Issue 932:                                                     Week ending 31 May 2013

Constitutional Amendment Bill
Defined Benefit Superannuation Taskforce Expression of Interest
HACC negotiations
School Focused Youth Service to continue
Councils' views on a Metropolitan Planning Authority
Government announces taxi reforms
VCAT fee structure modified
Native vegetation clearing review
Melbourne Biodiversity Conservation Strategy
Sunbury out of Hume plebiscite
Annual report writing workshop
In social media news...

Constitutional Amendment Bill

The Constitutional Alteration (Local Government) Bill 2013 was today introduced into the Federal Parliament to provide for a referendum on the financial recognition of local government. The Bill was released for public comment on 16 May.

This legislation is the last formal step in the path to a referendum and it is critical that this Bill receives maximum support from Victorian representatives in the Federal Parliament.

The words of the proposed amendment were designed specifically to give assurance to state governments that, under the proposed change, local government would remain the responsibility of state government. Legal advice confirms that the Australian Government will not be able to ask local government to do anything that would contravene a state law, and that states will retain the right to legislate for their councils, including the ability to stop them from accepting federal funding if they have concerns.

The MAV is urging federal MPs to support legislation introduced into parliament and encourages councillors to get in touch with their local MPs to discuss the issue.

Defined Benefit Superannuation Taskforce Expression of Interest

The Defined Benefit Superannuation Taskforce was convened to examine what strategies could be implemented to reduce the risk of a future call on councils and other employers. In late 2012, it produced a report identifying a comprehensive suite of recommendations to reduce the risk of a future call and mitigate the financial imposition on councils in the event that a future shortfall occurs.

Following the production of the report, the MAV Board endorsed an expression of interest process for the Taskforce’s membership. The primary objective of the Taskforce in its second phase is to guide the implementation of the recommendations, including advocacy efforts to seek exemption from the requirement to full funding of any shortfall, waiving or rebating of contributions tax, and better information flows from Vision Super.

The MAV seeks expressions of interest from councillors and council officers to participate in the Taskforce to Owen Harvey-Beavis by 31 May. Current members of the Taskforce who wish to continue are not required to provide another expression of interest.

For further information contact Owen on 9667 5584.

HACC negotiations

Earlier this month the MAV advised councils that as a result of the Victorian Government signing up to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the HACC program for over sixty-fives will be transferred to the Commonwealth. The MAV has now met with State Health Minister Davis who advised that a concession achieved in the agreement was that the wording included “The Commonwealth and Victoria will work together to retain the benefits of Victoria’s current Home and Community Care service system.”

The Minister confirmed that the State will establish a formal advisory process with the MAV and other key peak bodies and providers to articulate the strengths of the Victorian system and develop a position/options we can put to the Commonwealth to maintain the benefits of our effective service platform in Victoria. The Minister also agreed to address an MAV forum of all councils to discuss the way forward.

The MAV will consult with councils at the upcoming May Human Services Committee and June HACC Sustainability Group meetings about developing an advocacy strategy on an agreed position. All councils will shortly receive a formal letter from the State advising of the Commonwealth/State agreement on the NDIS, and implications for HACC. The MAV will keep councils updated on the proposed advocacy strategy and lobbying position developed.

For further information contact Clare Hargreaves.

School Focused Youth Service to continue

Following a concerted campaign by the sector, the Victorian Government has agreed to continue funding the School Focused Youth Service (SFYS) for the next two years.

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has written to current providers of the SFYS (including 10 councils) to invite them to submit a proposal to deliver services within a new set of guidelines. The guidelines outline an expectation for organisations to complement the work of schools and the Student Support Service, and in partnership with external stakeholders to identify, prioritise, implement and monitor outcomes for at-risk young people aged 10 to 18 years.

Agencies providing the SFYS will operate using an area-based governance model, working closely with networks established for student support services in Victorian Government schools. The amount of annual funding available will equal the amount provided in 2012-13. Funding decisions will be based on an assessment of proposals against the selection criteria and the number of applications received. Funding will be provided for the period 1 July 2013 to 31 December 2015, with staged implementation to occur from 1 July 2013.

Consistent advocacy by the MAV and councils to the relevant State Ministers and DEECD regarding the achievements and benefits of the SFYS has contributed to this welcome outcome.

For further information contact Clare Hargreaves.

Councils' views on a Metropolitan Planning Authority

Earlier this month the MAV convened a meeting of councils to hear views and assist in the scoping of the Metropolitan Planning Authority. Councils are keen for the Victorian Government to clearly define what problems they are attempting to solve as this will help clarify the proposed agency's role and functions. Councils acknowledged that the lack of 'whole of government and agency' support; the coordination and delivery of city infrastructure and services; and the absence of a cohesive mechanism that plans for metropolitan Melbourne are key matters that need to be addressed. An Authority is one possible vehicle to address these if it is resourced to deliver. The greatest concern for councils is that an Authority will become involved in 'local' issues, fail to address what is needed and reduce the role of councils as decision-makers.

For further information contact Gareth Hately.

Government announces taxi reforms

The State Government has announced its response to the Victorian Taxi Inquiry, supporting almost all of the recommendations. The MAV has been an active participant in the Inquiry since July 2011 making two submissions, participating in various workshops and hosting the Inquiry’s Deputy Chair, David Cousins at the MAV Transport Committee.

Key areas for reform include:

  • Improving taxi services, particularly in regional, rural and outer metropolitan areas where taxis are a critical part of the transport system with: more taxi licences, more flexible zoning, greater vehicle diversity and more services for the disabled.
  • Allowing taxis to perform more flexible taxi/bus, fixed route, shared and hop-on hop-off services.
  • Removing restrictions on councils’ ability to contract community transport service delivery to taxis.
  • Improving accessible services.

The MAV looks forward to ongoing engagement during the implementation of these recommendations, particularly in relation to the development of guidelines for the operation of more flexible services, the better integration of taxi services with existing community transport services and the Government’s Transport Connections Program.

For further information contact James Cleaver.

VCAT fee structure modified

The Attorney General has announced the finalisation of VCAT fee structures, which have considered and responded to key concerns raised during public consultation recently.

In making its submission, the MAV raised specific concerns about the proposed increase in fees where local government was an applicant to enforce planning permit conditions; and the proposal to apportion the costs of alternative dispute resolution or mediation where local government was a respondent in matters where it was exercising a statutory responsibility.

These concerns have now been addressed, with applications for the enforcement of planning permit conditions remaining at the ‘community fee’ level; and that the cost of mediation will not be apportioned between applicants and respondents, but that a portion of the costs will be recovered through higher application fees in planning matters.

Native vegetation clearing review

The Minister for Environment and Climate Change has released Reforms to Victoria's native vegetation permitted clearing regulations.

The reforms, to commence in September following amendment of the Victoria Planning Provisions, will include the replacement of Victoria's Native Vegetation Management: A Framework for Action with Permitted clearing of native vegetation - Biodiversity assessment guidelines. The MAV made a submission last year to the discussion paper, which has informed the final shape of the reforms. The MAV supported in principle many of the priority reforms carried through into the changes, with areas that require further detail including the granularity of biodiversity mapping and native vegetation offsets.

The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) is holding a number of information sessions around the state in coming weeks. These sessions will provide information on the reform package to local government planning and environment staff. Detailed training sessions will also be provided for DEPI and local government staff in July and August.

Invitations have been sent out for information sessions in Ballarat on 6 June and in Traralgon on 18 June. If you have not received an invite and would like to attend one of these sessions, please RSVP via Dates for information sessions in Benalla, Bendigo and Melbourne are still to be confirmed and invites will be sent out shortly.

For any queries please contact Ben Morris at the MAV can be contacted regarding sector issues.

Melbourne Biodiversity Conservation Strategy

The Victorian Government has also released its Biodiversity Conservation Strategy for Melbourne’s Growth Corridors.

The Strategy is intended to allow growth and development in Melbourne's four growth corridors - the Western Growth Corridor; Sunbury Growth Corridor; North Growth Corridor and South-East Growth, while meeting obligations under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

The Strategy will establish 36 conservation reserves within the Urban Growth Boundary, including 5 700 hectares to protect and restore habitat for the Growling Grass Frog and a new 15 000 hectare Western Grasslands Reserve that extends from Mt Cottrell, south east of Melton to north of Little River, west of Werribee.

Briefings for local government are expected to be announced shortly.

Sunbury out of Hume plebiscite

Last week the Victorian Government announced that Sunbury residents and business owners will be able to vote on whether to separate from the City of Hume in a plebiscite to be conducted during October.

The Government will consult on the final wording of the poll, but it is expected the question will be worded in the affirmative with a ‘yes’ vote signalling support for the establishment of a new Sunbury council.

An independent KPMG report into Hume City Council’s Service Provision in Sunbury was undertaken last year, and this week the Minister announced consultation into the feasibility and cost of establishing a separate Sunbury Shire will begin in June.

If results of the poll favour a separate municipality for Sunbury, the State will establish a Local Government Panel, as required by the Local Government Act 1989, to make a formal recommendation on the establishment and proposed boundaries of a new Sunbury council.

Annual report writing workshop

On Monday 17 June, Rushford and Associates will present a concise annual reporting workshop designed specifically for Victorian local government bodies, hosted at the MAV.

The half-day workshop will cover the latest requirements for good annual reporting, including the MAV Annual Report Awards assessment criteria and sustainability principles of global reporting initiatives. Important developments in integrated reporting will also be addressed.

Attendees will receive guidance in simple techniques for meeting a higher standard in their next report. Detailed individual feedback sessions are also available through Carole Rushford, and can be arranged to suit your diaries.

Register now. For further information contact Eliza Nolan.

In social media news...

  • The new ‘Discover Daylesford’ iPhone app is the latest regional tourism destination guide released by the Victorian Government. Find out more here.
  • The value of email marketing has been depicted in an infographic here.
  • Digital democracy in the UK: councils are crowdfunding community projects. Read more here.
Upcoming MAV events...

5 - 6 June

Planning and economic development: a critical relationship

12 June

Climate change and road management financial modelling workshop

4 - 5 July

Rural and regional planning conference


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