Speech to WALGA Local Government Week Convention - Political Forum

I respectfully acknowledge the Wadjuk people of the Nyoongar nation, the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet.

Parliamentary colleagues, Mayors, Presidents and Councillors. The Greens WA support Local Governments in Western Australia and nationally, and acknowledge their very valuable role in the local governance and representation of local issues and delivery of essential community services.

The Greens also acknowledge that while Local Governments work tirelessly to be able to deliver the services expected of them by community, that a large number of these service obligations come without adequate resourcing from any other sphere of Government, Commonwealth or State, putting local Governments between the proverbial ‘rock and hard place’ with respect to being able to live up to community expectations.

We’re very aware that this can create real political and public perception pressure for Local Governments, as community discontent often rests with the sphere of government that community can most readily access.

This in turn means that the State and Commonwealth are able to devolve not only some of the services that they should be providing to Local Government, again without adequate resourcing, but they are also able to abrogate any public perception issues away from their own responsibility for these issues and deflect them onto Local Government – a double deflection if you will.

To this end we wholeheartedly support Constitutional Recognition for Local Governments, and the financial security and access that this would ensure for the Local Government sector.

To continue to meet community obligations, and to continue to deliver the suite of services it provides into the future, Local Government needs to be realistically resourced, both from increased share of taxation revenue, and from grants accessible through Commonwealth provision. It is clear that current State Governments, particularly in Western Australia, neither acknowledge the value of the services that Local Governments provide, nor adequately resource these services. So in order to achieve adequate appropriation and hypothecation of funds to Local Governments, Constitutional reform is urgently needed.

These needs are particularly clear in light of the current issues around increasing street lighting costs imposed by the Coalition Government, which must be passed on to the community through rates, but which the State Government gives Local Government few, if any realistic options to reduce their costs or their emissions profiles through innovative or sustainable technologies.

This is further illustrated by current waste levy allocations, which are currently not entirely funding waste reduction or innovation, but are in part absorbed into Department of Environment’s general revenue – however, like street lighting costs – these must be charged by Local Governments, and Local Governments must therefore bear the community angst around the costs, without any on-ground benefit to show for the levies they pay and are forced to pass on. The Greens WA have drafted and given notice to introduce Container Deposit legislation.

Additionally the Greens WA support the Local Governments in their role as a planning decision-maker, and do not support any actions of any State Government to weaken the planning powers of Local Government. As the sphere of government closest to the community, and the one with most flexibility to engage its local constituents in local determination, the Greens recommend that Local Government be re-empowered with respect to local planning, within the context of regional frameworks based on principles of sustainability. This would also necessitate the removal or restructure of the Development Assessment Panels to ensure equal representation from the local government, state government and community, which is not currently afforded.

To further support the autonomy and building of capacity in the Local Government sector, the Greens WA oppose forced amalgamations or State led reform.

Local governments themselves were undertaking significant self-evaluation and voluntary regional collaboration prior to this process being imposed, innovation which has now been stymied by the State Government imposing its own brand of reform process on the sector, and delaying making any clear decisions.

Supporting local governments to undertake a process of strategic voluntary reform and strengthening their authority and ability to raise revenue would likely have produced a far more innovative and beneficial outcome than the laborious process the current reform process has inspired.

A vision that maintains local democracy, and enhances the community’s ability to engage directly with its political representatives as well as ensuring effective service delivery can only be of benefit, both to the local government sector and to the community which it serves.

Any recommendation to remove or significantly alter the rights of communities to self-determination expressed through the poll provisions contained in schedule 2.1 of the Local Government Act 1995 will be opposed by the Greens WA now and into the future.

The Greens WA commend Local Governments in Western Australia for their work to date, particularly in vital environmental spheres where resources have been scant and support for Local Governments’ role in this space often denuded by State Government. What Local Government can do with a dollar and a proactive team is, at times, inspirational.

Thank you for keeping the ‘local’ in Local Government.

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