Issue 24 June 2013
New edition of CiVic
In this edition we profile some fantastic initiatives by Victorian councils including ways you are celebrating our multicultural communities; rural towns’ innovative ideas to overcome economic challenges; combining walking, storytelling and technology to deliver a nationally-recognised reconciliation project; and programs to promote equality and respect between men and women.
While you’re enjoying the read, don’t forget that the spring edition of CiVic is due out in mid-September and story ideas are now being gathered. If there’s a great news story from your council you think deserves to be showcased, please get in touch with CiVic Editor, Kristi High. Her contact details, along with CiVic’s editorial and advertising deadlines are published on our website.
Latest referendum news – Yes campaign
Overnight, in the wake of the leadership changes at the federal level, it remains unclear when the election will be held and how that will affect the referendum. Technically the earliest a referendum can be held is 60 days after the legislation passes both houses of Parliament, and must be held within six months of the legislation passing. You can read more about this procedure in the AEC’s referendum brochure.
On Monday this week the Constitution Alteration (Local Government) Amendment Bill passed the Senate with 46 votes to eight. This follows the strong bipartisan support in the House of Representatives earlier this month with 133 voting in favour and two votes against. At this stage, we believe this means the earliest that a referendum could be held is 24 August. We will provide further advice on this matter as Prime Minister Rudd’s position becomes clear, and he confirms an election date.
This week the ALGA, MAV and other state association coordinators held a detailed briefing session with the national Yes campaign team including Campaign Director, Digby Nancarrow; Campaign Manager, James Graham and members of the research and PR/advertising agencies.
In recent weeks we have published the first two of our members-only campaign updates to bring you all the latest news, political and media analysis, and resource support to inform your participation in the national Yes referendum campaign. If you would like to be added to the distribution list please contact Francesca Bennett.
I’ve had many concerned councillors contact me over the past week disappointed at the Victorian Government’s emergence as an active ‘no’ campaign voice, and shocked by the tone of their commentary. The MAV continues to actively defend the sector against these attacks, such as in our media release last week and my opinion editorial published in the Herald Sun. The Lord Mayor, Robert Doyle should be applauded for both his strong defence of local government and articulating the legitimate need for this referendum. I urge all concerned councillors to also speak out. The State’s attack is unwarranted, unhelpful and not serving the best interests of Victorian communities.
Federal election advocacy – 10 Point Plan
The MAV is supporting national efforts through the ALGA to secure ten key commitments from political parties in the lead up to the federal election. The 10 Point Plan for Resourcing Community Priorities seeks more sustainable funding streams for local government; a permanent Roads to Recovery program; an end to cost shifting; support for community infrastructure; help to adapt to climate change; and better arrangements for natural disaster mitigation.
In addition, due to Victoria’s unique home and community care (HACC) system, the MAV is working with the State on a joint advocacy position for federal political parties to commit to retain key strengths when responsibility for the over 65s HACC program begins transfer to the Commonwealth from 1 July 2015. This change results from the Victorian Government signing up to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the federal election provides a critical opportunity to ensure the benefits of our effective and stable service platform can be maintained. There will be more information circulated to councils on the development of this position in the coming weeks.
Building permit reform win
Following 12 months of negotiations with the MAV, councils and other stakeholders, we’re pleased Minister Guy has this week announced a common-sense amendment which will allow local government, community groups and school councils to hold events without being required to apply for a Places of Public Entertainment (POPE) occupancy permit.
Under the changes, no POPE permit will be required for community-based and non-profit organisation running an event that uses recreational facilities larger than 500 square metres and with less than 5,000 people attending. We welcome this change, which we lobbied for in accordance with our May 2012 State Council resolution.
State reform strategy for local government
Earlier this month the Victorian Government released its Local Government Reform Strategy. As part of their reform agenda for the sector, it seems the Minister intends to move away from the high level objectives within the Victorian State-Local Government Agreement (VSLGA) to prevent cost shifting to local government, and instead go with a more ‘operational’ agreement to take account of their reform initiatives. This includes the performance reporting project; reducing red tape; cost containment and capability building; collaborative procurement; funding reforms with incentives to be based on productivity; legislative reforms; and the library system review.
We have concerns about this shift in intent of the VSLGA away from strengthening relationships, financial agreements, consultation and engagement between State and local government. The current VSLGA specifically gives effect to the 2006 Inter-governmental Agreement on cost shifting signed at the national level following the federal government’s inquiry into local government and cost shifting. We have provided our collated member feedback to the Minister as part of her ongoing VSLGA review to ensure the revised Agreement reflects the needs of the sector.
The MAV has also examined how council costs and employment levels have changed over time. Our analysis suggests substantial differences to those figures released publicly by the Minister recently. There are many worthy self-reform projects the MAV has been coordinating including our STEP asset management and planning programs, collaborative procurement, shared services, and the future of local government initiatives. Despite the sector’s strong commitment to improve efficiencies and reduce costs, it is clear there is growing interest from the State to place a greater focus on reform strategies for local government.
My congratulations to Northern Grampians Shire for taking out the prestigious National Award for Local Government in the small council category for its Monash Steps / Stawell Steps project. This initiative involves two spillways aimed at diverting flood water away from nearby properties, which has since become a community meeting space as well as flood mitigation infrastructure.
Victorian councils stood proud in this year’s national awards. Our congratulations also go out to category winners Whittlesea City Council (active arts) for Into the Light 2012 – The Unfolding Story project; Wyndham City Council (asset and financial management) for its FieldInspect mobile app; Yarra City Council (promoting reconciliation) for Follow in my footsteps—Celebrating Aboriginal Culture in Gertrude St; Hume City Council (strength in diversity) for its Supporting Parents—Developing Children project; and Northern Grampians Shire (women in the community) for their Women of Joel Joel take charge initiative.
You can learn more about each of these award winning projects in the 2013 Winners Book.
Upcoming MAV events
Two significant events on the local government calendar will take place in the coming weeks. Our Rural and Regional Planning Conference is on from 4 - 5 July in Creswick and more than 120 registered so far. The packed two-day program of presentations, workshops and master classes cover a broad range of topics under the ‘game changers’ theme – repositioning rural and regional Victoria in fast-moving times. This is an excellent event to share insights, case studies and cutting-edge practices to better equip councils to respond to current land use planning challenges.
Our first Councillor Development Weekend following last year’s council elections is also on in Creswick from 26 - 28 July. This is the premiere training, development and networking event for Victorian councillors with key note presentations covering current big issues facing the sector and concurrent workshops to ensure delegates can tailor their learning to individual areas of interest. Download the program for full details of speakers and workshops.
I hope to catch up with many of you at these two popular annual events hosted by the MAV.
If there’s any issues you’d like to raise with me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.