Local leadership in Tasmania

President of the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT), Tony Bisdee, welcomed a record number of delegates to the 87th Local Government Annual Conference staged in early June. Once again this was a combined Conference hosted by LGAT, the Institute of Municipal Management, Institute of Municipal Engineering Australia and the Local Government Community Development Association.

In the Presidents Address, Tony Bisdee said the political events that affected Tasmanian Councils in the past year certainly tested the resolve and fortitude of Local Government. "The aborted amalgamation process dominated the Local Government agenda for several months after the 1998 Conference," he said. "The abrupt end of this process provided stark lessons for both the State Government and Local Government.

"Local Government learned that the community can be heard and can stop a political process that is forced upon them. The State Government learned that when it forces its will on Local Government, without first entering into meaningful and broad based consultation, it does so at its own peril."

He said the new State Government has stated it will not force Council amalgamations. LGAT has established a strong and consultative relationship with the new Government, developing clear lines of communication with the Minister for Local Government, the Premier Jim Bacon.

Tony Bisdee said he welcomed a new major policy of the Government to establish Partnership Agreements with all Tasmanian Councils. He said this partnership will provide an even stronger voice and presence for Local Government in Tasmania for the benefit of all Tasmanians.

Keynote speaker was Ivan Deveson, recently retired Lord Mayor of Melbourne. Following a career in the private sector heading up a number of large corporations, Ivan Deveson said that his three year term as Lord Mayor was the most interesting thing he had ever done. He said Local Government is the most fascinating and stimulating level of government, the gateway to democracy, and the only level where the opposition is in government and all on the front bench!

Ivan Deveson said that strong relations between State Government and Councils was vital. He said in Tasmania, with the Premier holding the Local Government portfolio, this has helped build a healthy, constructive relationship. Similarly, he pointed to South Australia's Capital City Council comprising City of Adelaide and State Government key players.

"We all need a Minister for Local Government not a Minister against Local Government," Ivan Deveson said. Turning to local leadership, he said that the vision for our community, or where we want to take the community in the long term, must be customer driven.

"We must listen to all," he said. "You cannot be a leader of change if you do not understand the people you are trying to change. Councils must, at the same time, find a balance between consultation, participation and decisiveness."