The Minister for Local Government, Peter Gutwein, and the Property Council’s Brian Wightman, are leading the charge for a more effective, efficient and amalgamated local government sector in Tasmania.
Minister Gutwein says he doesn’t have a pre-determined outcome but wants to start the discussions (but only with a select few and on a regional basis). Neither is the government willing to push things.
He wants the most competitive local government sector possible (competitive with what is not defined). Whiteman says the costs of local government are too high and Property Council polling says there are too many councils.
Meanwhile, newly elected President of the Local Government Association of Tasmania, Mayor Barry Jarvis, says most councils are in favour of resource sharing rather than amalgamations.
What sense can be made of these statements?
That amalgamation won’t happen. The level of trust and co-operation is just not there to sustain this top down policy process, especially as the ordinary ratepayer is being excluded out of the most important discussion that affects their homes and communities.
That local government will continue to face erosion of its roles and responsibilities over time by State government policy fiat (water, sewerage, planning – what’s next?) and increasing amounts of debt as funding reduces in real terms.
That representation of local communities will continue to decline as Councils steadily shed their elected members each time the Local Government Board reviews a Council, and as the problem of population based remuneration of elected members is not addressed.
If Property Council President Tim Johnston says investors and developers in Tasmania are forced to play by 29 different sets of rules, structures and roles, making investment in the State unworkable, then he needs to start examining what the problem really is.
Let’s turn this discussion around.
Rather than ask whether we have too many Councils, how about we ask what it is we have in common? Have a look at the table below of roles and responsibilities.