LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – The Country Liberals Government is fulfilling an election commitment by introducing a Bill at the next sittings to make changes to the Local Government Act to give people back their voice in local government.
The Bill will mark the beginning of a new era of local government and the first stage in the process to give a voice back to those who lost theirs under Labor’s super-shire model. Amendments to the Act will introduce Regional Councils, and as Minister I will require Regional Councils to establish Local Authorities, made up of local people.
Local Authorities will be a direct link between the Regional Council and communities, ensuring local government is far more responsive to the needs of its residents.
A set of detailed Ministerial Guidelines outlining the roles and functions of Local Authorities will be released shortly and we will seek comment from key stakeholders before implementation.
These changes are the result of two careful processes:-
• The 25-member Regional Governance Working Group (RGWG), established by former Minister for Local Government and now Chief Minister Giles; and
• Feedback received throughout the extensive consultations.
The message from the RGWG was very clear, they do not want to be back in three or four years time discussing this exact same issue. It is paramount we get these reforms right.
A report detailing the results of this government’s comprehensive consultation process is being released today. The overwhelming message from those consultations is that we bring local voices and local expertise back into local government.
But this important legislative change is not the end.
Stage two of the reforms will involve a full review into sustainability and viability of regional local government in the Northern Territory. Any further changes such as boundaries will be a result of this process.
We understand that there is a yearning in the Bush for immediate change. However we owe it to those people who receive services and those whose money supports these services, to develop a model that will work well now and into the future.
It is also important that we do not create endless talk and no action, so I have instructed my department to do a comprehensive review of the finances and everything that affects the efficient operation of local government.
I have also asked to have this review back to me before the end of the year so that I may present stage two of the reforms to Cabinet by January 2014.
People in the Northern Territory, especially those in our regions, know all too well what happens when governments rush important reforms, when political expedience is put before serious input from those affected.
The Country Liberals Government will not make these same mistakes, we have already undertaken a comprehensive consultation process, completing 177 community visits and asking residents: ‘what do you want from your local government’.
Proposed legislation for the initial changes will receive a full third reading in Parliament, giving all members of the Legislative Assembly a chance to debate the Bill. I look forward to this opportunity.
Alison Anderson (pictured)
Minister for Local Government