Wollongong has rolled out the welcome mat for more than 600 delegates who have landed in the city for the annual Local Government NSW conference.
Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery welcomed representives from councils across NSW at an opening reception at Lagooon Seafood Restaurant, Sunday evening.
Cr Bradbery used his address to acknowledge the region’s traditional custodians and encourage delegates to use their free time to explore the city.
“Take a walk along the Blue Mile … also enjoy our central shopping district and mall as well as our extensive diversity of restaurants, cafes and maybe a small bar or two,” he said.
He referenced a “whirlwind year” of sweeping council merger reforms and likened local government to family. “Families are like fudge – mostly sweet with a few nuts,” he told the room.
Wollongong last hosted the conference in 2001.
Running at WIN Entertainment Centre until Tuesday, the event is considered a chance to showcase the city to hundreds of NSW councilors and decision-makers.
“Wollongong is the focus this week,” Cr Bradbery told the Mercury.
“I think there will be delegates who would have been here for the first conference we had, and I think they’ll be surprised at how it’s changed.
“I think it will really highlight for a lot of people not only the changes in Wollongong, but the perception of Wollongong as a predominantly heavy industrial city.
“Let’s not detract from that, but it’s quite a diverse city now., with diverse services.”
Council mergers mean about 150 fewer councilors will attend this year’s event.
Premier Mike Baird will address delegates on Monday afternoon.
Minister for Local Government Paul Toole will speak on Tuesday.
Cr Bradbery told the Mercury the event venue presented an opportunity in itself.
“It will illustrate the need for [the WEC’s] refurbishment,” he said.