At the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) Annual General Meeting on 28 November 2001, Councillor John Ross was re elected President. From the District Council of Tatiara, and representing the Local Government Association of South Australia, this is Councillor Ross’ third term as National President. In a recent FOCUS interview, he said that a major priority for 2002 is ALGA’s ongoing work to achieve Constitutional Recognition of Local Government, thereby cementing a real partnership with the other spheres of government.
“Information has been forwarded to all Councils with the aim of presenting a petition to the Prime Minister in the first half of 2002,” John Ross said. “Closely related is the need for more work on the financial relations between Local Government and the Federal Government.”
With the ALGA recently being invited to present a paper to the Treasurer, Councillor Ross said that Local Government will advocate that any new formulae must include a built in growth component. This will bring Councils in line with the other spheres of government where a growth tax is central to their revenue raising.
“Unfunded mandates are an ongoing concern that must be resolved,” John Ross said. “If we are expected to share responsibilities for providing services with the other spheres, then we must be adequately resourced to do this.”
Turning to other matters dealt with at last year’s National General Assembly, he said that road funding and asset management continues to be one of Local Government’s biggest challenges.
“This is core business and one of our major expenses,” Councillor Ross said. “We are working constructively with the Federal Government to assess which roads ought to have priority. The valuable work of ALGA’s Roads Group, beginning with the Moree Roads Congress, then Mildura and now carrying through to the 2002 Congress in Toowoomba, is providing us with asset management models to use into the future.”
Relying heavily on Federal Government funding, John Ross said that it is vital for Local Government to demonstrate that it has the tools necessary to identify priorities and project future cost as part of an integrated national transport system.
“With waste management, our coastal work and dryland salinity projects, Local Government has a larger financial commitment to natural resource management than the other spheres of government,” Councillor Ross said.“While generally working in close partnership with the other spheres on a range of environmental issues in a number of areas, and particularly demonstrated with the recent bushfire crisis in New South Wales, problems arise where Council planning controls have been removed.”
Councillor Ross said that, once again, 2002 promises to be interesting and challenging.
He concluded by saying that he is looking forward to the issue of the Federal Minister for Local Government being resolved, and developing strong working relations with whoever becomes Minister.