Councils working through difficult times

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Is your community suffering from drought? Does your community have too many difficulties to know what to do next? Then you can take heart from the experiences of the Goulburn-Mulwaree and the Campaspe Shire Councils.

The Australian Government, sponsors of the National Awards for Local Government, brought two of the 2006 National Award winners to speak to delegates at the Local Government Managers’ Australia conference in Hobart at the end of April.

National Award winners are encouraged to attend such conferences and participate in Leading Practice Seminars so that other Councils get to hear about their innovative and best practice projects.

Goulburn-Mulwaree Shire Council (NSW)

Goulburn-Mulwaree Shire Council won the 2006 National Award for Excellence for their sustained work helping their community deal positively with increasing water restrictions. The Shire is now facing its eighth year of below average rainfall.

Vanessa Toparis and Phil Hansen informed delegates how their Council had encouraged all sections of the community – residents, businesses, schools, industry and sporting groups – to work together to become a water wise community and to live within their domestic water limit of just 150 litres per person, per day (level 5 restrictions).

This is half the water usage of Australians in capital cities.

Council had achieved and maintained its 50 per cent reduction in the Shire’s water consumption through community education and various schemes to encourage the use of water saving devices, such as water saving showerheads, toilet cisterns, and rainwater tanks.

Council operated on the principle of more ‘carrot than stick’. It was amazing that in almost four years of water restrictions the Shire has issued less than a dozen fines for non compliance with restrictions.

The huge range of water conservation appliances, measures and techniques which are now in place in Goulburn have long term benefits for the area, even after it rains.

Local businesses have invested in onsite greywater reuse systems saving the community millions of litres of water now and into the future.

The key to the success of Goulburn’s water conservation programme has been the recognition that many small savings combine together to save large quantities of water.

If you want to find out more about the excellent work Goulburn-Mulwaree is doing, Vanessa Toparis can be contacted on (02) 4823 4510 or email Vanessa.toparis@goulburn.nsw.gov.au.

Campaspe Shire Council (Vic)

Campaspe Shire Council won the 2006 National Award for Innovation for developing and resourcing over a three year period its highly effective Community Development Programme.

Four people who live and work in the Shire came to speak to delegates – Councillor Neil Repacholi, Jan Smith (resident and farmer), Keith Oberin (the Community Development Manager) and Mari Q, who is the Community Development Officer.

Campaspe Shire Council has encouraged and resourced a highly effective Community Development Programme – a bottom up approach to planning and community development strategies.

The presenters gave examples of what local communities had developed plans for – all according to local needs – farmers’ markets, visitor friendly facilities, festivals and health services.

Delegates heard that Council had achieved and sustained a community participation rate of above ten per cent because of two factors.

Firstly, Council had worked hard to get a cross section of the community involved through Community Plan Groups. This cross section included youth, sporting groups, environmentalists, parents, business identities, school communities, industry sector organisations, farms, health sector workers and others.

Secondly, Campaspe Shire continued to work hard to achieve local outcomes important to the people who joined the Groups, demonstrating to people that their involvement brought results.

The Community Plan Groups firstly identify key priorities for their district. As locals they know what is important for their community. They then work on the solutions to the priorities and problems that can be incorporated into District Plans for consideration by Councillors and Council staff for action.

The Community Plan Groups empower local communities to have greater control of their own futures.

Delegates heard that community satisfaction with the Campaspe Shire Council, from the 2006 Victorian Government survey, was at an all time high.

To find out more about the Campaspe Community Development Programme contact Mari Q on (03) 5481 2269 or email mari.q@campaspe.vic.gov.au.

Awards Categories

There are 15 categories of Awards in the 2007 National Awards for Local Government, and entries closed on Friday 11 May. Category winners will be announced on Monday
16 July.

National Winners will be announced by the Australian Government Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads, the Hon Jim Lloyd MP, at the gala 2007 Presentation Dinner at Old Parliament House in Canberra on Tuesday 23 October.

The sponsors of the National Awards will fly at least three of the National Winners to Darwin at the end of November this year to participate in a seminar at the Australian Local Government Association conference.

Readers can get more information about the National Awards for Local Government from the website www.dotars.gov.au/local/awards or by contacting the Awards Team by email awards@dotars.gov.au or freecall 1 800 065 113.