’s advice: “To alleviate the red tape burden on councils and to reduce their costs … councils are now instead required to publish notices on their websites and in such other manner that they consider necessary to bring it to the notice of the local community or other interested persons.”

In July, Mr Lindsay told the Independent that ensuring all people across the valley had the opportunity to access the information was “a key consideration”.

“…not all people have access to digital media and we have to make a conscious decision to ensure everybody is informed,” he said.

On Thursday October 15, the Independent sought clarification of CVC’s decision, however, no answers have been provided to the emailed questions, despite several follow-up phone calls.

Mr Lindsay did email an apology (received on October 22): “Apologies for the delay in getting back to you regarding the statutory advertising,” he wrote, however, only one of the questions was answered.

The Independent asked: “The advertising charge for DAs is around $481 – how and where is this money spent on advertising, given that CVC is no longer paying to advertise in print form what used to be a statutory requirement?

Mr Lindsay responded: “We are currently looking at a number of the fees and charges associated with the Development Assessment process, with the advertising fee being one of them.

“We will be reporting back to Council in the near future and recommending changes to these fees.

“The advertising fee is one that was charged to cover the cost of the advertising in the print media.

“Now that Council is not required to advertise DA’s in the print media, we will be recommending to Council a reduction in this fee.”

Unanswered questions:
• Now that the decision has been made [to cease printed statutory advertising], how will those “elderly and others in our community” be catered for?
• How did the data used inform the decision to cease [statutory] advertising in printed newspaper?
• During the September CVC meeting, Cr Toms said, “in July we had a proposal put to us … that has happened, that our radio advertising has gone up 149 per cent”; which data supported this decision?
• Will any of what used to be statutory advertising, apart from ‘on exhibition’ and ‘DAs’ – such as road closures, the annual budget and operational papers, etcetera – be advertised in print media?
• Would it be more useful for CVC to print the statutory advertising in the Independent, rather than the weekly banner ads, which are thematically promotional in nature and virtually just steer people to CVC’s website?