NSW councils have thanked retiring local government minister Shelley Hancock for her service and urged her successor to continue to help drive a locally led recovery throughout NSW.
In a statement, LGNSW said during her three years holding the local government portfolio Ms Hancock had worked closely with councils to tackle an unprecedented string of challenges including drought, bushfires, floods and COVID-19.
“Before entering Parliament in 2003, Minister Hancock served on Shoalhaven City Council for some 17 years,” LGNSW President Darriea Turley said.
“This gave her a deep understanding of the role councils play as the closest level of government to the community, and enabled her to bring a wealth of grassroots experience to the portfolio.
“Minister Hancock’s capacity and commitment to working collaboratively with the sector was particularly critical in helping to support our communities through the immense challenges of recent times, and she was a key driver behind significant funding support for councils and their communities.”
Cr Turley said the minister also left a great legacy for women keen to give back to the community at local and state government levels.
“The first-ever woman to serve as the Speaker of the NSW Legislative Assembly did so with a firm hand and great humour,” Cr Turley said.
“When she became Local Government Minister she continued to break down many of the barriers that can deter women from public life, including long-overdue superannuation for councillors, in line with the rest of the state’s work force, and access to child care to enable attendance at council meetings.
“She has been tireless in her campaign to increase the number of women in elected roles, even seizing the opportunity of her resignation to call for a better gender balance in Premier Dominic Perrottet’s new Cabinet.
“Shelley Hancock leaves significant shoes to fill and I know I speak on behalf of the sector when I wish her the very best in her continued role as Member for the South Coast, and beyond.”
‘Significant reform’ of local government sector
Announcing her retirment on Saturday, Ms Hancock announced she had informed Mr Perrottet she couldn’t fully commit t serving minister because of “challenging family circumstances.”
She also said the departure of Premier Gladys Berejiklian and been a personal loss for her and something she had found difficult to move past.
She said working with the local government sector over the last three years had been rewarding.
“Together we have achieved significant reform to the state’s rating system, encouraged greater participation of women in our local councils, rewrote the rules for how we manage discarded property, delivered superannuation to councillors, secured the largest capital investment for our state’s animal shelters, and secured millions for councils to assist with bushfires, floods and the pandemic – all with the full support of Local Government stakeholders, something not experienced by every Minister in this portfolio,” she said.
“I also wanted to serve as Minister for Local Government until the Local Government elections, and I am pleased they have been successfully held in such challenging times. I wish all new Mayors and Councillors the very best of luck in their roles.”
Other departures include former Water, Property and Housing Minsiter Melinda Pavey, the longest serving National Party MP in Australia, who announced on the weekend she was quitting after being dropped from cabinet.
Minister for the Public Service and Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs, and the Arts Don Harwin will also not be recontesting the next election and will not seek reappointment to the cabinet.
“As the Arts Minister, I worked to secure a $2.5 billion pipeline of more than 150 culture infrastructure projects right around the State, and a 10 percent increase in Arts funding announced in the 2021 State Budget. This funding is transforming the cultural life of New South Wales. Securing the future of the National Arts School and the re-opening of the Theatre Royal have also been immensely satisfying,” Mr Harwin said in a statement,
“At this stage, I have no plans to leave the Legislative Council before the end of my term.”