Message from the Minister

Welcome to my latest column for this important Local Government publication. Recently, I attended two meetings that I would like to report on – the Local Government and Planning Ministers’ Council (LGPMC) and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum.

The LGPMC discussed a number of items of ongoing concern to Local Government including the financial sustainability of Local Government, climate change, implementation of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) on Local Government Matters, and issues affecting affordable housing. A full report on the Council meeting is available at www.lgpmcouncil.gov.au Some of the main meeting outcomes are summarised below.

The LGPMC endorsed nationally consistent frameworks for assessing Local Government financial sustainability, asset planning and management, and financial planning and reporting, and agreed that each State and Territory Government apply the frameworks in the context of their relationships with their Local Government sectors. These frameworks aim to provide a consistent reporting mechanism for all Local Government authorities and a clearer picture for State and Territory Governments and the Australian Government of the financial and management “health” of Local Governments. 

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has asked the LGPMC (working with Building Ministers) to contribute to the development of the National Adaptation Framework on Climate Change.

The particular issues are the extent to which land use planning and development controls can be used to minimise adverse impacts on climate and the scope for using building controls to improve the performance of our houses and buildings. COAG, at its meeting on 13 April 2007, asked the LGPMC to report on these issues by the end of 2007.

The LGPMC agreed to annual reporting on implementation, compliance and evaluation of the Inter-Governmental Agreement on Local Government Matters (IGA) and noted a report on the initial implementation of the IGA across jurisdictions.

All the States and Territories have made significant progress on implementing the IGA which primarily aims to provide for greater financial transparency between the three spheres of government in relation to Local Government services and functions. In addition, the agreement aims to improve the relationship and consultation between governments on Local Government matters.

The LGPMC is overseeing development of a national best practice guide for Local Governments with practical advice on planning policies that support affordable housing.  Each jurisdiction will be assessing how their planning system facilitates affordable housing and reporting back to LGPMC later this year.

As mentioned, I also attended the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF) in New Zealand. I am an alternate member of the CLGF Board. The CLGF works to promote and strengthen democratic Local Government across the Commonwealth, and to encourage the exchange of best practice through a number of initiatives and events.

The theme of the CLGF conference was delivering development through local leadership and it was attended by delegates from many Commonwealth countries including representation from more than 40 countries from Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific regions.

The Australian Government supports the work of the CLGF and, through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), is providing $600,000 over the three years from 2006–2008 to the CLGF for its Pacific project for strengthening Local Government capacity. The aim is to promote and fund local democracy and good governance projects, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

AusAID has funded a joint CLGF/Australian Local Government Association programme to help build capacity in Papua New Guinea, with partnership projects between: Orange City Council and Mt Hagen; Cairns City Council and Lae; Townsville City Council and Port Moresby; and the NSW Local Government and Shires Association and the Papua New Guinea Urban Local Level Government Association. Projects have included developing a local town development plan, an exhibition landscaping project, a waste management strategy, and a corporate plan.

Australian Councils have a great deal of knowledge and expertise that can be passed on to Local Governments in developing countries and there are always benefits for both Councils in learning from each other.

I encourage other councils throughout Australia to consider becoming involved in these or similar programmes.

Further information is available by contacting AusAID on (02) 6206 4000, email infoausaid@ausaid.gov.au or from the website at www.ausaid.gov.au

I look forward to sharing more information with you regarding my role as Federal Minister for Local Government, Territories and Roads in the next edition of Local Government – A National Perspective.