Building tomorrow

Article image - Building tomorrow Delegates in the main conference room.

Smart tech and building liveable communities were key points on the agenda at the Australian Local Government (ALGA) 2017 National General Assembly in Canberra.

A strong showing of over 800 local government delegates attended this year’s conference, held from 18-21 June at the National Convention Centre.

Journalist and commentator Laura Tingle delivered the opening keynote, discussing the changing nature of government and media coverage over the last few decades.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was absent from the event, but his Local Government Minister Fiona Nash addressed delegates and announced, in welcome news for the sector, the Roads to Recovery program would be becoming a permanent fund.  

Thankfully, political addresses this year chose to stay largely positive, future-focused and free of political slanging.

On day two of the conference Bill Shorten called for every local government area to send Labor three specific project ideas to improve local communities.

Mr Shorten also touched on the largely dormant issue of constitutional recognition for local government and announced he has tasked Shadow Local Government Minister Stephen Jones with visiting every LGA before the next election.

A well-attended session on housing affordability discussed the rising inequality between low-income and high-income brackets and the challenge of maintaining urban liveability.

This year’s Assembly saw large representation from Indigenous councils and Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion addressed delegates on day two.

A large number of motions were carried – with some sparking lengthy discussion.

Eurobadalla Shire Council’s motion calling on councils to preference financial institutions that do not invest in fossil fuels spurred a large debate but registered a narrow loss.

City of Hobart’s motion for local government to support moving the date of Australia Day, was perhaps the most contentious of the conference – passing with a small margin at 64 votes to 62.  

As per the Association’s protocol, motions will now be taken to the board meeting on 20 July, in which the board will decide whether to ratify the delegation’s decisions.

Technology featured front and centre throughout the program. A session delivered by Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson highlighted the council’s ambitions to build Australia’s first smart city in its Maroochydore City Centre.

The coveted Local Government National Award for Excellence went to Wyndham City Council in Victoria for its WynLens holographic city project.

This year’s State of Regions report – released at the coinciding Regional Cooperation and Development Forum – focused on the need to ensure infrastructure spending keeps pace with growing regions, so regional inequality does not increase.    

Rounding out the Assembly was a sweeping discussion between ALGA President David O’Loughlin and veteran Australian journalist Leigh Sales.

Sales also delivered the concluding keynote, coming full circle to discuss the growing pains currently besetting Australian politics and the coinciding discourse; she lamented: “I wish I could leave you on a more positive note.”

Resolutions passed at the Assembly can be found on the ALGA website at alga.asn.au