President’s comment

Each edition we feature the views of a Local Government Association President. The following is from Councillor Ian Mickel, President of the Western Australian Municipal Association.

To achieve lobbying strength as an industry, unity is not simply important – it is essential. How easy is it for those we are in negotiations with to dismiss our industry because of ‘division in the ranks’.

The Western Australian Municipal Association, while the peak representative body, is actually a federation of three different representative associations in WA. The Local Government Association (LGA) represents the 30 metropolitan Councils throughout the Perth area.

The Country Urban Councils Association (CUCA) represents those Councils in the regions that are big enough to be cities or towns, and the Country Shire Councils Association (CSCA) is the peak body for WA’s rural, regional and remote shires.

With so much variation in the needs of different Councils, it’s certainly not surprising that these three organisations formed as they did. As an example, the needs of a community in the far north west of WA will be very different from the needs of a community in the heart of Perth.

However, all these needs can be met and supported under the banner of one representative lobby organisation.

Many others in our industry have also recognised the importance of one voice, and as a first step towards unification, LGA, CUCA and the CSCA formed the WA Municipal Association (WAMA) in 1989. Remaining as separate representative associations, all three groups are members of WAMA.

While some ‘non official’ attempts were made to investigate the possibility for a single association, the mandate to officially begin the process of developing a model for one body was not given until August 2000 at WA’s Local Government week.

Over the past eight months, the WAMA, as directed by its three member groups, has a team in place that is developing a model for one organisation to represent all of Local Government in Western Australia. This process has been exhaustive, with an incredible amount of research, consultation and at times, controversy.

The new structure must take into account the varying needs of the many different communities in our diverse State, and allow channels for issues, ideas and talent to be to be heard.

LGA, CUCA and the CSCA each recently held a special conference to debate the progress of this single association process, and the results were positive. All three associations endorsed the progress we have made so far on the issue.

However, there is still a significant amount of work to be done before the new structure is put to the vote at WA’s Local Government week in August this year.

I’m a strong believer in the importance of unity, and in the lobbying power that unity can provide to an industry that is structured correctly.

Since the early 1800s, when Local Government began in WA, we’ve been a segregated industry, and it may just be, that in a few months time, all that will change. After that time, Local Government in WA will be a force to be reckoned with.