NT calls for improved information flows

More than 70 delegates from over 30 Councils met in Alice Springs on 18–19 April for the General Meeting of Local Government Association of the Northern Territory (LGANT) General Meeting. Foremost on the agenda was Local Government reform, which was announced last year by Northern Territory Local Government Minister, Elliot McAdam.

LGANT President, Alderman Kerry Moir, said resolutions passed at the General Meeting confirm that Local Governments want improvements in the way these reforms are communicated to Councils and the public.

“Clearly there is a belief out there that information flows could be greatly improved,” she said. “LGANT members want to see the Territory Government’s information plan and they want more feedback about the deliberations of meetings of the Local Government Advisory Board. Councils also want to see more of the Department of Local Government’s Community Development Officers on the ground in communities to explain the status of the reforms.”

Alderman Moir identified the following as issues the Government needs to address, as part of, or in addition to, its communication effort:

  • making funding available for Aboriginal interpreters to assist in cross cultural communication
  • the social impact on communities if certain services are no longer the responsibility of Local Government
  • the need for electoral education over new electoral processes
  • the confusion that has arisen over Aboriginal land issues
  • Local Government reform.

“I will be bringing the above concerns of member Councils to the attention of Minister McAdam, along with a number of other issues concerning Indigenous traineeships for the new Shires and the processes for winding up Association Councils,” Alderman Moir said. “Obviously adequate communication is vital to a process like this. While the Government has taken steps to meet this need, more is clearly required.”

In Minister McAdam’s brief address to the General Meeting, he said the Northern Territory Government will commit an additional $9.9 million over two years to establish the new system of Local Government.

“The reform will create a system of nine Shires and four municipal Councils in the Territory,” he said. “State Government funding will help create the new Shires and ensure they are operational from 1 July 2008. It will also go towards holding the first Shire elections in November 2008.

“Establishing the Shires will include senior staff recruitment, implementing IT and administrative systems, as well as office fit outs. These changes will guarantee levels and standards of services and for some, this will be the first time they have access to Local Government.”

The Minister said reform will put the Territory on equal footing with the rest of Australia when competing for Federal funding.

“These changes will ensure all Councils across the Territory have a strong and secure future.”