In each edition we feature the views of a Local Government Association President. The following is from Mayor Fran Kilgariff, President of the Local Government Association of the Northern Territory.
The Overarching Agreement on Indigenous Affairs signed in April by the Prime Minister, John Howard, and the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Clare Martin, represents a turning point for Indigenous Affairs and Local Government in the Northern Territory. The agreement supports Local Government, specifically referred to as Regional Authorities, as one of the key mechanisms for establishing Indigenous representative models following the abolition of ATSIC. As some of you would know, by far the majority of elected members in Local Government in the Northern Territory are Indigenous.
There are currently three Regional Authorities functioning in the Northern Territory, and the Territory Government has foreshadowed that further amendments to the Local Government Act will be required to enhance the process for constituting them. One inevitable outcome of the creation of Regional Authorities will be a reduction in the number of Local Government councils in the Northern Territory.
The Local Government of the Association of the Northern Territory (LGANT) is supportive of this initiative so long as thorough planning processes are in place. It wants to see operational difficulties upon commencement minimised and councils well positioned to succeed.
Obviously the next few years could see a great deal of structural change taking place for Local Government in the Northern Territory. This includes, among other things, a reduction in the numbers of elected representatives and councils and a significant increase in the boundaries of Local Government areas.
It also means that LGANT will have fewer member councils and potentially greater demands for its services especially in the formative stages of Regional Authority establishment.
So far, where Regional Authorities are being considered for constitution, Indigenous people are playing a significant role in their design. There is however, a long way to go, with many aspects of the change yet to be fully tested and evaluated as no doubt many of my colleagues interstate would testify.