Message from the Minister

Once again Iím pleased to be in contact with councils across Australia and all those involved in Local Government through the pages of the National Perspective.This edition heralds the search for 2001ís most innovative councils with the launch of the National Awards for Innovation in Local Government.

The Local Government Managers Australia National Congress is an important date on the Local Government calendar and again becomes the venue for the Awards launch which will be held on 14 May at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. I look forward to addressing Local Government Managers there and encourage all councils to enter this yearís Awards, an event which continues to grow in reputation.

Information on the recent enhancements under the Federal Governmentís Roads to Recovery programme will be of interest to all councils plus unincorporated areas in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria. The faster payment schedule detailed here will speed up the benefits of the $1.2 billion programme to local communities, road users and industry.

I was impressed with the determination displayed by communities inundated by the recent devastating floods when I visited affected areas earlier this year. Towns in North-West NSW and Southern Queensland are eligible for grants to rebuild public and community facilities and to provide counselling services under the $10 million Federal Government Flood Recovery Fund. The Fund is in addition to support available by the Federal Government through the Natural Disaster Relief Arrangements and councils and community groups intending to apply for assistance should lodge their applications by 30 June.

I have returned to communities north of the tropic of Capricorn to outline the region specific responses to issues raised at last yearís Northern Forum to communities in Queensland, the Top End, Central Australia (Northern Territory), Western Australia, the Indian Ocean Territories and Torres Strait Islands. The regional response visits were enhanced by the historic announcement of the commitment to the Alice Springs to Darwin Rail Link, one of Australiaís most important nation building projects.

Projects from 38 small and medium councils in regional Australia and on the urban fringes will soon be underway following the announcement that they have received assistance to improve services to their local communities under the Federal Governmentís Local Government Incentive Programme (LGIP). I have also announced a number of additional national projects to receive funding under LGIP as national projects.

The latest information about the Development Assistance Forum (DAF) highlights just how far the forum has come since being formed in 1998 to reach agreement across Australia on methods to improve development assessment processes. Over the past three years the DAF has proven to be a useful vehicle for discussing planning issues between the three spheres of government, industry and professional bodies and I will continue to ensure the group works towards reducing red tape in planning systems.