Agency Information Guide

Agency Information Guide

This guide describes what the City of Sydney is, and how it operates. It details how residents, members of the public, community organisations, the media, and government agencies can interact with us.

Structure and functions of Council

The Sydney local government area covers about 26.15 square kilometres and is home to more than 205,000 people and 21,500 businesses.

The Council of the City of Sydney is constituted under the Local Government Act 1993 and the City of Sydney Act 1988.  As a capital city council, the City of Sydney is responsible for the commercial, financial, and cultural hub of Sydney, while at the same time servicing and enhancing its local precincts and villages.  The City attracts up to 1 million visitors every day to work, shop, play, be educated, conduct business or, just to see the sights.

The City’s landmark Sustainable Sydney 2030 program is the driving force behind everything we do. It supports our provision of a range of services, programs and initiatives on behalf of residents, businesses and visitors and advances Sydney’s position as Australia’s premier city.

More information about Sydney can be found at City of Sydney.

Organisational overview

The City of Sydney is led by the Chief Executive Officer who is responsible for the efficient operation of the City and for ensuring implementation of Council’s decisions.

Administratively the City is made up of 9 divisions to assist the Chief Executive Officer in carrying out the functions in section 335 of the Local Government Act 1993. Each division is headed by a director responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs to achieve the City’s vision.

The City of Sydney's role and responsibilities include a broad range of commercial, residential, community and cultural services. The City’s corporate and strategic plans detail our priority activities and how we set out to achieve them.

Local government and the public

As a service organisation, most of the City’s activities have an impact on the public. Below is an outline of how the broad functions of Council can affect the public.

Service functions

The City provides services and facilities to the public. These include community health, recreation, education and information services. We also provide services related to environmental protection, waste removal and disposal, land and property, industry and tourism development, civil infrastructure, maintenance and construction.

Regulatory functions

The City regulates developments and buildings to ensure that they meet certain requirements affecting the amenity and safety of the community. This includes issuing development and construction/demolition approvals, orders and building certificates. 

Revenue functions

Revenue functions affect the public directly. Revenue from rates and other charges paid by the public helps fund services and facilities provided for the community. These functions include levying rates, charges and fees as well as borrowings and investments.

Administrative functions

Administrative functions have an impact on the community through the efficiency and effectiveness of the services provided.  Our administrative functions include employment of staff, development of management plans and financial and performance reporting.

Enforcement functions

Enforcement functions include matters such as the non-payment of rates and charges, environmental planning or companion animals offences, construction outside of hours and parking offences. The City may issue penalty notices or initiate legal proceedings for breaches.

Participation in local government – have your say

Sydney Your Say is the website where you can see the current matters the City is seeking public comments on. Current development applications on exhibition with an invitation to comment are listed on our online services portal.

There are many ways to participate in forming local government policy.  Members of the public are encouraged to participate and provide input to issues considered by Council.  The City of Sydney has community consultation meetings which help keep residents up-to-date with local issues of concern.  The meetings are held at different venues and provide an excellent opportunity to meet and talk with local Councillors and City staff.  Dates are listed in advance in each edition of the City of Sydney’s community newsletter, and local residents are notified a week before each meeting.

Councillors serve on committees, which deal with various areas of responsibility. Residents, ratepayers and interested parties are invited to attend and address committee meetings on items listed on committee agendas.

The current committees are:

  • Corporate, Finance, Properties and Tenders Committee
  • Cultural and Community Committee
  • Environment  Committee
  • Local Pedestrian, Cycling and Traffic Calming Committee 
  • Planning and Development Committee.
City of Sydney representatives are involved in the separate decision making bodies of:
  • Central Sydney Planning Committee
  • Central Sydney Traffic and Transport Committee. 

Members of the public wishing to address a committee meeting should read the guidelines for speakers at Council Committees


Local government in Australia is based on the principle of representative democracy.  This means that people elect representatives to their local council to make decisions on their behalf.  In New South Wales, local government elections are held every four years.

The City of Sydney is represented by a publicly elected Council that is responsible for providing leadership and vision for the city.  The City of Sydney is represented by a Lord Mayor and nine Councillors who are elected for a 4-year term, with the Lord Mayor elected by popular vote.

The role of Council is to:

  • represent the community and advocate its viewpoint
  • formulate policy and make decisions that will benefit the community as a whole
  • oversee the implementation of policy and review the performance of the organisation
  • approve the Council budget and key expenditure items.

Members of the public are encouraged to discuss local community concerns with their elected representatives. Please go to the Councillors page of the City’s website for further information and contact details.

Council Information and access to information

Information available

The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) provides the public with a general right of access to information held by the City unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of the information.

Mandatory open access information

A range of information about the City and its operations is available on the City’s register of open access information. This includes:

Policy documents

A range of policy documents are published on the City's policy register.

Information about Council and Council meetings

  • City of Sydney Code of Meeting Practice.
  • Agendas, minutes and business papers for Council and committee meetings.
  • Councillors’ expenses policy.

Council administration

  • City of Sydney Code of Conduct.
  • Council’s annual reports.
  • Annual financial reports.
  • Equal employment opportunity management plan.
  • Council’s land register.
  • Register of investments.
  • Register of delegations.
  • Register of graffiti removal work (in accordance with s13 of the Graffiti Control Act 2008).
  • Register of Councillor voting on planning matters (in line with s375A of the Local Government Act 1993).

Development and planning

  • Environmental planning instruments and development control plans.
  • Development applications (within the meaning of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979) and associated documents.

Other documents

  • Leases and licenses for use of public land classified as community land.
  • Register of contracts.

How to access other information the City holds

The City’s website

The City’s website contains a significant amount of information which the City publishes proactively. 

Each annual report lists a large amount of this information in the section reporting on the City’s compliance with the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act).

Under the GIPA Act there is an underlying rationale to encourage greater accessibility to government information and transparency of council decision making for members of the public.

Information that is not published on the City’s website may be requested via informal request (free of any application fee) or via a formal access application in line with section 9 of the GIPA Act (application fee will apply plus hourly processing charges – sometimes exemptions and discounts apply). 

Informal and formal access

We endeavour wherever possible and appropriate to deal with requests for information informally.  We encourage you to seek information first by searching the City’s website, and then via an informal request (which does not usually require the payment of charges).  Not all applications can be treated informally but the vast majority can be.

It may be necessary to submit a formal access application if the information you are seeking:

  • is of a sensitive nature
  • contains personal or confidential or commercially sensitive information about a third party
  • would involve a considerable amount of time and resources to assemble
  • is of uncommon complexity.

Where formal applications under the GIPA Act are made, we will apply application, processing and advanced deposit charges as specified in the Act. Formal applications require an application fee of $30.00. Processing is charged at an hourly rate of $30.00.

Public interest test

When a person makes a formal access application, we must decide whether there are any public interest considerations against disclosure of the requested information. If so, we need to determine the weight of the public interest considerations in favour of and against disclosure and where the balance between those interests lies.  Access can only be refused if the public interests against disclosure outweigh those in favour of disclosure. This is called the ‘public interest test’. 


When a person requests information from us, that information often contains details about other individuals, businesses, or agencies. We may need to consult with those third parties before deciding whether or not to release the information to the applicant. 

Consultation with third parties is important in balancing information access rights, and the rights of individuals to protect and control the privacy of information about themselves.

Further information about how to access City information is available on the access to information page of the City’s website, or you can contact us on telephone 9265 9333 or at one of our customer service centres.

The Information and Privacy Commission

The Information and Privacy Commission oversees the GIPA Act. The commission provides information about the right to access information and can be contacted via:

Level 17, 201 Castlereagh Street
Sydney NSW 2000


GPO Box 7011
Sydney NSW 2001
1800 472 679 02 8114 3756

Last updated: Monday, 23 April 2018