Minister suspends New England County Council weed management board

By Melissa Coade

May 20, 2024

New England Weeds Authority
The board has been suspended for an initial period of three months. (Image: NEWA)

NSW Minister for Local Government Ron Hoenig has suspended the board of authority for the management of priority and invasive weeds in the New England area, and appointed John Rayner as an interim administrator.

Reports about the single-purpose county council, which is registered as the New England Weeds Authority (NEWA), were described by the minister on Friday as “alarming”.

The board has been suspended for an initial period of three months while its operations are subject to independent review.

In a statement, Hoenig said it was necessary to take immediate action to respond to financial mismanagement and governance issues at the Local Control Authority after “financial irregularities” came to light.

“The problems are of real concern, particularly given the potential impacts the financial instability of NEWA has for its four member councils which help fund its operations,” Hoenig said.

The Office of Local Government noticed a red flag in NEWA’s operations when the NSW Audit Office notified an audit could not proceed due to gaps in the organisation’s financial records.

NEWA’s governing body is made up of representatives from four constituent councils: Armidale Regional Council, Walcha Council, Uralla Shire Council and Glen Innes Severn Shire Council.

The minister’s statement indicated further enquiries have also raised significant issues that could have implications for the partner councils.

“Mr Rayner will help the Office of Local Government fully understand NEWA’s financial position and the extent of the challenges they are facing,” Hoenig said.

“This is a necessary measure to give confidence to staff and restore proper and effective functioning to the organisation.”

Rayner is a former Sutherland Shire Council general manager and independent local government expert. He has been tasked with looking into the county council’s financial and operational concerns and reporting back to the minister.


NSW sorry, so not sorry, almost council demerger laws pass

About the author
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments