President’s column

WHETHER you’re enjoying the last of your summer holidays or you’re already back at your desk, Happy New Year.

2018 is shaping as an exciting and important year for Local Government, with elections in the wings and plenty of opportunities for us to lobby hard for more resources for our communities and to ensure our views are heard by federal, state, and territory politicians.

Aside from the strong possibility of a federal election at the end of the year, there are state elections due in South Australia (17 March), Tasmania (some time before 19 May), and Victoria (24 November). There are also Local Government elections scheduled for Tasmania in October and South Australia in November.

Rate-capping, governance reforms and cost-shifting have emerged as major issues in the upcoming South Australia election, and the Tasmanian and Victorian campaigns will probably see similar debates.

The Local Government Association of South Australia, the Municipal Association of Victoria, and the Local Government Association of Tasmania have stepped up their lobbying efforts, and ALGA’s own political engagement strategies for 2018 are already well advanced.

ALGA’s immediate priority is to meet with John McVeigh, the new Federal Minister for Regional Development, Territories and Local Government, to discuss Coalition policies concerning Local government and the priorities facing our communities.

Our 2018-19 Federal Budget submission, “Invest in Australian Communities: Make it Local’’ was completed and presented to Treasury last month, and work to get this document ready for public distribution is well advanced.

The initiatives it proposes will deliver jobs, sustain regional development, and help grow the economy, and ALGA will invest heavily in securing political and community support for them as the year unfolds.

Our Regional Cooperation and Development Forum in June (when the State of the Regions 2018-19 Report will be launched) gives us another important platform for speaking to politicians and engaging with voters – as does the National General Assembly.

With that in mind, ALGA is planning to secure greater metropolitan media coverage of these two important events. ALGA News will bring you regular updates – and keep an eye out on our LinkedIn and Twitter accounts too.

Earlier this month, there were media reports that Minister McVeigh was working to speed up implementation of the delayed Regional Growth Fund –  a 2017 Federal Budget initiative to invest $472 million in regional infrastructure projects.

The news that applications for the first round of funding are expected to open well before the May federal Budget is a welcome and perhaps auspicious beginning to the New Year.

2018 will undoubtedly present new challenges and dilemmas for our sector:  we’re well placed to deal with them, however – and to take every advantage of the opportunities that might arise too.