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Message from the President of the LGA Councillor John Rich

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Message from the President of the LGA Councillor John Rich Powered By Docstoc
					                                PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE JUNE 2007




                   Message from the President of the LGA
                          Councillor John Rich –
                                June 2007
This will be my last message to you as President and I wish to take this opportunity to thank
all Council Members and staff for your support and assistance during my term. I have
received tremendous assistance from you all and it has been my pleasure to represent your
interests to the other spheres of government. I have made some good friends and enjoyed
working on the many and varied issues that the LGA addresses on behalf of Councils and
their communities.

I would also like to acknowledge and thank members of the LGA’s State Executive who have
brought freshness and commitment to the many tasks we have undertaken together. The
staff of the LGA has also been of tremendous assistance to me and I thank them for their
professional support and for the work they perform on our behalf.

I will, in this message, review some of the achievements during my term and provide some
thoughts about issues to address in the future that I have raised with our new President and
our State Executive Committee.

Achievements

Perhaps the most outstanding achievement for me is the implementation of the
recommendations of the 2005 Independent Inquiry into the Financial Sustainability of Local
Government. South Australian Local Government now leads the nation in our level of
understanding of financial planning, financial reporting and asset management issues. I
believe that as a result of this Inquiry and the work Councils have undertaken to date (and
will continue to undertake) that every Council, and more importantly every community, now
has a vastly improved understanding of the financial and asset management position of
Councils and the challenges they face.

In a similar vein I have been keen to improve the level and quality of the LGA’s
communication with Councils and more particularly with Council Members. As I have
travelled around the State, Council Members have told me that the President’s Message has
been an important and convenient source of information about what the LGA is addressing
on behalf of Councils especially given that Members are not always able to attend the many
forums and information days which the LGA holds throughout the year.

I am pleased that during the past year we have seen the data collected by the LGA’s
comparative performance information project released for public scrutiny with more than
one-third of Councils requesting their information to be placed on the LGA’s website. There
is more work to do to refine the information and involve more Councils. It is critical that Local
Government exposes the myths and agendas of those who want to attack the good things
Councils do in partnership with their communities.

However if our collective or individual performance in key areas requires attention we must
not shy away from acknowledging it and put in place strategies to rectify those issues that
are within our control. Importantly communities, MPs and the media are increasingly
demanding more simple information about what we do and how we perform – it is my view
that we must respond.




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                               PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE JUNE 2007

Our work on governance standards – particularly with Standards Australia - has been ground
breaking. I have no doubt that we will see more handbooks developed and over time we will
see a number of these adopted as official Australian Standards for Local Government. The
LGA’s leadership and activities we are undertaking related to financial sustainability under
the Strengthening Local Government banner will, I believe, bring a greater recognition of the
willingness of Local Government to reform from within.

The endorsement by the government of a joint and independent review of elections is
another substantial achievement. It again reinforces our commitment to strive for excellence,
in an area fundamental to the democratic basis of Local Government. The LGA, working
with Councils, certainly lifted the number of candidates attracted to take up a position as a
Council Member. We still need to identify strategies to enhance voter turnout and attract
more women, young people, aboriginals and non-English speaking background candidates.
I am confident that this review will assist us to tackle these issues.

The State/Local Government Relations Agreement is a key document for improving
relationships between our two spheres of government and puts South Australia well ahead of
any other state in relation to having such an agreement. But signing an agreement is not a
solution – paper does not make a relationship work.

At times Ministers and their staff have appeared to disregard or not be aware of the
State/Local Relations Agreement and have not consulted with the LGA on legislative and
other proposals. This has been evidenced most recently with the doubling of the EPA solid
waste levy. The LGA has commissioned two independent studies into the economic benefits
of increasing the waste levy which obviously makes recycling a more expensive endeavour
for Councils.

I have expressed these concerns with relevant Ministers and I hope that my statements on
behalf of Local Government will improve the communication flow between the two spheres of
Government.

Despite some of the concerns I have had regarding the operations of the Agreement, the
LGA has continued to maintain a cordial and professional relationship with State
Government in the best interests of good governance for our local communities as it is my
view that communities want to see governments working together.

The input we provided to the SA Strategic Plan review was excellent and there is more work
for us to do to support the regionalisation of the plan and where appropriate to adopt or
adapt targets in that plan for endorsement by Councils.

At the Federal level we have seen some significant wins in the form of extensions to
substantial Federal programs or funding which should be permanent. We have won a further
four years for the special funding to SA local roads which will total around $57 million.

The recent announcement by the Federal Government of a $20 million one-off payment for
the upgrade of up to 69 Community Wastewater Management Systems is another significant
commitment and is particularly important for smaller communities which could not have
afforded the upgrades on their own. The upgrades are not just about environmental health
but also about the health of our communities. The State Government has also committed
funding of $40m over 10 years to accelerate the implementation of 39 new schemes worth
$150m in total. Overall 44 Councils will benefit from this State and Federal government
funding.

I have been pleased with the way in which the Australian Local Government Association has
advanced Local Government’s position nationally with the Commonwealth and via the
Council of Australian Governments.



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                               PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE JUNE 2007

The work being done in the lead up to the Federal election regarding the establishment of a
Community Infrastructure Fund is critical to assist Councils address their infrastructure
management responsibilities.

Many public buildings over the years have been built with an injection of Commonwealth
funding. There has not been any ongoing funding for the maintenance and upkeep of these
buildings and in many cases the wear and tear is beginning to show. The LGA is continuing
to work with the ALGA and the Federal Government to address this issue and it is a matter
that I will be keeping a close eye on, as your Immediate Past President and ALGA Board
Member.

I am pleased at how we are focusing on clear LGA annual priorities and that we have turned
our attention to revising the LGA’s Constitution and Policy Manual. The LGA Policy Forum
on June 20 provided Councillors and staff in attendance with an opportunity to provide
feedback on a draft LGA policy manual.

In staff and Member development, LGA has conducted 70 training courses on subjects
ranging from working with the media, undertaking our development planning and
assessment responsibilities, to understanding the role of Council Members. This year, I am
pleased to note that 190 in-house training courses were developed and will be held during
2007.


Future challenges

I have already highlighted some key areas where further work is required. Those include the
elections review, the regionalisation of the SA Strategic Plan, communication with our
membership and the accountability and governance practices of Councils.

We need to see through the Financial Sustainability Program to the point where we can far
more easily advance our case for a fairer share of State and Federal revenue. Gaining
support for the ALGA’s proposed Local Community Infrastructure Renewals Fund through
the forthcoming Federal Election process will be a key challenge.

Planning is an issue that will challenge us in the future and a consistent framework for
Councils’ planning procedures is one of the goals anticipated from the current State
Government review into development and planning processes.
The review will assess, among other things, the speed and efficiency of referral processes
for development approvals and changes to Development Plans, presumably to position SA
to respond to the pressures of the increasing number of new development applications being
lodged and expectations for population growth.

However, a key issue for this review will be to establish a true partnership approach between
State and Local Governments as joint owners of the planning system in this State. We need
to sit down together and map out the issues and blockages (legislative or otherwise), engage
communities and the development sector in the process and together tackle the hard issues.
Public education and skills shortages are central to the effective operation of our planning
system and need specific and immediate attention.


We are also embarking on a new focus on shared services. Most people do not understand
the level of shared services already occurring at the State, regional and local levels but as
well as promoting these more effectively, there are also more areas in which we can improve
efficiency and effectiveness by working together. The LGA held a Shared Service Delivery
Forum in June.




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                               PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE JUNE 2007

The safety assessment of the River Torrens Linear Park is an important State/Local
Government initiative both in terms of identifying if there are simple things we can do to help
protect our people from accidents and ensuring we do not over react in a knee-jerk way with
concepts like fencing the river which would be impractical. This issue certainly has
implications beyond that river. I expect that the consultant’s report into the safety
assessment will be completed by the end of September.

As your Immediate Past President I look forward to supporting Mayor Joy Baluch as our new
President and wish her well.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the support I have received from the Walkerville Council.
I especially acknowledge and thank my wife Dinah and son Nigel for their support and
tolerance when I was frequently away tending to LGA business – without their assistance I
would not have been able to undertake the role of LGA President.




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