Information for Mayor and Councillors

Organisation key roles

The General Manager is appointed by the Council to manage the administration of the Council. They are responsible for the efficient and effective operation of the organisation and for ensuring the implementation, without undue delay, of decisions of Council.

The General Manager's functions include:

  1. to conduct the day-to-day management of the council in accordance with the strategic plans, programs, strategies and policies of the council
  2. to implement, without undue delay, lawful decisions of the council
  3. to advise the mayor and the governing body on the development and implementation of the strategic plans, programs, strategies and policies of the council
  4. to advise the mayor and the governing body on the appropriate form of community consultation on the strategic plans, programs, strategies and policies of the council and other matters related to the council
  5. to prepare, in consultation with the mayor and the governing body, the council’s community strategic plan, community engagement strategy, resourcing strategy, delivery program, operational plan and annual report
  6. to ensure that the mayor and other councillors are given timely information and advice and the administrative and professional support necessary to effectively discharge their functions
  7. to exercise any of the functions of the council that are delegated by the council to the general manager
  8. to appoint staff in accordance with the organisation structure determined under this Chapter and the resources approved by the council
  9. to direct and dismiss staff
  10. to implement the council’s workforce management strategy
  11. any other functions that are conferred or imposed on the general manager by or under this or any other Act.

The Executive Team (ET) comprises the General Manager and 3 Group Managers. They are responsible for developing policies, setting the strategic direction and the overall management of the Council operations. This team — along with Council's Governance Section Manager — are a central point of contact for Councillors.

The Senior Leadership Team (SLT) is made of the Executive Team plus Section Managers. Section Managers are responsible for tactical management and the day-to-day operation of Council activities. Implementation of the Council's Integrated Plans is through the Operational and Delivery Plans, which are prepared by each of the Section Managers.

Role of Mayor and a Councillor

Port Stephens Council has a popularly elected Mayor and 9 Councillors representing 3 wards — West, Central and East. They each serve a 4 year term. The Deputy Mayor is elected by Councillors.

As a governing body, the role of Council is: 
  1. to direct and control the affairs of the council in accordance with this Act
  2. to provide effective civic leadership to the local community
  3. to ensure as far as possible the financial sustainability of the council
  4. to ensure as far as possible that the council acts in accordance with the principles set out in Chapter 3 and the plans, programs, strategies and policies of the council
  5. to develop and endorse the community strategic plan, delivery program and other strategic plans, programs, strategies  and policies of the council
  6. to determine and adopt a rating and revenue policy and operational plans that support the optimal allocation of the council’s resources to implement the strategic plans (including the community strategic plan) of the council and for the benefit of the local area
  7. to keep under review the performance of the council, including service delivery,
  8. to make decisions necessary for the proper exercise of the council’s regulatory functions,
  9. to determine the process for appointment of the general manager by the council and to monitor the general manager’s performance,
  10. to determine the senior staff positions within the organisation structure of the council,
  11. to consult regularly with community organisations and other key stakeholders and keep them informed of the council’s decisions and activities,
  12. to be responsible for ensuring that the council acts honestly, efficiently and appropriately.

The governing body is to consult with the general manager in directing and controlling the affairs of the council.

The role of the Mayor is to:
  1. to be the leader of the council and a leader in the local community
  2. to advance community cohesion and promote civic awareness
  3. to be the principal member and spokesperson of the governing body, including representing the views of the council as to  its local priorities
  4. to exercise, in cases of necessity, the policy-making functions of the governing body of the council between meetings of  the council
  5. to preside at meetings of the council
  6. to ensure that meetings of the council are conducted efficiently, effectively and in accordance with this Act
  7. to ensure the timely development and adoption of the strategic plans, programs and policies of the council
  8. to promote the effective and consistent implementation of the strategic plans, programs and policies of the council
  9. to promote partnerships between the council and key stakeholders
  10. to advise, consult with and provide strategic direction to the general manager in relation to the implementation of the  strategic plans and policies of the council
  11. in conjunction with the general manager, to ensure adequate opportunities and mechanisms for engagement between the  council and the local community
  12. to carry out the civic and ceremonial functions of the mayoral office
  13. to represent the council on regional organisations and at inter-governmental forums at regional, State and Commonwealth  level
  14. in consultation with the councillors, to lead performance appraisals of the general manager
  15. to exercise any other functions of the council that the council determines.

A Councillor's role is:
  1. to be an active and contributing member of the governing body
  2. to make considered and well-informed decisions as a member of the governing body
  3. to participate in the development of the integrated planning and reporting framework
  4. to represent the collective interests of residents, ratepayers and the local community
  5. to facilitate communication between the local community and the governing body
  6. to uphold and represent accurately the policies and decisions of the governing body
  7. to make all reasonable efforts to acquire and maintain the skills necessary to perform the role of a councillor.

A councillor is accountable to the local community for the performance of the council.

Delegation of functions

Under the Local Government Act, a Council may delegate to the General Manager or any other person or body (not including another employee of the Council) any of the functions of the Council. There are restrictions as to what can be delegated. For example, the setting of rates cannot be delegated nor can the fixing of a fee.

Council meetings

Ordinary Council meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month commencing at 5:30pm at the Council Chambers in Raymond Terrace. Meetings are open to the public and are webcast live, except for confidential items.

These meetings are governed by the Local Government Act 1993 and the Code of Meeting Practice.

Two-way conversation program

Two-way conversations are held every Tuesday prior to Council meetings. They allow the Mayor, Councillors and staff to engage in information sharing on various matters and are scheduled months in advance.

Payments to Councillors

The payment schedules for Councillors are set out by the Office of  Local Government and the Remuneration Tribunal. Councillors are not considered a PAYE employee. For further information regarding fee contributions please see Local Government Act 1993 Section 248 to 254. Councillors are entitled to have Superannuation deducted from their payments.

Political donations and grants

Information on requirements for candidates for the local government election is available from the Electoral Commission of NSW.

Councillors also need to make a declaration about any gifts received. It is the General Manager's responsibility to maintain a public register. All declarations must be forwarded to Council's Governance Section Manager in hard copy or electronically for inclusion in the register.

Mayor and Councillor services

The Mayor and Councillors are provided with dedicated services to assist them in fulfilling their civic functions as elected representatives. The Senior Executive Assistant should be the first point of contact and can assist with enquiries relating to:

  • Council policy and guidelines
  • Council meeting protocol, processes and procedures
  • support from the General Manager's Office
  • administration building and Councillor room access
  • requests for Council information
  • allowances and reimbursements
  • correspondence
  • Councillor requests
  • Councillors' discretionary funds
  • attendance at conferences and events.

Contact the Senior Executive Assistant on 4980 0245 or email

Record keeping

The State Records Act 1998 Section 12 (1) requires public offices, which includes Councils, to make and keep full and accurate records of their activities. Councillors are subject to this when they create or receive records while conducting council business. Records can be correspondence, emails and faxes, documents, records of meetings and telephone conversations and can be paper-based or electronic.

The Mayor and Councillors have some basic obligations:

  • create records of your work as a mayor or councillor
  • file records in Council's official record systems
  • protect records from unauthorised access
  • handle records with care
  • not destroy records
  • follow Council's records policies and procedures.

To assist Councillors to meet these obligations and protect your safety, all hard copy mail relating to council business that is received at Council will be:

  • opened in a controlled environment to screen for physical threats and prevent the spread of any harmful substances it may contain
  • recorded in Council's official record systems — the hard copy original of the contents are resealed and forwarded to the addressee Councillor.

For records of official council business, including faxes and emails, you have received or created elsewhere you should send these to Council for management, storage and disposal in accordance with legislation. Contact the Executive Administration Coordinator for more information.

Emergency evacuation at Council

Council's Emergency Evacuation procedure is managed by Wardens in each area of the building. The Wardens have been trained in the correct procedures to be carried out. In the event of an emergency, Councillors must adhere to all direction given by the Warden.

  • During normal office hours the Wardens will provide advice and direction that is required to ensure safety.
  • After hours at Council Committee and Ordinary Council Meetings, the Warden is Council's Governance Section Manager.

Learning and development for Mayor and Councillors

It's important that the Mayor and Councillors understand how Council works and have access to information which may impact their decisions. We ensure this via a range of meetings as well as learning and development opportunities.

Council provides an ongoing professional development program for the Mayor and Councillors.  Further information is available from the Councillor Induction and Professional Development Policy.

  • Induction training — in addition to the online development program, the Office of Local Government has developed a Councillor Induction Handbook.
  • One-on-one with the General Manager — can be arranged as part of our commitment to building relationships with Councillors. The GM often also has informal discussions with the Mayor and Councillors on a Tuesday evening.
  • Capital Works meetings — held quarterly as part of our commitment to keep Councillors informed of the status and progress of major projects.
  • External training — to assist in the ongoing learning and development of Councillors, we may engage external providers including Office of Local Government, Local Government NSW and Strategic Services Australia.

Becoming a Councillor

The Office of Local Government released information about becoming a councillor.

Key documents

The current suite of Council governance documents sets out direct guidelines for Staff and Councillors to follow when conducting Council business in accordance with Acts and Regulations. Council's governance documents include:

Useful links