Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Local Government Conference 2011

This is my report from the conference...




To report on the 2011 Conference of the Local Government Association (the peak industry body for Local Government in NSW) by Councillor Osborne


The report be noted.


Due to the population within the Newcastle LGA, Newcastle City Council is entitled to 7 voting delegates at the Conference. In addition to their quota for voting delegates, many councils send non-voting delegates as well as their Council’s GM and Senior staff.

Newcastle City Council resolved to have only one delegate (Councillor Osborne) for the Conference, which ran from 23rd to 26th October 2011 in Nowra.


As the annual conference for the peak industry lobby group for local government in NSW, the key purpose of the conference is to decide on the policies and focus for the LGA for the coming year.

The agenda is set by the member councils by way of submitting motions for consideration by the conference.

The conference is an opportunity to ensure that motions relevant to Newcastle are adopted by the LGA and become a platform for their lobbying the State and Federal governments.

This year the conference also included electing the Executive who are to ensure the policies of the LGA are implemented. For the purposes of the Executive election, Newcastle is considered a country council.

The election of the Executive was carried out by the Australian Electoral Commission and included election for President, Vice President (from a country council), Vice President (from a metropolitan council), Treasurer, Vice President General (if required), Ten Executive Committee Members (10) (from country councils) and Ten Executive Committee Members (10) (from metropolitan councils).


Councils from across the state submitted 226 motions for consideration by the 2011 conference delegates. Unfortunately the conference was marred by Council delegates not turning up and several times the proceedings had to be halted due to a lack of quorum. Motions that were not considered in the conference forum were referred to the newly-elected Executive for action in line with existing policy.

The Conference 2011 Business Paper, Updated Policy Statement, 2011 Late Motions, Record of Decisions and 2010 Action Report can be found on the LGA website (see http://www.lgsa-plus.net.au/www/html/3721-motions-and-business-papers.asp).

Examples of the adopted LGA policies relevant to Newcastle’s adopted Community Strategic Plan are given below.


That the Local Government Association call on the NSW Government to place a moratorium on coal seam gas exploration until:

• adequate environmental protection and community engagement frameworks are in place that allow Local Government to respond to community and environmental concerns, and

• there is adequate scientific evidence to be certain that there will be no short or long term adverse impacts with regards to:

o ground and surface water systems

o drinking water

o agricultural and urban soils

o land health and value

o heritage

o metropolitan areas

o threatened species and endangered ecological communities.

That the Local Government Association of NSW calls upon the State Government to provide an effective and strategic policy response and funding stimulus in meeting the challenges of waste management and resource recovery, in order to address the current lack of consistency in policy and regulatory approaches and complete reliance on market forces.

That the NSW Government:

a) implements measures to avoid the creation of waste, such as legislation like extended produces responsibility (EPR) in particular container deposit legislation (CDL) to reduce waste production.

b) implements further measures to further reduce waste going to landfill by recovering more recyclable materials and by using waste levy funds to built and operate alternative waste technologies AWTs.

That representation be made to the NSW Government seeking that Councils should not have to pay the Section 88 Waste Levy (tax) on clean dirt and soil used for daily cover of garbage at landfills.

That the Local Government Association call on the Federal Government to:

• hasten the rollout of the National Television and Computer recycling scheme that requires importers or manufacturers to collect and recycle end of life televisions and computers;

• acknowledge the role councils are currently playing as interim collection points for E Waste and the costs associated with this role; and

• provide compensation for the cost shifting implications of providing this interim service from the date of the legislation (22 June 2011) until the National Television and Computer Product Stewardship scheme is in place.


That the Local Government Association calls upon the NSW Government to establish a sustainably-funded collaborative network which will enable Local Government to deliver quality programs which support social inclusion and community well-being. The detail of the Collaborative Network and the program objectives and initiatives needs to be determined through further discussion with councils by the Local Government Association. The Programs may include:

• early literacy programs

• literacy programs, both print and information technology, for Aboriginal Australians

• community health programs such as immunisation

• access to welfare agencies through the provision of technologies such as email or facsimile in rural communities which enable clients to access those agencies

• access to other e-business and e-government portals

• youth development programs

• legal information access

• drug and alcohol information access

• access to health services information

• support for Broadband for Seniors and U3A

• support for other lifelong learning programs

• support for jobseekers who lack the access to home technology to complete online job applications

• access for learner drivers to practice for online driver assessment tests

That the Local Government Association make representations to the NSW Government for special funding for Local Government in order to make local buildings and public spaces more accessible for people with a disability to meet the new standards for access to premises.

That the Local Government Association of NSW calls upon the NSW Government to undertake a review of the Companion Animals Act 1998 and to amend the Act to provide for simultaneous micro-chipping and lifetime registration of pets. In the absence of this, Councils are required to utilise considerable resources to enforce and issue notices to owners of pets which are microchipped but not registered. The current situation has the potential for imposition of penalty for many pet owners as they are often under the impression that micro-chipping is also registration.


Examples of the LGA policies adopted at last year’s conference and the follow up actions relevant to Newcastle’s adopted Community Strategic Plan are given below.


That the Local Government Association create a Taskforce to investigate new funding options for Local Government infrastructure including, but not limited to:

1. The creation of a municipal bond market for the purpose of financing Local Government infrastructure

2. Securing direct access to Federal infrastructure funding

3. The creation of a range of environmental taxes based on such principles as price rationing, quantity rationing and liability rules

4. Securing a guaranteed share of Income Tax and GST revenue.


The resolution was sent to the Minister for Regional Development and Local Government, the Hon Simon Crean, the Australian and NSW Treasurers, the Hon Wayne Swan and the Hon. Eric Roozendaal for consideration. It was subsequently sent to the present Treasurer, Hon Mike Baird

Response from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer 24 February 2011

The Australian Government recognises the important role local government plays in providing essential local services and responding to the needs and priorities of local communities. The Government will provide local government with $1.5 billion in Financial Assistance Grants in 2010-11, growing to $2.2 billion in 2.110-12. The Government provides these grants to enhance local government’s capacity to provide services to the community. The Commonwealth has provided general purpose assistance to local governments since 1974-75. The funding is untied and can be spent according to each local government’s own priorities.

In regards to your concern relating to local government shares of GST revenue, under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations, the Commonwealth and the States have agreed that the Commonwealth will make GST payments to the States equivalent to the total revenue received from the GST. On this basis, any proposals to provide a guaranteed share of GST revenue to local government would require a departure from the current agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. GST payments to the States can be allocated toward each State’s own priorities, which can include local government.

Response from the Hon Mike Baird, Treasurer 9 June 2011

I note the resolution that the Local Government Association will be creating a Taskforce to investigate new funding options for local government infrastructure. I welcome the Taskforce and look forward to the results of the review.

As you will be aware, the Government is committed to establishing a Local Infrastructure Renewal Scheme to assist local government address its infrastructure needs. I will be working with the Minister for Local Government on this initiative and look forward to engaging with the Association on this matter in the future.


That the Local Government Association of NSW calls upon the Australian Government to undertake an independent review of the Australian Energy Regulator (AER)'s current approach to policy, regulatory and pricing determination of street lighting across Australia, in order to effectively protect councils and their communities from monopoly service providers, and to promote energy efficient and renewable lighting options as part of uniform mandated street lighting standards and pricing principles across Australia.


The resolution has been sent to the Treasurer, the Hon Wayne Swan for consideration.

Response from the office of the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer – 24 February 2011

Regarding your concern about the regulation of street lighting, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) is responsible for the economic regulation of electricity distributors in the National Electricity Market under Chapter 6 of the National Electricity Rules. These rules are made by the Australian Energy Market Commission which is able to receive and review applications from interested parties requesting rule changes.

Prior to making a distribution determination, the AER is required to publish a framework and approach paper, which among other things, requires it to classify distribution services and the mechanism by which prices and /or revenues for these services will be determined. The AER considers public lighting services to be distribution services and has generally classified them as ‘direct control services’ on the basis that the distribution network service providers are currently monopoly providers of public lighting services and control over the prices for these services are therefore required. Once the AER has made a classification decision in relation to a service, it must then decide on mechanism by which revenues or prices are to be controlled and on what basis. In applying these criteria to public lighting services the AER has generally chosen to apply a price cap for the first year of the period and a price path for the remaining years of the period.

In regards to the promotion of energy efficient and renewable lighting options as part of the uniform mandated street lighting standards across Australia, the AER’s role is limited to considering how the distribution services should be classified, the control mechanism that is to apply to each service and to determine the charges that will apply to each service. The AER is unable to compel distributors the way in which they provide public lighting services, for example, the provision of energy efficient lighting.


That the Local Government Association acknowledge the Prime Minister’s announcement of Sydney to Newcastle high speed rail study.

That the Local Government Association make a submission to the Federal Government urging it to undertake preliminary feasibility studies into the staged construction of a high speed passenger rail network on the east coast of Australia between Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney, Wollongong, Canberra and Melbourne.

These feasibility studies should be address:

• Current and future service demand, preservation of corridors and location and number of stations;

• Environmental, social and economic costs and benefits of the range of route and train technology configurations;

• An examination of existing major highway routes;

• Comparisons to alternative options, including new and expanded airports and road networks;

• Options for the financing, governance and public ownership of the rail network;

• Options for providing a carbon neutral energy source to meet the trains electricity requirements;

• Previous studies including the 2010 joint AECOM / Infrastracture Partnerships (IPA) study


The resolution was sent to the Prime Minister, the Hon Julia Gillard and the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon Anthony Albanese for consideration.

Response from Senator the Hon Kate Lundy, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister – 11 January 2011

Thank you for your letter of 13 December 2010 to the Prime Minister regarding the resolutions passed at the recent 2010 Local Government Association annual conference. The Prime Minister has asked me to reply on her behalf.

Your comments on the High Speed Rail Study have been noted and referred to the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, the Hon Anthony Albanese MP, who has portfolio responsibility for this matter.

Response from the Hon Anthony Albanese, Minister for Infrastructure and Transport – 4 February 2011

On 13 October 2010 I announced the Terms of Reference for the initial phase of a $20million high speed rail implementation study for the east coast of Australia (Attachment A). The first phase of this study, to be completed by July 2011, will indentify the requirements for the LGA Conference 2010 Page 21 Action Report implementation of a viable high speed rail network and identify strategic route and station options, including high-level costing. More detailed work including specific corridor alignment and patronage and revenue forecasts, will be completed for the final report which is due in mid 2012.

Late last year the Department of Infrastructure and Transport (my Department) invited tenders for the initial phase of the study, and I will shortly be in a position to announce the successful tenderer.

My Department is also establishing a reference group for the first phase of the study to enable key stakeholders to contribute and share information of relevance to this part of the study. The Australian Local Government Association has accepted an invitation to participate in the reference group.

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