Local Government and democratisation

Councillor Peter Woods OAM, the Mayor of Concord in New South Wales and President of the Local Government Association in that State, has been acknowledged by the Government of South Africa for his work on the new South African Constitution as it relates to Local Government.

During 1995, Councillor Woods was sought by the British International Bureau and the African National Congress to join a small Commonwealth mission to assist in the review of the Interim Constitution. Australian Foreign Affairs supported his involvement. Many of his recommendations on Local Government constitutional recognition and democratic structural reforms were accepted and incorporated in the foundation Constitution of South Africa.

Innovation and a visionary approach to Local Government organisation is not new to Peter Woods. As President of the Australian Local Government Association between 1992 and 1994, he initiated the highly successful National General Assembly of Local Government as the most broad based political forum of Local Government ever to be initiated in Australia.

He has also pushed for the establishment of an International Bureau of Australian Local Government which would complement the support afforded him by our Asian Pacific neighbours as their Executive Vice President of the Region and Member of the World Executive of the International Union of Local Authorities.

Peter Wood believes the quest by Australian Local Governments for Constitutional recognition can be further strengthened by the following South African provisions.

'National and provincial government may not compromise or impede a municipality's ability or right to exercise its powers or perform its functions.'

'National and provincial governments by legislative and other measures, must support and strengthen the capacity of municipalities to manage their own affairs, to exercise their powers and perform their functions.'

'A municipality may make and administer by laws.'

'A national or provincial Bill that affects the status, institutions, powers or functions of Local Government must be published for public comment before it is introduced.'

The Constitution is being seen as a model for the African continent and beyond. A meeting convened in Ghana by the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat and United Nations saw Councillor Woods again on the agenda assisting in the deliberations relating to structural change and democratisation. He has since been invited to return to South Africa to assist in the organisation of Local Government associations - bodies that are also clearly and functionally recognised in the Constitution.

Local Government's standing has been greatly enhanced, both here in Australia and overseas, through Councillor Wood's work in this field.