President’s comment

In each edition we feature the views of a Local Government Association President. The following is from Councillor Mike Gaffney, President of the Local Government Association of Tasmania.

The 95th Local Government Conference, coordinated by the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT), will be held from 30 May – 1 June at Wrest Point in Hobart. Interstate participants are invited to join their Tasmanian colleagues for one of the most memorable conferences yet.

The theme for the 2007 conference is ‘The Art of Survival’. Leading experts from around Australia will explore a range of topics including climate change, public art, financial sustainability, leadership and community engagement.

Delegates will also hear from Peter Bland, an Antarctic adventurer and survivor with a remarkable story and approach to life. Day two of the conference (31 May) will culminate in one of the most exciting dinner events of the year at Hobart’s City Hall. Guests will enjoy fine dining (survivor style) and an evening of compelling entertainment.

For further details, please visit the LGAT website at www.lgat.tas.gov.au We hope to see you there!

The survival theme is particularly relevant to Councils in Tasmania as LGAT in October 2006 commissioned Access Economics to undertake a financial sustainability study.

The results were released on the 21 March. The study is available at www.lgat.tas.gov.au

The Local Government sector in Tasmania acknowledged that it was important to have an independent assessment of the current financial situation of each Council. The information and recommendations from this assessment would help determine the most effective financial management strategies required to meet future asset maintenance and renewal needs of the respective municipalities.

The support for this report by Tasmanian Councils also represents a significant maturing as a sector in terms of accepting an independently scrutinised study and a willingness to act upon the findings.

Overall the results represent a healthy report card for Tasmanian Councils with only six Councils “feeling the pinch” representing eight per cent of our population.

Unlike traditional processes where a report card is the final product, this report represented a place to start – we needed to know what issues were impeding our sustainability and then to identify strategies to address the weaknesses.

There are a number of areas, which need some work, and other matters, which highlight more prudent financial management and understanding by Councils and the community.

This report prepared by Access Economics is somewhat similar to studies already undertaken in South Australia, New South Wales and WA.

Access Economics are exceptionally well credentialed.

The report reinforces recent findings undertaken at the national level by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which indicated that there were many things Councils could do for themselves to improve their performance particularly in reference to infrastructure renewal, financial governance and asset management. It also highlighted a significant requirement on the part of other spheres of government to ensure appropriate financial funding and commitment to assist in delivering quality services to the community.

The report has been well received by Councils and there is a strong commitment by the Local Government Association in moving quickly on the recommendations. A steering committee has been charged with this responsibility