by Linda Scott, President of the Australian Local Government Association
The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated local government’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to support communities.
Local councils across the nation have delivered jobs and shown economic leadership in one of the most challenging periods in recent memory.
As a federal election approaches, Australia’s 537 councils are united in wanting to build on those efforts and to help realise their communities’ aspirations for a locally-led recovery.
To that end, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) and its state and territory member associations are calling on the next federal government to:
- Support the financial sustainability of local governments through a progressive increase in Financial Assistance Grants to 1 per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue
- Invest in local infrastructure that will address local needs and the different circumstances faced by councils and communities across the country
- Invest in disaster mitigation and maximise the considerable co-benefits that will accrue, and to partner with councils as we work to transition our communities to a net zero emissions future and more extreme weather events
- Facilitate the development of new circular economy enterprises at local and regional scales which create employment, reduce emissions, and generate regional development opportunities
- Reinstate local government representation to the primary intergovernmental forum in Australia
Increased funding and investment will allow the City of Newcastle Council to continue its commitment to creating career opportunities in response to high youth unemployment rates in the Hunter region caused by COVID-19.
It will enable the City of Darwin Council to extend its award-winning myDarwin initiative, offering vouchers for residents to spend in retail, hospitality or tourism businesses affected by the pandemic.
The City of Greater Geraldton could replace amenities lost to coastal erosion over many years and start large-scale capital works to mitigate sea level rise if ALGA’s call for a Local Government Climate Response Partnership Fund of $200 million over four years was heeded.
Encouraging new circular economy enterprises at local and regional scales would see more partnerships like that between Tweed Shire Council and organics recycling business Soilco.
Their collaboration has delivered a state-of-the-art Organic Recycling Facility (ORF) for the Northern Rivers Region of NSW that can process up to 25,000 tonnes of food and garden organics annually into compost suitable for homes, businesses, and agriculture. This new facility is reducing landfill emissions and enabling the Tweed Shire Council meet its long-term “zero waste” commitment.
With international pressure building on Australia to embrace more ambitious emissions reduction targets, the City of Ryde Council is one of many local governments working to help transition their communities to a low carbon future.
It has embraced renewable energy, fitting photovoltaic systems to many community buildings, including a 300kW PV system at the Ryde Aquatic Leisure Centre. This one installation will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 3015 tonnes annually, cut electricity consumption by 366MWh, and save ratepayers about $35,000 each year.
Councils like the City of Ryde stand ready to do more on climate action if given the opportunity. With greater investment in local roads and transport infrastructure, a Coffs Harbour City Council business unit offering civil construction services, Coastal Works, would be able to expand and take on more employees to renew old timber bridges.
Road safety, community access, and freight productivity would benefit as well. Federal politicians talk about national recovery. In reality, it is a recovery that will be made up of thousands of smaller local recoveries, led by local governments in partnership with state and territory governments and the national government.
To make the most of this push for recovery, we need more investment in our local communities and a stronger, more equal partnership between governments. Australians must be allowed to make decisions about their own futures and local governments empowered to act on their behalf. This will ensure that no community is left behind.
Cr Linda Scott is President of the Australian Local Government Association, the national voice of local government, representing 537 councils across the country.