Across NSW, millions of voters turned out to decide on the composition of their local councils for another term.

9,235 of that number were entitled to cast their votes in Narrabri Shire to select a new council of nine from a strong list of 23 candidates.

Counting is still in train but we know that Ron Campbell as well as Greg Lamont (Group A) and almost certainly Robert Browning (also Group A) have at least gained election.

There is little doubt that for a great many people, elections of public representatives of any sort, local, state or federal, carry much the same appeal as watching paint dry.

But it is issues of high community interest, sometimes disparaged as ‘roads, rates and rubbish’, that suggest that local government matters exercise the minds and passions of towns and districts most strongly when council election time rolls around every four years.

Community service as a local government councillor is by no means an easy task.

The job requires a strong desire to work for and to build a strong, progressive and interesting community; one with a deep sense of pride and optimism for the future.

The task goes well beyond roads, rates and rubbish!

There are critical decisions required on infrastructure and development matters; sporting facility provision is vital but so too is recognition of the importance of cultural life.

Some issues such as social welfare, health, aged care and educational opportunities, although tending to be state and federal concerns must also occupy some of a councillor’s attention when particular problems in these areas arise.

Those who put their names forward as potential councillors, therefore, deserve the appreciation and thanks of the community at large.

How members of the general public learn about the dimensions of issues of public interest at the local level and the names and roles of those interested in tackling such issues has been traditionally a key role of local newspapers and radio stations.

Worryingly, though, the important local mediums for the publication of news and information of vital interest to local communities have been shrinking around the globe.

This trend has applied to Australia as it has in many other countries.

The causes of diminished or lost local news coverage are well known; the digital revolution and the concentration and centralisation of news media, economic recession and, of course, the wholesale economic hammer blow of the COVID pandemic.

The result for a great many communities in this country has been the loss of principal local news sources. Country Press Australia, the umbrella body for local newspapers in this country, has a membership of some 160 newspapers.

In its heyday, the country newspaper industry in NSW boasted more than 150 papers, large and small, who diligently served their communities.

The importance of a regularly published local news medium to rural and regional areas has been highlighted recently in the United States.

In that country, some 2,200 local newspapers have closed since 2005. There are some counties, regions even, in the U.S. where there is no local news coverage.

These ‘news deserts’ are causing concern to social researchers because there is no reporting of community issues of interest such as public safety, local politics and administration and all the elements of the ‘social glue’ that holds district communities together.

There is no longer a forum in the affected communities for considered and lengthy public debate and discussion of issues of key importance, ranging from local municipal matters or sporting results … or the COVID threat, for that matter.

The Courier acknowledges that it has a responsible role to play in ensuring that the public’s ‘right to know’ is maintained in this area.

With the continued support of readers and advertisers, we intend to continue to provide a trusted vehicle for community news, debate and discussion that a democracy deserves.

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