Lithgow City Council’s Mayor, Maree Statham travelled to Canberra last week to join with other mayors from across the Central West in meetings with Federal Government Ministers. These meetings were arranged by the Central NSW Joint Organisation. This organisation is ensuring that the Australian Government hears about the challenges and the opportunities within the Central West.

In a series of meetings, the politicians heard about the region’s priorities. The case was put for better infrastructure and services, especially in relation to health services and the needs of an ageing population. This aligned well with Lithgow Council’s support for the Lithgow Community Private, and its advocacy for more significant action to deal with the city’s health needs. Mayor Statham made the point that there is the need for action to deal with stress and mental health needs across the region, with more attention being needed for women’s needs.

The need for improved transport infrastructure was also discussed. The group of councils are united on the position that the Central West needs better connectivity to Western Sydney. The grand vision put was for a corridor for a dual carriageway 100 kph future crossing of the Blue Mountains. It was observed that all other capital cities have fast and safe connections to their regions, yet the Central West is constrained to moving freight and people by an antiquated, unsafe and low speed road network.

Most towns across the region are struggling to provide secure water to their communities. More attention needs to be given to the role of water in urban settings. The mayors reminded the politicians that water underpins the economic productivity of the region’s economy. Lithgow Council is currently working with the NSW Government to develop a water scheme that will guarantee supply for the next 30 years, and beyond. This project is an example of how the three levels of government could work more closely.

Throughout the day, the mayors made the point that if funds are more directly allocated to local councils, then more significant progress can be made to deal with the region’s issues. During the disasters that have beset the region funding was provided and the councils were on the frontline rebuilding roads and other infrastructure, so communities recovered. But, in the absence of sustained good levels of funding, all councils are experiencing financial challenges. The mayors argued that so much more could be achieved if local government received adequate funding. This should include increases to the Federal Assistance Grants which, under a previous formula delivered as much as $4.5m more to the Lithgow community.

Mayor Statham summed up the day by saying, “Lithgow has a stronger voice when it joins with other councils and communities from across the Central West to push for the region’s needs. These meetings and the profile they give to Lithgow validate the Council’s decision to return to the Joint Organisation.”