Local government reform agenda
The Victorian Government launched its Local Government Reform Strategy at a briefing with councils this week. The intent is for their reform agenda to be brought together by a renegotiation of the Victorian State-Local Government Agreement (VSLGA), and the Minister has advised that to date, the VSLGA has been based largely on a high-level aspirational statement. The Government's intention is to move it into a more operational space by the end of the year to take account of reform initiatives including improved performance reporting; reduced red tape; cost containment and capability building; collaborative procurement; simplified funding arrangements; legislative reform; and the review of the library system.
We are collating feedback from councils on the operation of the VSLGA to inform our contribution to the Minister's review. We will continue to advocate in support of meaningful changes to the agreement that will reduce the incidence of cost shifting on to councils, and strengthen consultation and engagement. We are particularly interested in the Government’s stated desire to contain costs in councils, and the mechanisms they may adopt to achieve this objective.
From this statement we assume that the Government will agree not to cost shift to councils on the understanding that local government will participate in the reform program. We will test this position with the Minister when we meet with her this Friday.
Roadside weeds and pests
The Minister for Agriculture has introduced to Parliament the amendments to the Catchment and Land Protection Act to implement components of the Roadside Weeds and Pests Working Party report (the Bailey Report). The amendments make local government responsible for managing regionally prohibited and regionally controlled weeds on municipal roads. Relevant councils will have to develop a roadside weed and pest animal management plan, detailing the priority weed and pest animal species that the council will eradicate or manage over the term of the plan.
The MAV is disappointed that the legislation does not provide for shared local-State government responsibility as articulated in the Bailey Report; particularly, State financial support commensurate with the activity required of local government in managing this issue. Funding provided to date under three-year agreements from the former Department of Planning and Community Development (now the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure) was linked to road length rather than the size or priority of weed and pest management issues. We are particularly concerned that the responsibility of councils in managing these issues is not limited by any measure of ‘reasonableness’; for example council financial capacity, or amount of community activity.
We don’t accept that councils should have this responsibility without funding and believe the model should revert to the original arrangement whereby responsibility rests with the adjacent land owner who gains benefit.
The MAV is pursuing its concerns with the Minister prior to the amendment’s third reading speech next week.
For further information contact Ben Morris.
Statewide waste and resource recovery infrastructure plan
For the first time in Victoria, a statewide waste and resource recovery infrastructure plan (SWRRIP) is being prepared by Sustainability Victoria (SV), bringing together current information and data on waste and resource recovery infrastructure in Victoria, drawn from a range of key stakeholders. The plan is nearing the final stages of completion.
The SWRRIP is a key deliverable under the Victorian Government’s waste and resource recovery policy, and has been developed over the last 12 months. The SWRRIP will provide a strategic approach to the planning of waste infrastructure across Victoria, and a roadmap to guide investment in waste and resource recovery infrastructure over the next 30 years. The draft plan recognises the important role of the market in driving investment and includes an immediate focus on what needs to be done over the next five years. It provides comprehensive information regarding Victoria’s current infrastructure and the projected growth and composition of waste streams, identifying opportunities by geographic areas and priority waste streams. The plan has been developed through an expert reference group, in close consultation with the waste management sector, to capture information and ensure a statewide approach to assessing and planning for future infrastructure needs.
An overview of the work will be provided in a series of presentations being organised as part of the existing local government CEO forums in June and July, where the Victorian Government’s environment portfolio agencies will present on the State’s new policy and the priorities for EPA and SV.
The forums will take place in Trafalgar (6 June), Ararat (21 June), Geelong (28 June), Warrnambool (5 July), Benalla (12 July) and Bendigo (26 July).
For further information contact Win Laing at Sustainability Victoria.
LGICT Annual Conference
This year the LGICT Annual Conference will be held on 14 and 15 August.
International experts, Australian authorities and experienced local government practitioners will share their insights on how community demand and new technologies are driving fundamental change in local government.
The conference offers discussion on open data, delivering digital democracy, the National Broadband Network, e-services, mobility, cloud computing, security and feeding the community’s appetite for information and access to services.
This year’s event also includes an extensive trade exhibition and the second annual LGICT Awards for Excellence, which will showcase ICT innovation happening in Victorian local government.
Register now as places are limited. Council CEOs can attend for free, but do need to register. For further information visit the LGICT website or contact Lisa Bennetto or Heidi Cmager.
Correction on VCAT fee structure
The MAV Bulletin 932 had an item about the new VCAT fee structure announced on 17 May. The contents of this item were based on the media release issued by the Attorney-General. The MAV has since become aware that new regulations, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (Fees) Regulations 2013, were made on 21 May by the Governor in Council. It appears that there is a discrepancy between the media release and the new regulations on fees for applications for the enforcement of planning permit conditions. The MAV will look into this issue further and advise in due course.
Speed limit review
VicRoads recently circulated the new draft Speed Zone Guidelines to councils for feedback. This is the final opportunity to provide input before the new guidelines are adopted. The guidelines have been reviewed in line with the commitments made during the 2011-12 Speed Limit Review. The MAV and councils have been thoroughly engaged throughout the process via workshops, surveys and the MAV’s representation on the VicRoads Speed Limit Advisory Group.
A number of wins for the sector have been achieved, including local area 40 km zones becoming easier to establish, with fewer costly infrastructure requirements; 50 km zone rural shopping strips requiring a minimum of 200 metres retail development, down from 500 metres; school speed zones extended to remote crossings; and more flexible guidelines generally.
For further information or a copy of the draft guidelines, contact James Cleaver on 9667 5519.
National Heavy Vehicle Regulator
The National Heavy Vehicle Regulator, Australia’s new national regulator for all heavy vehicles over 4.5 tonnes, will take over its responsibilities for road access management from 1 September 2013. The regulator will oversee a law for the management of heavy vehicle access on the Victorian road network.
Councils become ‘road managers’ under the new law, which means they have new functions when it comes to granting permits for heavy vehicles. More information on the new law (Part 4.7 of the Heavy Vehicle National Law) can be found on the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator website.
Over the coming months, the MAV will work with VicRoads to support councils in the transition. An intensive half-day workshop which steps through scenarios expected under the new law is planned for late July.
Future of Local Government Summit summary communique
In the face of the transformational change impacting on society, local government needs to significantly increase sector-wide planning and collaboration.
A summary communique of last month's Future of Local Government Summit found that challenges all councils face in 2013-14 include:
facilitating the development of at least one community plan (not a council-controlled plan)
reviewing whether your current Council Plan addresses the challenges of the future and how your council can transform itself
including ‘regional collaboration activities’ as an ongoing agenda item for the council, the senior management team and the regional CEOs group
participating in the development of sector-wide standards in functional areas.
Feedback from summit attendees established that:
87 per cent believe the world is in a period of fundamental change
80 per cent agree local government can do more to be in control of its own destiny
76 per cent believe local government will need to transform itself to be relevant in the future
60 per cent agree to effectively transform councils we will need an agreed sector-wide plan
67 per cent agree councils need to improve their leadership capacity to cope with the challenges of the future
25 per cent agree that currently the council plan demonstrates how the council will transform itself in the future.
The three top priorities for the Future of Local Government Program are building change capacity and readiness; preparing strategies for the future; and developing leaders.
For further information contact John Hennessy.
Final call for entries – LGICT Fellowship and Awards for Excellence
The Local Government Information and Communications Technology (LGICT) Awards for Excellence recognise outstanding achievements and encourage innovation in council ICT service delivery.
The LGICT Awards for Excellence categories are outstanding individual, team achievement, project of the year, and collaboration of the year. The winners and the recipient of the $10 000 LGICT Fellowship will be announced at an awards dinner as part of this year’s LGICT Annual Conference on 14 and 15 August.
For selection criteria and further details visit the LGICT website or contact Lisa Bennetto. Fellowship and award submissions must be received by 5 pm on 31 July.
Premier’s Sustainability Awards
Entries are now open for the Premier’s Sustainability Awards.
The awards celebrate the efficient use of water, resources and energy, better waste management and recycling practices, the enhancement of the environment and effective, practical community action.
Eight award categories are open, including infrastructure and buildings; tourism; education; environmental protection; innovative product and services; small and medium enterprises; large businesses; and community.
Leadership, commitment and excellence in delivery of sustainable projects or programs which have demonstrated widespread benefits for Victorian communities will be recognised at the awards.
Entries close on Monday 15 June.
Building Multicultural Communities Program
Councils and community organisations are being encouraged to apply for grants under the Australian Government's $4.55 million Building Multicultural Communities Program.
The program will provide one-off funding to eligible community organisations and councils that provide services and key support to their community groups, for projects that enhance multicultural community spaces through infrastructure, equipment and capital works.
The Building Multicultural Communities Program includes two funding streams:
Stream 1: Grants between $1000 and $10 000 to support non-fixed infrastructure and equipment projects including computers, printers, photocopiers, furniture, kitchen and sporting equipment.
Stream 2: Grants up to $150 000 to support capital works and non-fixed infrastructure including multicultural hubs, purpose-built buildings (e.g. community radio stations, performance studios) and meeting rooms that form part of a public building (e.g. community/multicultural halls).
Applications close at 5 pm on 28 June.
In social media news...
2013 GovHack: Short descriptions and videos of the concepts that teams came up with are available here. Read about the winners here.
Run that Town: a new app game developed by the ABS uses real census data and tests your decision-making skills against divided local opinion. Find out more here.
From the UK: Council websites are becoming more citizen-centric. Read more here.