Geoff Helisma | Councillors voted unanimously at last week’s Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting to defer a decision on whether or not to join the ‘Mid North Coast Joint Organisation’ (MNCJO) to its March meeting. General manager Ashley Lindsay had recommended that CVC “approve the inclusion of the council’s area in the Joint Organisation’s [JO] area”, which includes “any one or more of the following local government areas”: Coffs Harbour City, Bellingen, Nambucca and Kempsey shires and Port Macquarie – Hastings. Previously, in March 2015, councillors unanimously rejected joining what was then called the Mid North Coast Regional Organisation of Councils (MIDROC) on the advice of former general manager Scott Greensill. Then, in August last year, after the NSW Government released new proposed JO boundaries in September 2016, councillors unanimously supported a mayoral minute to join MIDROC – the cost of membership for 2017/18 is $5,833. However, “in November 2017, the NSW Government passed the NSW Local Government Amendment (Regional Joint Organisations) Bill 2017, which now allows for councils to voluntarily join new JOs”, the report to council stated. The report stated that joining the JO – along with the other LGAs – would “strengthen regional coordination and improve delivery of important infrastructure and services for communities through strategic planning, collaboration and shared leadership and advocacy”. The report noted that “the operations of MIDROC have been scaled back somewhat given the uncertainty over the last couple of years as to exactly the status of ROCs versus JOs”. A FAQ document provided with the report “indicates that the NSW Government will provide up to $3.3million in seed funding to JOs across the state”. The level of allocated funding for each JO is unknown, “however, it is reasonable to assume that it is in the order of $300 000 given there are 11 proposed JOs”, the general manager wrote. Further, Mr Lindsay referred to a MIDROC board meeting in November 2017, where it was “indicated that initial funding for the proposed JOMNCC would be in the order of $250k, which equates to approximately $42,000 per member council for 2018/19”. He “anticipated” that joining the JO would not “impact on the 2017/18 budget”. While there is “no legal requirement” for CVC to join the JO, Mr Lindsay warned that if CVC did not join there is “a risk … to not having a voice at the regional level on matters that may impact the Clarence Valley community”. He also warned that not joining could jeopardise “the level of funding made available to the JO by the state and federal governments, which may not be forthcoming to [CVC] if it remains independent of the JO structure”.