News and resources

Issue 57 December 2016

MAV President's Update - occasional report from Cr Coral Ross, Interim President of the MAV

Issue 57, December 2016

Welcome to the final update for 2016 and my first as the MAV’s interim president.

I was delighted to be elected by the Board as interim president until the elections on 3 March 2017. In case you’re wondering who I am, I’ve been a councillor at the City of Boroondara since 2002, on the MAV Board representing the Metropolitan South East since 2011, and was elected as the MAV deputy president (metro) last year. I’m passionate about local government and look forward to working with you and for you over the next few months.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been fortunate to meet many of you at the MAV Councillor Induction Day and Mayoral Day, as well as at meetings of the Metropolitan Western Region and the North West Municipalities Association. For anyone travelling to north-west Victoria, can I recommend a visit to the silo art installations at Sheep Hill and Brim – they are fabulous.

I look forward to meeting many more of you over the coming months.

Council Elections

Congratulations to all 637 councillors elected in October. Just over half those elected – 323 – are new to local government while 314 councillors were returned. A record 2,135 candidates stood for election. There was a 14 per cent increase in the number of women elected resulting in 243 women councillors. Victoria now has the highest percentage of women councillors in the country with 38.1 per cent - a Victorian and Australian record.

These elections also marked the return of elected representatives at Brimbank and Wangaratta, a very welcome development. The only Victorian council without elected representatives is the City of Greater Geelong.

Among those not returned in October was MAV President Bill McArthur. Bill was first elected MAV President in March 2009 and was also the Vice-President of the Australian Local Government Association. We thank him for 23 years’ service to his community and his commitment to the local government sector.

Funding wins

We’ve had some notable funding wins of late. The MAV’s costing work with councils, and ongoing advocacy secured a massive victory with new planning fees to cover an estimated 60-70 per cent of council costs, up from 20-30 per cent. The new fees came into effect on 13 October and with indexation restored are estimated to be worth an additional $40 million to Victorian councils.

We have also been lobbying regarding Maternal and Child Health funding. Our negotiations this year resulted in a return to 50/50 partnership funding, with indexation. This equates to an increase of 15.8 per cent for councils.

Puppy Farms

We were pleased that the State Government has committed to reassessing the Domestic Animals Amendment (Puppy Farms and Pet Shops) Bill 2016. The Bill sought to amend laws governing the breeding and sales of cats and dogs and would, if passed, have had a significant impact on councils.

We appeared before the Parliamentary Inquiry examining the Government’s Puppy Farms Bill and issued a media release about the unworkable nature of the proposed puppy farm reforms highlighting the lack of consultation with local government. In its report, the Parliamentary Committee described the Government’s consultation with councils and other key stakeholders as ‘manifestly inadequate’.

While we support measures to crack down on cruel breeders we are concerned at the cost impacts and enforceability issues for local government.

LG Act Review and MA Act and Rules Review update

Following input from our Local Government Act Review Taskforce and other feedback from members, the MAV submitted our response to the Victorian Government’s directions paper in September.

Since then, the Government has announced its intention to pursue a deliberative community engagement requirement for councils with prescribed regulations. While the MAV supports the idea of councils developing a community consultation and engagement policy, we oppose a mandatory prescribed process that does not allow councils to tailor appropriate consultation relevant to their circumstances. You can read more about our response to this proposal on our news page.

The Government is currently drafting their proposed new Local Government Act and will release an Exposure Draft Bill during 2017. We will continue to provide input through our ongoing dialogue with Local Government Victoria and the Minister for Local Government. The Taskforce will reconvene when research commissioned by the State to inform the review becomes available.

Since our Municipal Association Act and Rules Review Taskforce met in July, we have responded to several Victorian Government requests for information to inform their review. We understand the MA Act review process is likely to dovetail at the back end of the Local Government Act review, and we have specifically requested the State consult extensively with councils (not just the MAV) in accordance with the recent State Council resolution.

A meeting of the MA Act and Rules Review Taskforce will be scheduled following a response from the State on the proposed direction of the legislative framework. The Taskforce will also consider matters resolved by State Council in relation to MAV governance and performance, and will report back to State Council.

Member Engagement and Communications Surveys

Between July and September we undertook a member engagement survey and a member communications survey to better understand your views on the MAV’s performance, priority activity areas, and the effectiveness of our communications.

Your responses have helped to identify what we are doing well, what services are highly valued by members and where there are gaps in our performance or communications. This feedback is important for shaping future MAV work to ensure we continue to evolve to meet member needs and expectations.

In early 2017 we will provide summary reports to members detailing the results of both surveys.

Our recent work

While there has not been a MAV President’s Update since August due to the local government elections we have been busy progressing a wide range of issues on behalf of our members. Here’s a quick snapshot of the highlights in case you missed anything during the busy council elections period, or are newly elected and want an overview of the current issues we’re working on and the support that’s available through the MAV.

Advocating on your behalf

Supporting councils

  • We recognised the contributions of 50 councillors with our 2016 Councillor Service Awards (Sep 2016)
  • We circulated a draft 10-year Early Years Compact to members, which is being developed with the State Government to formalise the partnership in relation to collective stewardship of the early years system (Sep 2016)
  • We awarded grants to 10 council projects to support local initiatives involving 21 municipalities to prevent violence against women (Oct 2016)
  • We hosted a series of information sessions for councils on the Government’s new Water for Victoria Plan and Integrated Water Management Framework (Nov – Dec 2016)
  • We published a New Councillor Resource Guide (PDF) with practical information to help new councillors become familiar with the responsibilities of their role in the first few months (Nov 2016)
  • We published an updated Emergency management guide (PDF) for mayors and councillors (Nov 2016)
  • We published a list of our key events for 2017 – take a look and save the dates so you don’t miss out! (Nov 2016).

Media Releases

In the past few weeks we have issued a number of media releases:

Nominate to join a MAV Advisory Committee

  • We’re seeking expressions of interest for additional councillors and senior council officers to join our eight MAV Board Advisory Committees. A template Expression of Interest form was sent to all members via email recently and needs to be returned to the MAV no later than 1 February 2017. Existing committee members do not need to renominate.

Training Opportunities

  • It has been a pleasure to meet councillors at recent training workshops. There are a number of workshops planned in the 2017 covering topics such as understanding councillor code of conduct; performing the role of councillor; roles and responsibilities; land use planning; effective decision making; meeting procedure; finances; lobbying and public speaking. These are great opportunities to increase knowledge, so you may wish to take a look at our councillor development training guide (PDF) or read more about the training on our events website.

MAV 2017 Strategic Planning Sessions

I look forward to catching up with many of you at the eight strategic planning sessions the MAV will be hosted across the state during February and March 2017. These sessions provide an important opportunity for the MAV to hear about the key issues facing members and receive your input to the development of our 2017/18 Strategic Work Plan.

13 February MAV Rural North Central region – Bendigo, 12.30 – 2.30pm
21 February MAV metro region – MAV offices, 6 – 8pm
23 February MAV metro region – MAV offices, 2 – 4pm
24 February MAV Gippsland region – Wonthaggi, 2 – 4pm
2 March MAV Rural South Central region – Geelong, 4 – 6pm
9 March MAV Rural North East / Hume region – Benalla, 1 – 3pm
10 March MAV Rural South West region – Warrnambool, 11am – 1pm

* Session date and time for MAV Rural North West region is still to be confirmed

CEOs, councillors and senior council officers are all welcome to attend these sessions. For further details and to RSVP, please contact Gavin Mahoney on 03 9667 5564. As a member organisation we want to make sure that we are providing the services that you want. The strategic planning sessions are a great way of voicing issues.

Also, I do receive some queries regarding State Council resolutions. The actions and updates on council resolutions passed at State Council are available on the MAV website.

If there are any matters you would like to discuss with me, please do not hesitate to get in touch. I can be contacted via coral.ross@mav.asn.au or 0438 005 225.

Finally, I would like to wish you and your family a safe and happy Christmas and New Year and look forward to catching up with you in 2017.

With best wishes

Coral