Sense of family crosses all bounds
"Despite our differences in culture, languages, remoteness, size and geography, Local Government in the Territory displays a clear sense of family," said Bob Beadman, Secretary Department of Housing and Local Government. "This is particularly evident at the regular Local Government Association of Northern Territory (LGANT) meetings and the Department's regional training sessions."
Noting that, compared to other States, Local Government in the Territory is in contradiction mode increasing in number while other States are amalgamating, he said this is not surprising as Local Government largely did not come to the Territory until after self government in the late 70s.
"On a regular basis our 'Association' Councils are moving to full Community Government status and this trend is likely to continue," he said. Currently, the Territory has six Municipal Councils; 31 Community Government Councils; 30 'Association' Councils, recognised as local governing bodies for the purpose of receiving grants; and two special purpose towns.
With Commonwealth Financial Assistance Grants currently distributed to the States and Territories on a per capita basis, the Northern Territory Government more than matches this funding, in order to provide a kick start for its small Councils given their special circumstances. Remoteness, the scattered nature of Local Government in the Territory providing little opportunity to resource share, small populations, extensive infrastructure needs and the wider range of services many Councils are providing their communities as agencies for the other spheres of Government, all contribute to their special needs.
"At the same time, the Territory is experiencing one of Australia's highest growth rates," Bob Beadman continued. "It is an exciting time with many opportunities for economic growth as Darwin continues to be recognised as the 'Gateway to SE Asia'. "We are a convenient halfway point between the SE coastal strip of Australia and growth markets to our North."
He said that the recent pledging by the South Australia Government of $100 million to complete the Alice Springs/Darwin rail link is evidence of the strategic advantages the Territory offers. Industries are relocating to Darwin to take advantage of reduced shipping costs due to the closer proximity to SE Asia markets.
The Territory's contribution to Gross Domestic Product per head of population is now 10.5 percent higher than the rest of Australia. Unemployment levels are also below the national average.
"Community pride is evident throughout the Territory," Bob Beadman said. "Nowhere is this more evident than in the Tidy Town awards. From remote Aboriginal communities to Darwin City Council, they are all in there competing."
Timber Creek, a community with a mix of Aboriginal and non Aboriginal people, took out the 1996 award. Their elation at the Award announcements has been described as akin to Sydney winning the Olympics.
"Community involvement and a willingness to work together really rises to the surface in the Territory and this augers well for the many opportunities that lie ahead," Bob Beadman concluded.