Australia's National Local Government Newspaper Online
|Editions > 1996 > June > Green||Sunday May 26, 2013 - Melbourne Time: 19:06:55|
Earlier this year, when FOCUS expanded its circulation to cover all Councils Australia wide, we chose to produce two separate editions under our Gold and Green banners. One of the reasons for not producing the one national edition was an acknowledgment of the impact that State Legislation has on Local Government.
With this edition covering Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania, State issues can be canvassed, as is the case with our Gold edition, distributed to Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Items that are of national interest appear in both editions. This month's supplement, covering the Institute of Municipal Management's National Congress, appears in both editions, as do various best practice examples of Councils.
Highlighting State differences has some very interesting results, particularly in regard to the pace and style of reform. A recent paper presented by New Zealander, Angela Griffin, Chief Executive Officer at Wellington City Council illustrates the advantages of reform under a Centralist system of government.
Now, a number of years down the track with massive reform of Local Government, our counterparts across the Tasman must watch with great interest as Councils across Australia grapple, to varying degrees, with similar reforms.
In New Zealand, restructure drastically reducing the number of Councils took place alongside the creation of a clear division between management in carrying out the day to day operations of council, and elected representatives as the policy makers. Councils became much more business and customer service orientated through requirements that they demonstrate greater contestability, accountability and transparency. With its Centralist Government these reforms occurred uniformly across the Country.
In Australia, the pace of change varies. Closest to the New Zealand reforms would be Victoria, though here the process used by the Kennett Government took much of the control out of the hands of Local Government. South Australia has also commenced amalgamations but with Councils more firmly in the driver's seat. Western Australia took the reverse tack splitting up the City of Perth by creating four additional Town Councils. Discussion also continues about dividing one or two of its very large Councils.
In recent years, Queensland put in place some amalgamations but not across the State, as has occurred in Victoria and is currently under way in South Australia. However, the new National Coalition Government recently legislated providing affected local communities with an opportunity to undo these seven amalgamations. Three Queensland Councils, Gold Coast, Warwick and Burnett, now must foot the bill for referenda asking the community if they wish to revert to former boundaries. These communities must decide if they wish to bear the costs of de-amalgamation. However, with the Government's one seat majority, Queensland faces the prospect of an amalgamation seesaw depending on the Government in power.
Following the Federal Minister's unequivocal statement at the IMM Congress that Australia would be best served by fewer larger Councils and his mooting that, in the future, Commonwealth Financial Assistance Grants may be linked to the number of Councils in each State, de-amalgamation moves in Queensland are interesting to say the least.
Moreover, with the volatility of recent State and Federal election results and three of the six States holding precariously to power by one or two seats, Local Government, in actively pursuing reform to make optimum use of local resources and deliver best services to its residents, faces huge uncertainty.
With worldwide changes and the increasing emphasis on having viable regions to compete in the international marketplace, thanks to our legacy of three spheres of government, Australia faces this major challenge from a diminished position, not only compared to New Zealand, but with many of our other near neighbours.
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