Thorny legislation not needed

New Victorian Government grants to help tackle the spread of roadside weeds during the active spring growth period is good news for rural Victorians.

The current President of the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), welcomed funding for on-ground action to reduce the impacts of roadside weeds, but was less enthused about the allocation process.

“It is puzzling why the State Government used road length as a proxy for how much each council will receive. The Bailey report recommended equal base funding for each municipality, plus a proportional ratio based on the ‘stress level’ of each council.

“Fifty-six councils will receive $7.8 million in funding after the Government’s three-year commitment in this year’s Victorian Budget. But as councils know all too well from past experience, funding often declines over time or stops altogether and ratepayers are left covering the costs.

“We don’t support the introduction of legislation to formalise roadside weed obligations given that councils have already proven this thorny issue can be managed without it.

“Since interim grants commenced in 2009, every council with roadside weed issues has actively participated in the program, guided by their relatively limited capacities. This shows the genuine commitment and willingness of councils to work in partnership with the State without the need for legislation,”
he said.

The MAV participated in the 2011 Bailey Working Party, which produced a roadside weeds and pests report to map out an agreed way forward. A Roadside Weeds Sub-Committee of council representatives was also formed by the MAV to guide early local government input into the process.

Last year the State Government accepted the recommendations as a suitable resolution, including the use of municipal Roadside Weed and Rabbit Control Plans to describe both council and community-led priorities to be undertaken with government funding.

The President of the MAV said there was opportunity for these reforms to end years of confusion and uncertainty that councils, farmers and communities had suffered through.

“Local government broadly supports the Bailey Report as a common-sense solution to identify local priorities. However, we remain opposed to legislation that could lead to a future shift of costs onto councils.

“While the Government has overlooked the preferred Bailey cost-sharing model, they have confirmed legislative changes are on the way. We agree to disagree about the need for formal laws, and reiterate our request for active consultation with the MAV and councils when legislation is being drafted.

“Strong reforms must prevent councils from future unfunded roadside weed responsibilities,” he concluded.