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President’s Update – 22 April 2024

Win! Four week extension for local government inquiry submissions

I am pleased to announce that ALGA’s request for a four-week extension for all submissions to Parliament’s inquiry into local government sustainability has been granted, with the new due date being Friday 31 May.

ALGA will provide a comprehensive, evidence-based submission on behalf of all local governments. However, it’s important that the Parliamentary Committee have a full understanding of the challenges facing Australian councils – as well as how we could support our communities to thrive with more sustainable funding – so I encourage all councils to provide their own submissions.

This Federal Government has promised “fair increases” to Financial Assistance Grants and I urge you to highlight what this would mean for your local area.

Curbing kerbside waste to landfill

One of ALGA’s priorities in next month’s Federal Budget is funding support to standardise kerbside bins across the country.

We are committed to doing everything we can to reduce the amount of household waste that is sent to landfill, but confusion around which products can be recycled – and which kerbside bin should be used – remains a significant barrier.

Standardising bin lids across the entire country would allow us to run a national education campaign that would give Australians the information they need to make informed decisions about what they put in their bins, and help us deliver better environmental outcomes.

Planning for climate change

I recently welcomed the Government’s new Heat-Health Risk Index, which will help us as community leaders to better prepare and respond to extreme heat across Australia.

We are at the forefront of climate change adaptation, providing critical services and facilities that protect Australians from the impacts of rising temperatures and heat waves.

From air-conditioned libraries and community centres to tree-lined parks and  community pools, we provide shelter from the elements, especially during the hotter summer months.

This new national heat mapping tool will support us to expand on our local adaptation initiatives and make place-based decisions that will help keep our communities cooler.

New survey on road safety risk assessments

The Office of Road Safety is interested in how local governments in Australia can be better supported to undertake network safety risk assessments to prioritise infrastructure investment.

As a result, all councils are invited to participate in a new survey to help identify the skills, support and capabilities local governments need to help in the development of a supporting framework.

The aim is to increase the impact councils can have on reducing the road toll, which remains unacceptably high.

The survey can be found here.

Submission to National Adaptation Plan Issues Paper

ALGA has provided a submission to the Federal Government’s National Adaptation Plan Issues Paper.

The submission makes a number of recommendations from the local government sector focusing on key role councils can play in adaptation for assets and services in local communities.

ALGA highlighted that climate change has the potential to damage local government assets, cause serious disruptions to the delivery of council services, generate unbudgeted financial impacts, and affect the overall wellbeing of communities – particularly those most vulnerable to weather extremes.

We look forward to a continued dialogue with the Government on adaptation issues.

Read submission

Carer Help offering community support for life-limiting illness

As many local governments interact with and provide direct services to older Australians, CarerHelp provides free and trustworthy online information and resources to Australians caring for someone with a life-limiting illness.

CarerHelp addresses end of life topics including managing common symptoms, emotional care, financial matters, caring for the dying person, and managing grief.  There is also information in other languages, for Indigenous families, and for support workers.

We urge you to share CarerHelp with your communities. For more information or to order free CarerHelp promotional materials, contact carerhelp@flinders.edu.au.

CarerHelp is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care.

Local government partners needed for night time economy study

Local governments are invited to join the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors (CCCLM) to measure the Australian Night Time Economy (NTE) for the 2022-2023 period.

Do you represent a council with ambitions to better understand and support economic activity after dark? Are you interested in understanding the performance trends of your NTE over time? This research offers an affordable and low-cost opportunity to gain insights into your NTE’s performance.

The CCCLM night time economy research provides:

  • Access to comprehensive data on the number of NTE businesses, employees and amount of sales turnover generated in your LGA over time.
  • Insights into and the trading hours and precinct patterns shaping your NTE’s growth.
  • Opportunities to contribute to informing future strategies and policies aimed at bolstering Australian NTE vitality.

For more details click here or to express your interest, contact 02 5104 7333 or deborah.wilkinson@lordmayors.org before Friday 26 April 2024.

Careers at Council Jobs Summit in Sydney

ALGA President Cr Linda Scott will officially open the inaugural Careers at Council Jobs Summit hosted by LGNSW in Sydney on 1 May.

The summit provides the opportunity for local government decision-makers to learn more about recent changes in the employment market and share successful council practices to building a skilled and sustainable workforce.

Aimed local government HR recruitment, elected members, general managers and hiring managers, the one-day summit will feature specialists in labour market analysis, employment marketing and council case studies highlighting better engage with our future workforce.

To be held at the Swissotel in Sydney, the summit will also consider the future and impact of AI on job roles and service delivery.

Register now

Learn more about Careers at Council here

Submission to COVID-19 response

ALGA provided a submission to the Federal Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was lodged in December 2023.

The detailed submission highlighted that as the closest level of government to the community, local government was in a unique position to identify community needs and make sure that those needs were met in the most appropriate way during the COVID-19 response in Australia.

Our submission also outlined local governments’ digital transformation, which delivered efficiencies and deepened community engagement. It was also the impetus for many councils to rethink business as usual and adopt innovative solutions to provide services to communities.

Read the submission

President’s Update – 8 April 2024

New Governor General appointed

I was delighted to see Sam Mostyn AO announced as the next Governor-General of Australia last week.

Sam is a humble, dedicated servant of the public good, and a wonderful appointment by the Albanese Government.

Thank you also to outgoing Governor General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley DCE FTSE and his family for their service.  We were honoured to work closely with him, noting in particular his support for leaders and communities recovering from natural disasters was unprecedented and especially warmly welcomed by Australian local governments.

In recent years, we’ve been honoured to have His Excellency deliver the opening address at our National General Assembly of Local Government (NGA), and I’ve written to Sam asking her to continue this valued tradition.

I’m confident that under Sam’s leadership, we will continue to work effectively across all levels of government to build stronger, more resilient communities, and drive sustainable development across Australia.

Reminder: national inquiry into local government sustainability

A reminder to all councils to lodge your submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee national inquiry into local government sustainability.

ALGA will provide a submission on behalf of local government, but it will also be valuable for the Committee to hear a range of local perspectives from your councils.

The Albanese Federal Government made an election commitment to provide “fair increases” to Financial Assistance Grants which they have not yet met, so it’s important that this inquiry looks for ways that promise will be supported (including retrospectively).

ALGA’s research shows local government expenditure per capita has flatlined over the past decade, while spending by other governments has continued to rise.

This is despite additional responsibilities increasingly being forced onto Australian councils by other spheres of government.

By international standards, investment in Australian councils is low, and this is constraining our capacity to deliver core services, such as maintaining local roads and community infrastructure.

Restoring Financial Assistance Grants to at least one percent of Commonwealth taxation is crucial to ensuring sustainable, productive and liveable communities.

I once again urge councils to make a submission noting these key points, and examples where an increase to Financial Assistance Grants will support your local community to thrive, before the deadline of 3 May 2024.

Book now for 2024 NGA and the ACLG

Last week, I invited all councils to book your tickets for our 2024 NGA, in Canberra from Tuesday 2 -Thursday 4 July.

Our 30th NGA will be our biggest annual conference yet, and we have released a registration brochure outlining the full week of events, including networking sessions and the Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG) on Friday 5 July.

This year we have a new addition to the NGA program, with four concurrent listening sessions providing you with the opportunity to have your say about federal policies affecting our communities. These sessions will be held after our Regional Forum on the Tuesday afternoon, before the NGA officially commences on Wednesday morning.

I’ll also be speaking at the National Press Club at lunch time on Tuesday and hosting our annual Local Government vs Parliamentarians soccer match early Wednesday morning.

Your councils can still submit motions for discussion and debate at the NGA, with the deadline extended until 30 April.  Please remember your motions must meet the criteria outlined in our discussion paper.

I’m so excited about this year’s NGA and I hope to see you there.

Update on federal road funding programs

The Federal Government is reminding local governments about funding available through the Roads to Recovery program, and roads and community infrastructure projects funded through the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure (LRCI) program.

Roads to Recovery

The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts is encouraging councils to submit projects and draw on remaining funds before the current period ends.

To access remaining funds, councils must finalise their work schedule and provide a 1 January – 31 March 2024 quarterly report with projected expenditure to 30 June 2024. This will enable payments to be made by mid-May 2024 with funding to be spent by 31 December 2024.

Councils can use the Department’s Infrastructure Management System to access and update their project and funding information, and are encouraged to contact Roads.toRecovery@infrastructure.gov.au with any specific questions.

LRCI program

Project construction for phases 1, 2 and 3 of the LRCI program is required by 30 June 2024. Councils looking to amend their work schedule must do so before 30 April 2024.

For phase 4, most councils now have an approved work schedule for project construction by 30 June 2025.

The Department also reminds councils without an approved work schedule for phase 4 to submit their proposed projects for approval to LRCIP@infrastructure.gov.au.

Councils have a short time left to ensure they can access remaining funds under both programs, with reporting required by 30 April 2024.

Councils reminded to register for NGA24 and ACLG

Australia’s local governments are being reminded to book tickets for the 2024 National General Assembly of Local Government (NGA) in Canberra from Tuesday 2 – Thursday 4 July.

The 30th NGA at the National Convention Centre is expected to be ALGA’s biggest annual conference, and a registration brochure has been released showcasing a week of events, including networking sessions, exhibition details and the Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG) being held on Friday 5 July.

There is also a new addition to this year’s program, with concurrent listening sessions providing delegates with the chance to have a say about federal policies affecting their communities.  The four sessions will be held after the Regional Forum on Tuesday afternoon, before the 2024 NGA officially begins on Wednesday.

Councils are also reminded to submit motions for discussion and debate at the NGA, with the deadline extended until 30 April.  A reminder that all motions must meet the criteria outlined in the discussion paper.

Find out more: https://conferenceco.eventsair.com/nga24/

Urgent need to boost disaster mitigation to safeguard communities

The Federal Government’s Disaster Ready Fund (DRF) is heavily oversubscribed and needs to be increased by at least $250 million per year to better protect Australian communities from future natural disasters.

More than 300 applications seeking $460 million were submitted in the first round of the DRF in 2023, with 187 of these projects successfully funded, including 100 by councils.

ALGA President Councillor Linda Scott said while councils have welcomed the $200 million DRF, which was secured through local government advocacy, the latest figures show it’s vastly insufficient given the number of potential mitigation projects across the country.

“Our communities have been repeatedly hit by floods, fires and cyclones over the past two years, with more than 60 per cent of local government areas affected,” Cr Scott said.

“We have to better prepare for the increasingly frequent and more severe natural disasters we are experiencing, and local government is calling for an extra $250 million of federal investment in disaster mitigation.”

In 2021, Deloitte Access Economics estimated natural disasters cost Australia $38 billion per year, and this amount is expected to rise to $73 billion per year by 2060, assuming a low-emissions scenario.

Cr Scott said investing in mitigation makes economic sense and significantly reduces the costs governments incur during the recovery process.

“We know for every additional dollar spent on mitigating the effects of climate-related natural disasters, it saves the government up to $8 in the long term, according to DFAT analysis,” Cr Scott said.

“Given these large-scale mitigation projects can cost tens of millions of dollars to plan and deliver, Australia needs to significantly increase its investment in emergency preparedness.

“For example, the Bundaberg East flood levee – proposed by Bundaberg Regional Council and funded by the Federal and Queensland Governments – will cost around $175 million alone.

“As a nation, we urgently need to boost our investment in disaster mitigation to protect our homes and communities, and save lives.”

Aged care information session for local government

Local governments are invited to attend an information session on 18 April to better understand new strengthened aged care quality standards in Australia.

The Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV), Local Government Association of South Australia (LGA SA) and Local Government NSW (LGNSW) are jointly hosting the session, via MS Teams, with representatives from the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission.

The free workshop is being held from 1:30 pm-2:30 pm (AEDT) with support from the Federal Department of Health and Aged Care.

It’s important for councils providing aged care services, particularly those only providing Commonwealth Home Support Program services, to attend to understand the new quality standards, which could be implemented as early as July this year.

Click here to register for the information session

Click here to read more

Housing support program to boost workforce and streamline planning

The opening of applications and release of guidelines for the Federal Government’s new $500 million Housing Support Program has been welcomed by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

Through the first round of the program, state, territory and local governments can access funding to improve planning capacity as well as streamline planning processes.

ALGA President Cr Linda Scott said: “Our research shows 40 per cent of councils are struggling to secure qualified urban and town planners, which is holding us back from facilitating more affordable housing in our communities.

“We have been advocating for more support to increase our planning capacity and capability and are thrilled the Government has responded with this new funding program.

“It’s also encouraging that the Housing Support Program will fund important pre-planning work such as master planning, or assessing hazards to improve the resilience of new housing developments.

“I urge all councils to consider applying for this new funding before the deadline of 29 April 2024.”

Cr Scott said local governments were committed to helping deliver the Commonwealth’s ambitious housing targets and enable vital infrastructure investment in new housing developments.

“However we can’t effectively address the nation’s housing crisis by simply building more houses – we also need to build more parks, libraries, playgrounds, recreation centres and swimming pools,” Cr Scott said.

“ALGA is calling for the Housing Support Program to be increased from $500 million to $750 million in the upcoming Federal Budget, with the additional $250 million available to local governments for infrastructure to improve the liveability of new housing developments.”

Cr Scott said local governments also look forward to seeing the Government’s revised Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings and the Net Zero Built Environment Sector Plan to provide improvements in housing affordability and liveability.

“Our communities want and deserve higher quality buildings that are safer, more resilient and energy-efficient,” Cr Scott said.

“We also want to reduce the extra costs being incurred by local governments for providing services to poorly designed developments and neighborhoods.”

President’s Update – 25 March 2024

Win! National inquiry into local government sustainability

Last week, we welcomed the House of Representatives Standing Committee national inquiry into local government sustainability.

With additional responsibilities costing billions of dollars being forced onto Australia’s 537 councils every year, we expect this national inquiry will consider and address the financial challenges and funding shortfalls being faced by local governments.

Financial sustainability is our number one priority, and it’s vital we restore Financial Assistance Grants to at least one percent of national taxation and address the practice of bringing these payments forward with a once-off $3 billion allocation to councils.

ALGA’s research shows Australian councils receive a lower level of funding than comparable nations, so we need to reverse this trend to ensure our councils – and communities – remain sustainable.

I encourage all councils to lodge a submission outlining these key points, and examples where an increase to financial assistance grants will support your local community to thrive, before the deadline of 3 May 2024.

Action! Help us secure more disaster mitigation funding

Our communities have been repeatedly hit by natural disasters over the past two years, with more than 60 percent of local government areas affected across Australia.

ALGA’s 2022 federal election advocacy secured a new $200 million federal Disaster Ready Fund (DRF).  However, the first round of the DRF is already oversubscribed, and we are advocating for a significant increase in this year’s Federal Budget.

We need your support to contact and engage with your local Federal MPs so we can secure this much-needed funding to better protect our communities.

Council on Federal Financial Relations

I was honoured to represent local government and join Australia’s treasurers at the Council on Federal Financial Relations (CFFR) meeting on 15 March.

We know increasing Federal Assistance Grants is an investment in improving service delivery, increasing national productivity and driving higher living standards for all Australians and communities. On your behalf, ALGA will continue to work to ensure councils are more financially sustainable into the future.

Vale David Plumridge AM

I was saddened to hear of the recent passing of former ALGA President David Plumridge AM.

David was ALGA’s national president from 1994-1996, and during his term negotiated a Commonwealth-Local Government Accord with Prime Minister Keating that was signed at our second National General Assembly in 1995.

In his home state of South Australia, he served as President of the Local Government Association of South Australia, as well as a Mayor at the City of Salisbury, and then later as a councillor at the City of Adelaide.

Our thoughts are with his family, friends and former colleagues at this time.

Kicking off our 2024 NGA

I’m excited to see hundreds of mayors, shire presidents and local government leaders have registered for our peak annual event, the 2024 National General Assembly (NGA) from 2-4 July in Canberra.

The NGA begins with the Regional Forum starting on 2 July from 9.00am and runs through until Friday 5 July with the Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG) finishing at 4pm. To ensure you experience the whole week, please make sure you arrive by early Tuesday morning, and book your departure late Friday afternoon.

As part of this year’s NGA, I will also be speaking at the National Press Club on Tuesday 2 July.  We will share details soon about how you can attend this event.

Don’t forget, we also hold our annual Local Government versus Parliamentarians soccer match in the early hours of Wednesday 3 July.  See you on the pitch!

Finally, voting has officially opened for the 2024 National Awards for Local Government to be presented at the ACLG – so make sure you cast your vote here.

ALGA welcomes national inquiry into local government sustainability

A new House of Representatives Standing Committee inquiry into local government sustainability has been welcomed by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

With additional responsibilities costing billions of dollars being forced onto Australia’s 537 councils every year, ALGA expects this national inquiry will consider and address the financial challenges and funding shortfalls being faced by local governments.

ALGA President Councillor Linda Scott said: “Councils are constantly being asked to do more – by their communities and state and territory governments – but aren’t being funded to deliver on these responsibilities.

“ALGA’s research shows that over the past decade local government expenditure per capita has flatlined, while spending by other governments has continued to rise,” Cr Scott said.

“It’s encouraging that the changing infrastructure and service delivery obligations of local government have been recognised and included in the inquiry’s terms of reference.

“By providing a wide range of free and low-cost services, we are delivering real cost of living relief in our local communities, but need more sustainable funding.

“ALGA looks forward to presenting to the Inquiry on the challenges Australian local governments are facing, and how we can work collaboratively to set councils and our communities up for success.”

Recent reports from the Local Government Association of Queensland and Local Government NSW have highlighted the alarming impact of cost shifting in these jurisdictions.

“New research from Queensland and New South Wales confirms a concerning trend of cost shifting to councils that we are seeing right across the country,” Cr Scott said.

Cr Scott said a key consideration for the inquiry would be the importance and effectiveness of untied federal funding to councils through federal Financial Assistance Grants.

“Over the past 30 years, we have seen Financial Assistance Grants to councils slip from one percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue to just half a percent,” Cr Scott said.

“Regional and rural councils have been hit the hardest, and for many of these councils Financial Assistance Grants make up more than 20 per cent of their annual operating expenditure.

“We are committed to partnering with the Commonwealth, and our state and territory governments, to facilitate more affordable housing, better prepare for natural disasters, and deliver on our national emissions targets, but we can’t do this without funding support.”

Cr Scott said it was also encouraging to see the terms of reference for the inquiry include workforce challenges, with ALGA’s research showing nine out of every 10 councils are experiencing jobs and skills shortages.

Have a say on managing climate change risks

Local governments are invited to provide feedback on the Australian Government’s National Adaptation Plan Issues Paper to ensure Australia is better prepared for the increasing risks from climate change.

The plan will form a blueprint for adapting to nationally significant climate risks, and is based on world-class science of the National Climate Risk Assessment and on extensive consultation.

Have your say and lodge a submission here.

The consultation closes on 11 April 2024.  Councils can also register for a webinar on 26 March to learn more.

Enter now: 2024 Resilient Australia Awards

Local governments are urged to enter the 2024 Resilient Australia Awards to celebrate and promote initiatives building community resilience to disasters and emergencies around Australia.

Sponsored by the Australian Government in partnership with states and territories, the awards recognise collaboration and innovative across a broad range of sectors and initiatives that strengthen disaster resilience with communities, institutions and the private sector.

There is a specific category for councils under the Resilient Australia Local Government Award, which is also open to local government associations.

Please note, submissions for the 2024 awards program must relate to projects or initiatives that began after 1 January 2022 or demonstrate significant outcomes or enhancements since 1 January 2022.

See the guidelines for the awards, which close for submissions on Friday 31 May.

Housing fund shortfall won’t help councils build better communities

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

The Federal Government’s new Housing Support Program must be increased to $750 million to empower local governments to help deliver the Commonwealth’s ambitious housing targets and enable vital infrastructure investment in new housing developments.

The competitive program – which has been welcomed by local government – will provide funding for connecting essential services, amenities to support new housing development, and building planning capability.

ALGA President Cr Linda Scott said the peak body for Australia’s 537 councils was a proud signatory of the National Housing Accord, which has set a target of 1.2 million new, well-located homes over the next five years.

However, under the current $500 million housing program, this only equates to about $400 per home, based on the 1.2 million homes target.  Given the costs of civil and essential services infrastructure in greenfield or infill development, the program funding is vastly insufficient.

Cr Scott said: “While we welcome the Government’s housing fund for enabling infrastructure investment in new developments, this is nowhere near enough to help deliver on Australia’s ambitious national housing targets.

“Preparing new land releases will cost billions of dollars, with much of the pressure falling on a small number of councils that will be expected to take on the majority of new housing.

“While we desperately need more affordable housing, this has to be supported by local infrastructure and services that will enable healthy and connected communities, especially in regional and remote areas.

“This means we need more swimming pools to provide relief on hot days, more libraries to run community programs and more bike paths for active transport and better environmental outcomes.

“Developer contributions are vital to building this infrastructure, but we also want to see the Housing Support Program expanded by $250 million to better support councils to build the facilities our communities need.

“Up-front funding for community infrastructure is a matter of intergenerational equity.  We have to address this issue now before we build 1.2 million new homes, as it will only get more expensive to retrofit solutions.”

NGAA Chair Cr Matthew Deeth said: “Our fast-growing outer metropolitan cities and suburbs have been shouldering the housing development burden for decades.

“Our communities – making up around one-fifth of Australia’s population – live with infrastructure deficits and challenges accessing employment, health care and community facilities other parts of the country take for granted.

“It is important we learn from the past and establish effective partnerships and funding models involving all levels of government if we genuinely care about the future of our growing communities.”

Community Housing Industry Association (CHIA) CEO Wendy Hayhurst said: “Our country has a desperate shortfall of community housing, and on current trends, close to one million low-income Australians’ housing needs will not be met by 2041.

“As well as building homes, we need to ensure the people who live in them have access to great community infrastructure. We’ve recently done research that demonstrates the positive health and wellbeing benefits from living near well-designed parks with playgrounds, picnic spaces and cycle paths.

“Our tenants also need free and low-cost services run out of libraries, health clinics and community centres. These are the services that really allow a community to flourish and they must be robustly funded.”

In summary, with support from the NGAA and CHIA, ALGA is calling for in the 2024-25 Federal Budget:

  • An increase in the Government’s Housing Support Program from $500 million to $750 million.
  • The additional $250 million is to be made available to local governments for infrastructure to improve the liveability of new housing developments.

President’s Update – 11 March 2024

Increasing Housing Support Program for councils

We can’t effectively address the nation’s housing crisis by simply building more houses – we also need to build more parks, libraries, playgrounds, recreation centres and swimming pools.

That’s why ALGA is calling for more support for councils from the Federal Government to invest in the local infrastructure necessary for healthy and connected communities.

We are committed to working with the Government on its ambitious targets, but it’s crucial residents in new housing developments have access to the same health, employment, education and recreation opportunities that many people take for granted.

Up-front funding for community infrastructure is a matter of intergenerational equity. We have to address this issue now before we build 1.2 million new homes, as it will only get more expensive to retrofit solutions.

Also, in a major win for councils following the recent Planning Ministers Meeting, local government, via ALGA, will be able to suggest inclusions in the government’s new housing framework to recognise the quality as well as quantity of approvals.

Importantly, this reinforces the importance of local government planning powers.  We intimately know our local areas and landscapes and are best placed to provide expert advice on assessing land use planning.

Meeting with Climate Change Minister on CHAMP pledge

On behalf of councils, I met with Federal Minister for Climate Change Chris Bowen on 29 February to discuss the Federal Government signing the Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships (CHAMP) pledge at the COP28 World Climate Action Summit.

We urged the Government to sign the pledge, which commits national governments to working with sub-national governments to reduce emissions, and were thrilled that they made this commitment.

During our meeting we discussed how local government can help the Government meet its emissions reduction targets, and I look forward to seeing them deliver on their promise of increased engagement and collaboration with councils.

(L-R): ALGA Vice President Mayor Matt Burnett, Federal Climate Change Minster Chris Bowen and ALGA President Cr Linda Scott.

Book now: 2024 NGA and the ACLG

Finally, a friendly reminder to book your tickets for our 2024 National General Assembly (NGA) from 2-4 July and the Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG) on 5 July.

Councils can also submit motions for discussion and debate at the NGA.  We have extended the motions deadline until 30 April, and please remember your motions must meet the criteria outlined in our discussion paper.

See you in Canberra in July.

Q&A with Cathie Warburton, ALIA CEO

ALGA News sat down with Australian Library & Information Association (ALIA) CEO Cathie Warburton to discuss how libraries are stepping up to support communities during the cost-of-living crisis.  Ms Warburton highlighted how public libraries, especially run by councils, are helping to improve the liveability of communities by providing essential services to vulnerable people and families.

ALGA: We know many communities are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis in Australia. How are libraries, particularly those run by local governments, stepping up to provide essential services to help vulnerable people?

Cathie Warburton (CW): A core value of ALIA, and all libraries, is to promote free access to information for all and to show respect for the diversity and individuality of all people. Libraries are there to help vulnerable people and that resource is becoming increasingly important to the community.

Most importantly, public libraries provide a safe place to work, study or relax, which is air-conditioned. They also provide books, movies, magazines, free internet access and use of computers and are increasingly providing guidance on accessing government services.

Libraries welcome everyone and respond to community need in times of stress. This includes membership for those people who don’t have a fixed address, a place of refuge during natural disasters, assistance applying for jobs or finding accommodation and simply being a place to connect with other people and participate in the community.

ALGA: Can you share some of the interesting examples and community-based initiatives libraires are now offering, especially in regional areas?

CW: Public libraries are offering a huge array of public activities including movie nights, exercise classes, book clubs, school holiday programs, mobile library services, hobbies expos and multi-media recording studios. As well as books, a number of libraries are lending tablets, toys, home energy kits or tools. Seed libraries are also popular in the regions.

ALGA: Libraries are also becoming increasingly important as a focal point and place of refuge for local communities. How are council-run libraries addressing this extra demand and coping with added pressures?

CW: Council-run libraries are responding to extra demand by providing greater access through extended opening hours, click and collect book lockers or access out of hours for registered members. Some libraries have employed a social worker to support library users or in some cases to be a resource for library staff.

Libraries are a hub for the community, and they do not operate in isolation. Strategic and community partnerships with other organisations and services are essential for libraries to respond to community needs.  Libraries can also belong to an ecosystem of care that supports and responds to individual needs of library visitors with high social service needs.

ALGA: We recently called on the Federal Government to provide extra funding for Australia’s 537 councils so they can be more financially sustainable, does ALIA support this move and why?

CW: ALIA supports ALGA in this call for extra funding from the Federal Government. Council-run libraries are responding to increased demands from the community. Some of this is in response to the cost-of-living crisis but increased demand is also the result of a number of Federal Government services only being available online. Digital exclusion is real and council-run libraries bridge the digital divide by helping people access services and entitlements online.

ALGA: Finally, ALIA is hosting a national conference in May this year in Adelaide.  What can people, including those in local government, expect from this major event?

The conference is being held from 6-9 May in Adelaide. The theme is “Truth AND Dare” with four sub themes – Daring Greatly Striving Valiantly; Forging Future Libraries; From Inclusion to Belonging; and Raising Voices.

We are very excited to have the President of ALGA, Cr Linda Scott, as a keynote speaker at the event. Issues being discussed in other sessions of interest to local government are book challenges, supporting vulnerable members of the community and equitable access to services for those with a disability. An emerging area for libraries is social prescribing where public libraries partner with health service providers and care agencies to offer support through library services which focus on the whole person and their wellness as opposed to their illness or condition.

2023 Closing the Gap Annual Report

ALGA Closing the Gap Annual Reports

ALGA’s 2023 Closing the Gap Annual Report outlines a range of case studies/examples of Australian councils working to support reconciliation and updates progress against ALGA’s previous Implementation Plan.

The report also provides a high-level assessment of progress on each of the actions ALGA and member state and territory local government associations committed to undertake in partnership with the Coalition of Peaks and jurisdictions.

To download the full report, click here.

Read ALGA’s 2022 Closing the Gap Annual Report.

Regional councils urged to apply for energy-saving fund

Local governments, including in regional areas, are reminded to apply for the first round of the Federal Government’s new Community Energy Upgrades Fund.

Grants of between $25,000 and $2,500,000 are available to councils across Australia to invest in energy-saving measures including to replace swimming pool heating systems with electric heat pumps, battery storage at sporting fields and the installation of electric vehicle chargers for council fleets.

Regional and rural councils are especially encouraged to apply as the assessment criteria (criterion 4) considers the constraints of delivering energy projects in regional areas.

Round one applications are open until 30 April 2024, with grants awarded on merit.

New rules for mobile coverage in housing developments

New rules have been developed by the Federal Government to ensure all new housing developments of 50 dwellings or more should include mobile coverage during planning processes.

The rules reflect existing expectations about access to essential utilities – water, electricity and fixed line telecommunications services – in new developments, highlighting the critical importance of mobile connectivity in modern life.

The Telecommunications in New Developments (TIND) policy informs the steps to be taken by states and territories to strengthen planning regulations.

If implemented by states and territories, the new rules would mean developers, mobile network operators and infrastructure providers need to engage as early as possible on mobile connectivity and coverage solutions for housing developments.

Other changes to the TIND policy include:

  • developers building multi-unit buildings should need to provide for in-building pathways where cabling is required, and
  • NBN Co. to spread backhaul costs across different developments in the area.

To find out more about, visit www.infrastructure.gov.au/tind

Councils can partner with new resilience program

Local governments are invited to partner with the Resilience Canopy – a new, nation-wide movement to build strong and challenge-ready communities, adaptable to disruptions like natural disasters.

The program activates communities to lead their own resilience-building actions and plan through a six-step engagement process and resilience framework. It also helps them connect with funding and partners to deliver their goals.

As a crucial link to community, local councils can participate in the Resilience Canopy Practitioner Training, helping staff and community leaders learn how to apply the six-step process.  Free training is available for staff and community leaders in selected local government areas across Australia.

Activation grants are available this year for communities to kick-start their resilience building. Canopy-trained practitioners can apply for grants on behalf of their communities, once they have completed the training.

To kick start your community to lead their resilience journey, contact the team for a briefing at training@resiliencecanopy.com.au or learn more at resiliencecanopy.com.au.

The Resilience Canopy is a not-for-profit organisation, powered by ResilientCo, Resilient Cities Catalyst and with foundational funding from Minderoo Foundation.

President’s Update – 26 February 2024

Time for Government to deliver on FA Grants promise

Last week, I told The Australian newspaper the Federal Government must deliver this year on its pre-election commitment to increase Financial Assistance Grants to Australia’s 537 local governments.

Before the May 2022 election, Federal Labor promised to support the ‘long-term financial sustainability of local government’ through ‘fair increases’ to Financial Assistance Grants, and after two years of COVID and natural disasters, we can’t afford to wait any longer.

Our number one priority in the 2024-25 Federal Budget is restoring Financial Assistance Grants to at least one per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue, while also securing a once-off $3 billion payment to councils that will address the historical practice of paying these grants in the previous financial year.

Across the nation, councils are delivering free and low-cost services providing cost-of-living relief in our communities, and increasing the vital untied federal funding we receive would help us to expand this important work.

Addressing the housing crisis

Last Thursday, I attended the Planning Ministers’ Meeting to advocate for the key role local government has to play in addressing Australia’s affordable housing crisis.

Councils are committed to working with the Commonwealth and state and territory governments to deliver on our national housing targets, while building healthy and connected communities.

We need a coordinated approach that addresses our major challenges including jobs and skills shortages, rising costs in materials, current economic conditions and the need for supporting built and social infrastructure.

New remote jobs program to Close the Gap

ALGA has welcomed the Government’s new Remote Jobs and Economic Development Program (RJED), which is expected to create around 3,000 jobs in remote Australia in partnership with First Nations communities.

We are often the largest employer in regional and remote communities, and our 2022 Local Government Workforce Skills and Capability Survey showed councils are the biggest employer of First Nations people in the Northern Territory.

We strongly believe councils should be an eligible employer through this new program, and look forward to working with the Government to deliver on its promise.

2024 NGA motions deadline extended

Finally, a reminder to all councils we have extended the deadline for submitting motions to our 2024 National General Assembly (NGA) until 30 April.

Your councils now have an extra month to consider the issues you will bring to Canberra for discussion and debate at our NGA from 2-4 July.  Motions can be submitted here and must meet the criteria outlined in our discussion paper.

Registrations are also open for the 2024 NGA, including the Regional Forum, and the Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG) on 5 July.

Click here to register your attendance in July.

Improving road safety through national grants program

Local governments are urged to apply for the National Road Safety Action Grants Program (NRSAGP) to improve road safety outcomes in communities.

The NRSAGP provides non-infrastructure grants to help implement the Federal Government’s National Road Safety Action Plan 2023-25 priorities:

  1. Community Education and Awareness, including workplace road safety
  2. Vulnerable Road Users
  3. First Nations road safety
  4. Technology and Innovation
  5. Research and Data

Applications for projects on First Nations Road Safety, Technology and Innovation, and Research and Data funding streams are now open, while grants for Community Education and Awareness (including workplace road safety) and Vulnerable Road Users are closed.

The deadline is Sunday, 31 March 2024.

For any questions, email: RoadSafetyActionGrants@infrastructure.gov.au

Empowering girls through sport

Local governments are encouraged to embrace an innovative, evidence-based program called Daughters and Dads Active and Empowered.

Pioneered by the University of Newcastle, the award-winning program has been proven to enhance the physical and social-emotional well-being of primary school-aged girls.

Several LGAs around Australia have expressed interest in running the program, with a number applying for funding through the Federal Government’s Play Well Participation Grant.

The program has also been effective in increasing participation rates for sport, with multiple sport-specific versions of the program developed in partnership with NSW peak sporting bodies including cricket, basketball and football).

Watch the video below to learn more:

Time to deliver ‘fair increases’ to Financial Assistance Grants for councils

JOINT MEDIA RELEASE

Time is running out for the Federal Government to deliver on its pre-election promise of “fair increases” to Financial Assistance Grants to Australia’s 537 local governments.

Before the May 2022 election, Federal Labor committed to the ‘long-term financial sustainability of local government’ through increases to grant allocations, including ‘fair increases’ to Financial Assistance Grants*.

ALGA President Councillor Linda Scott said: “For 50 years these grants have provided a base level of funding for councils to deliver the services our communities need, without delivery tied to the Government’s agenda.

“Many of Australia’s councils are under significant financial pressure, which is being compounded by increasingly frequent natural disasters, jobs and skills shortages and inflation.

“We simply can’t afford to wait any longer to see these ‘fair increases’ in federal funding that were promised to our communities.

“With the next Federal election looming, this is the Government’s last chance to follow through on its commitment to increase Financial Assistance Grants.”

FA Grants have declined from one per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue in 1996 to just 0.5 per cent today.

ALGA’s research showed local governments’ share of Gross Domestic Product is amongst the lowest of comparable nations, and expenditure per capita by councils has flatlined over the past decade, while state, territory and commonwealth spending has continued to rise.

“Councils are innovative, effective and efficient – whether it’s stepping up to provide affordable housing solutions, or running more free and low-cost community programs, we are committed to addressing Australia’s cost of living crisis but we can’t keep doing more with less,” Cr Scott said.

“Restoring Financial Assistance Grants to at least one per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue must be an urgent priority for this Government and would deliver tangible benefits for every Australian community.”

Australian Library & Information Association (ALIA) President Jane Cowell said: “Australia’s public libraries have always provided essential community services and support, and this has been especially true in the current cost-of-living crisis.

“Beyond providing access to diverse collections, libraries offer services including free internet access and use of computers, assistance with job seeking and resumes, guidance on accessing government services, the ability to stream movies, borrow audio books and board games, and use multi-media recording studios, maker spaces and innovation labs – all for free,” Ms Cowell said.

“Libraries are also increasingly being called on to provide more support to communities, such as lending collections of physical items needed by the community. For example, in regional South Australia, Mt Gambier Library launched their Library of Things in mid-2023, aimed at easing cost of living pressures and reducing waste.  The program offers a variety of items for loan ranging from kitchen equipment to home energy toolkits, helping people desperate to reduce their power costs.

“Similar initiatives have been rolled out in public libraries around the country as the cost-of-living crunch continues to hit: toy libraries in Townsville (QLD), free music classes in Alexandria (NSW) and seed libraries in Geelong (Vic). All of these programs are run by library staff and are offered in addition to regular services.

“In order for public libraries to respond to this increase in demand, secure and sustainable funding is needed at the local level.  As the peak body for libraries, ALIA joins ALGA in calling on the Federal Government to increase funding for local government.”

ALGA is also calling on the Government to provide an additional once-off payment of $3 billion to address the historical practice of paying FA Grants to councils in advance.

Since 2009-10, the Government has consistently pre-paid either part or all of the annual Financial Assistance Grants to councils in the previous financial year.

“For the past 15 years councils have received advance payments framed as economic stimulus to address the impacts of COVID, natural disasters, and the Global Financial Crisis,” Cr Scott said.

“Many of our councils took the government of the day at its word and spent these advance funds stimulating their local economies.

“We are now playing a constant game of catch-up on the $3 billion worth of funds and need to reset the payment cycle.

“Providing an additional once-off allocation of Financial Assistance Grants equal to one year’s payments will address the bring-forward and meet the Government’s commitment to fair increases.”

In summary, as part of its 2024-25 pre-Budget submission, ALGA is calling for:

  • The Government to restore Financial Assistance Grants to at least one per cent of Commonwealth taxation revenue; and
  • Provide councils with an additional once-off payment of $3 billion to address the practice of bringing forward FA Grants payments.

* Note, please see page 132 of the ALP’s 2021 National Platform.

 Background

FA Grants have been a fixture of local government funding since 1974. The grant is paid to local governments via their state or territory grants commissions according to an agreed formula set by the Federal Government.

In 2023-24, Australian local governments received $3.1 billion in federal Financial Assistance Grants, which is approximately 0.5 percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue. The last time FA Grants were equal to one percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue was 1996.

FA Grants are untied, meaning that local governments can use this federal funding to address local issues and priorities.

Councils welcome new remote jobs program to Close the Gap

The Federal Government’s new Remote Jobs and Economic Development Program (RJED) has been welcomed by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).

The new $707 million employment program is expected to create around 3,000 jobs in remote Australia in partnership with First Nations communities, with the goal of closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

ALGA President Cr Linda Scott said local governments – many of which are facing widespread skills shortages – will be interested to partner with the Government on the RJED.

“In regional and remote communities, local government is often the biggest employer, and our 2022 Local Government Workforce Skills and Capability Survey shows councils are the largest employer of First Nations people in the Northern Territory, with around half of the workforce being Indigenous Australians,” Cr Scott said.

“As a major employer of First Nations people, we believe councils should be an eligible employer through this program, and we look forward to working with the Government to ensure it delivers on its promise.”

Cr Scott said as the closest government to our communities, councils have a key role to play in reducing Indigenous disadvantage.

“Councils are committed to co-designing programs with all levels of government – and all partners – to increase education and employment opportunities and reduce the barriers experienced by many First Nations people,” Cr Scott said.

“We are dedicated to building a more prosperous and inclusive future for First Nations people based on genuine and respectful partnerships.”

 

Now open: 2024 National Awards for Local Government

The 2024 National Awards for Local Government are now open for Australia’s councils.

The national awards celebrate outstanding local government achievements across Australia, including recognising local governments who are innovative, make a difference to their local communities, display excellence and deliver outcomes that are replicable across the country.

All elected local government organisations, local government associations and other recognised organisations providing direct services to communities are eligible to enter.

Entries close Monday 18 March 2023.  Councils can enter via the Government’s online platform.

President’s Update – 12 February 2024

Working for councils: ALGA advocacy in Canberra

With the 2024-25 Federal Budget high on our agenda, I visited Parliament House last week to meet with senior Government Ministers, Shadow Ministers and independents.

Representing your councils, I met with the Treasurer as well as the Ministers for Housing and Local Government to advocate for the funding partnerships we need to deliver for our communities.

Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers with ALGA President Cr Linda Scott.

The importance of these face-to-face meetings can’t be underestimated, especially after we have achieved so many advocacy wins over the past two years, including doubling Roads to Recovery funding, the $200 million Disaster Ready Fund, a new $100 million Community Energy Upgrades Fund and a $500 million Housing Support Program.

Regional housing summit

I was also delighted to represent Australia’s 537 councils at the National Regional Housing Summit in Canberra last Friday, hosted by the Regional Australia Institute (RAI).

During the opening session, I spoke about the importance of affordable housing developments being supported by new libraries, swimming pools, bike paths and playgrounds that will create healthy and connected communities.

I also highlighted that, as a signatory to the National Housing Accord, ALGA is committed to working collaboratively with other levels of government to address Australia’s affordable housing crisis.

Cr Linda Scott speaking at a media conference after the RAI regional housing summit.

2024 NGA registrations now OPEN!

Finally, I am delighted to officially invite you to your peak annual event, the 2024 National General Assembly (NGA) from 2-4 July in Canberra.

Registrations are now open for both the 2024 NGA, including the Regional Forum, and the Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG) on 5 July.  Click here to register.

We look forward to welcoming you to Canberra in July.

2024 NGA motions deadline extended

The deadline for councils to submit motions to the 2024 National General Assembly of Local Government (NGA), to be held in Canberra from 2-4 July, has been extended until Tuesday 30 April 2024.

In December last year, local governments were invited to submit motions for debate at the 2024 NGA in line with ALGA’s discussion paper.

ALGA is also delighted to announce registrations are now open for the 2024 NGA and the Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG), to be held on 5 July.

The theme for this year’s NGA is “Building Community Trust”, which aims to explore the critical importance of trust in governments, between governments, its institutions and citizens, acknowledging trust as a fundamental building block of our nation’s democracy.

To register for the 2024 NGA and ACLG, or to find out more, visit NGA24 (eventsair.com)

New Community Engagement Review report

A new report by the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner has been released on the independent Community Engagement Review for renewable energy infrastructure.

ALGA made a submission to the review and organised a workshop for councils to engage with the Commissioner.

The key recommendations, some that align with ALGA’s advocacy, include to:

  • encourage best practice and select reputable developers for new projects
  • reduce unnecessary and onerous community engagement by improving the way project sites are selected
  • make engagement more efficient by revising planning and approval processes
  • improve complaint handling processes
  • keep communities informed about the transition, including its goals, benefits and requirements, and
  • equitably share the benefits of the transition.

The review also recognised current initiatives by all levels of governments to address community expectations.

Read the Review here.

Councils to contribute to Regional Telecommunications review

Local governments, especially in regional areas, are urged to participate in the Federal Government’s Regional Telecommunications review this year.

Former Western Australian Minister for Regional Development, Agriculture and Food Alannah MacTiernan has been appointed to lead the next review.  She will be supported by the 2024 Regional Telecommunications Independent review Committee.

The review is undertaken every three years and is an opportunity for Australians – and councils – in rural, regional and remote communities to share views and experiences of telecommunications services.

As part of the review, the Committee will examine how people in regional, rural and remote parts of Australia do not have equitable access to telecommunications services compared with urban areas.

Public consultation will begin in April this year, with the Committee’s final report due to the Government by December this year.

Read more here.

ACLG returns for 2024

ALGA is delighted to once again partner with the Federal Government to host the 2024 Australian Council of Local Government (ACLG) in Canberra.

The ACLG event will be held at the National Convention Centre on Friday 5 July, after the 2024 National General Assembly (NGA).

The 2024 ACLG is expected to attract around 600 local government representatives, including mayors and Shire Presidents, councillors, CEOs as well as a range of peak body representatives.

ALGA President Cr Linda Scott said: “We were thrilled to work with the Government on the 2023 ACLG and look forward to partnering on this year’s event, immediately following our 2024 NGA.

“Last year’s ACLG provided us with an opportunity to come to the table and engage with Ministers on what our communities, big or small, need – and to look at how we can partner to strengthen the delivery of vital services.

“I am delighted the ACLG will be back again this year, and I sincerely thank the Albanese Government for working with us to deliver better outcomes for our communities.”

Read more here.

(Photo courtesy of the Australian Government)

President’s Update – 29 January 2024

I hope you all enjoyed the Australia Day long weekend.

For many communities this is a time of celebration, yet for others, it can be a difficult day. As the debate rages about our national day, ALGA has consistently advocated for the right of councils to choose when we hold our citizenship ceremonies and will continue to do so.

Supporting Councils Experiencing Natural Disasters

Our thoughts are with the communities that have already been impacted by floods, cyclones and bushfires this year – and those with imminent threats.

Having successfully advocated on your behalf for disaster prevention funding, it is important for you to know that applications are now open for the second round of the Government’s Disaster Ready Fund.

I urge all councils in high-risk areas to submit their mitigation projects through their state or territory government.

It is crucial that we build back better to reduce the impact of future events, and ALGA will continue to advocate for betterment principles to be more effectively incorporated into recovery funding arrangements.

Supporting Your Federal Budget Priorities

Last week ALGA provided our 2024-25 Federal Budget Submission to Treasury, outlining a range of opportunities for Australia’s 537 councils to work with the Government on national priorities.

Restoring Financial Assistance Grants to at least one percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue remains our number one priority.

This would allow us to continue to deliver and expand on the many free and low-cost services we offer in our communities, providing cost of living relief to millions of Australians.

This Government has promised “fair increases” to Financial Assistance Grants, and we look forward to them following through on this pre-election commitment.

2024 National General Assembly

Our 2024 National General Assembly of Local Government (NGA) will be held in Canberra from 2-4 July, and registrations will open in the coming days.

We’ve got a great lineup of speakers already confirmed, including popular political commentator Annabel Crabb, who will talk about the current state of democracy and civic engagement.

One of the highlights of our annual conference is the debate on motions sessions, where we come together to consider the big issues for our communities and nation.

I encourage all councils to consider the motions they can bring to Canberra this July and download our motions discussion paper for more information.

Taking Action on Affordable Housing

The lack of affordable housing remains a serious concern, and councils are committed to being part of the solution to this growing crisis.

Next week I’m speaking at the Regional Australian Institute’s National Regional Housing Summit, where I’ll highlight some of the great work councils are doing, and the importance of not only building more affordable housing, but also healthy and connected communities.

Councils urged to help Clean up Australia

Local governments and communities are invited to once again roll up their sleeves to be part of Clean Up Australia Day 2024 on 3 March.

This year is the 34th year of Clean Up Australia Day – Australia’s largest community-based environmental event.

Clean Up Australia Day wouldn’t occur without the support of local governments. Every year, hundreds of councils participate in many ways, providing support to their communities by:

  • Removing litter from registered sites
  • Hosting and running council-led events
  • Reviewing local registrations to ensure they are safe, and
  • Promoting events through various channels, producing signage, galvanising local media and leveraging community networks.

Key dates for the diary:

  • Business Clean Up Day – Tuesday 27 February 2024
  • Schools Clean Up Day – Friday 1 March 2024
  • Clean Up Australia Day – Sunday 3 March 2024.

Register your council’s support NOW

Federal funding for heavy vehicle safety

Local governments are invited to apply for federal funding through round nine of the Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative (HVSI) program, run by the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR). 

The Federal Government has committed HVSI funding for new projects to support a safer heavy vehicle industry.  The HVSI program is a discretionary merit-based grants program aiming to support implementable, value-for-money projects that deliver tangible improvements to heavy vehicle safety.​

Submissions are open until 19 February 2024.

For more information, visit click here or contact HVSI@nhvr.gov.au

Guest speakers confirmed for 2024 NGA

A number of high-profile and engaging guest speakers have already been confirmed for the 2024 National General Assembly (NGA) in Canberra from 2-4 July 2024.

Popular media personality and commentator Annabel Crabb (pictured) will join ALGA President Linda Scott on stage for a fireside conversation about politics and civic engagement. Drawing on her experience as a political journalist, Annabel will discuss her impressions of Australia’s democracy, how things have changed over time and where we may be headed.

Other guest speakers include data scientist and demographer Simon Kuestenmacher, former Lord Mayor of Adelaide Stephen Yarwood and Becky Hirst, a well-respected leader in community engagement.

The NGA theme is “Building Community Trust” highlighting the critical importance of trust in governments, between governments, institutions and citizens.

Registrations for NGA 2024 will open soon, so keep an eye on our website to find out more.

Submission on predation by feral cats

ALGA recently provided a submission to the Federal Government about the Threat Abatement Plan (TAP) to control feral cats and reduce predation from pet cats.

The submission highlighted local governments welcome any new tools for councils to manage cat movements but further actions need to have a sustainable funding source.

There is also significant work to be done to achieve social licence for local governments to enact stricter controls on the movement of pet cats across Australia.

Read the submission

Councils can PUMP up mobile coverage

Local governments on urban fringes, where the bush meets the suburbs, can benefit from $20 million in Commonwealth funding to help upgrade mobile phone coverage under round 2 of the Peri-Urban Mobile Program (PUMP).

Eligible areas under the latest funding round have been expanded to include major regional cities like Geelong, the Gold Coast and Newcastle, and the peri-urban edges of major capital cities, which are often prone to bushfires.

The PUMP provides funding to Mobile Network Operators (MNO) and Mobile Network Infrastructure Providers to deliver new or upgraded mobile phone infrastructure.  Telcos, communities and other interested parties are encouraged to work together to submit applications.

Applications close on 1 April 2024 and more information is available here.

President’s Update – 15 January 2024

Happy New Year and welcome to 2024.

I’m expecting this to be another big year for local government, especially with council elections in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.

Win! Community energy upgrade funding available

In a major advocacy win for councils last year, ALGA secured a new $100 million Community Energy Upgrades Fund to help us deliver energy upgrades and bill savings at our local pools, sporting clubs and community centres.

I’m delighted to announce the first funding round is now open, with $50 million available exclusively to councils.

I encourage you to review the grant guidelines and consider the opportunities in your communities to tap into this new funding stream.

Win! DRF round two funding now open

ALGA’s leadership and advocacy also secured the $200 million Disaster Ready Fund (DRF), and I’m happy to let you know guidelines for the second round are now available.

I urge councils to identify and nominate projects they have ready to go, including sea walls, flood levies and bushfire mitigation works.

Councils can review the round two guidelines and submit applications through their states and territories from 22 January.

2024 National General Assembly and call for motions

Finally, I wrote to all councils last month seeking motions for our 2024 National General Assembly (NGA) in Canberra from 2-4 July.

Our 2024 NGA 2024 theme is “Building Community Trust”, and we will explore the importance of trust in and between governments, institutions and citizens, and how we can continue to build on our reputation as a trusted local delivery partner.

A discussion paper outlining essential information and the criteria motions must meet can be downloaded here.

We will open registrations soon, and I look forward to sharing more with you then!

Policy Focus – National automated access system for heavy vehicles

Transport association Austroads is leading the implementation of a national automated access system (NAAS) for heavy vehicles in Australia and New Zealand.

The NAAS will support road managers, including from local governments, to provide access decisions more efficiently to help drive better productivity and safety across state borders.

The system will be based on the successful Tasmanian Heavy Vehicle Access Management System (HVAMS) acknowledging the differences in infrastructure and processes across jurisdictions.

Aimed at providing a seamless experience, the NAAS will also include interfaces with the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator’s portal and other applications.

Local governments manage 77 per cent of Australia’s roads by length and play an important role in authorising heavy vehicle access on local roads.  However councils only collect 3.5 per cent of national taxation and are heavily reliant on funding from other levels of government.

ALGA has consistently advocated for $300 million per year from the Federal Government for councils to support the implementation of Heavy Vehicle National Law Reforms and improve freight productivity on Australia’s local roads.

Learn more about the NAAS project here.

Apply now for the Community Energy Upgrades Fund

Applications are now open to local governments for the first round of the Federal Government’s new $100 million Community Energy Upgrades Fund.

Grants of between $25,000 and $2,500,000 are available to councils across Australia to invest in energy-saving measures like replacing swimming pool heating systems with electric heat pumps, battery storage at sporting fields and the installation of electric vehicle chargers for council fleets.

The two-stage program aims to help councils unlock of total of more than $200 million in high-impact energy upgrades.

Round one applications are open until 30 April 2024, with grants to be awarded on merit.  Grant guidelines and applications are available here.

Disaster Ready Fund round two guidelines

New guidelines for round two of the Disaster Ready Fund (DRF) have recently been released by the Federal Government.

Councils can submit applications to lead agencies as part of the second DRF funding round between 22 January and 20 March 2024.

Round two of the DRF will provide up to $200 million of funding for disaster risk reduction and resilience initiatives.

Lead agencies have until 5pm AEDT Friday 29 April 2024 to submit their applications to NEMA.

For more information and a list of lead agencies, click here.

Registrations open for NGA 2024  

ALGA will host the 2024 National General Assembly (NGA), incorporating the Regional Cooperation and Development Forum, in Canberra from 2-4 July 2024. 

This year’s NGA theme is “Building Community Trust”, centring on the critical importance of trust in governments, between governments, institutions, and citizens.  

Registrations are now open for the NGA 2024, so secure your tickets NOW. 

Councils are also invited to download and review the discussion paper containing essential information and outlining the criteria for submitting NGA motions this year. 

President’s Update – 18 December 2023

National General Assembly dates and motions

I am delighted to announce we are now accepting your council’s motions for our 2024 National General Assembly (NGA), to be held in Canberra from 2-4 July.

This is your opportunity to bring the issues and opportunities you are seeing in your communities to the national stage, and for us to speak with one voice to the Federal Government.

Our 2024 NGA theme is Building Community Trust, and we will be exploring the critical importance of trust in and between governments, institutions and citizens, and how we can continue to build on our reputation as trusted local delivery partner.

A discussion paper containing essential information, and outlining the criteria that NGA motions must meet can be downloaded here

Australia takes CHAMP pledge at COP28

Big news out of the United Nations COP28 World Climate Action Summit – in response to ALGA’s advocacy, I’m delighted to welcome the Federal Minister for Energy Chris Bowen’s commitment to join the Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships (CHAMP).

Australian local governments have been committed to and championed climate action for more than two decades. A recent report showed around three quarters of Australian councils have set or are in the process of developing community emissions reduction targets and are working towards net zero.

The CHAMP pledge is an opportunity to deepen the partnership between the Australian Government and local governments to meet our community’s aspirations for increased climate action.

Season’s greetings

Finally, as 2023 draws to a close, I sincerely thank all mayors, shire presidents, councillors and local government staff who have worked with us – and our state and territory local government associations – to deliver a better deal for our communities.

I look forward to continuing to work with you in 2024, and hope to welcome you to Canberra in July for our 30th NGA.

 Season’s greetings and have a safe and healthy New Year!

Councils welcome Australia taking CHAMP pledge

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) has welcomed the Australian Government’s commitment to joining the Coalition for High Ambition Multilevel Partnerships (CHAMP), announced during the COP28 World Climate Action Summit.

President Cr Linda Scott said ALGA had encouraged the Government to sign the CHAMP pledge, which will enhance cooperation on climate action between national, state and local governments.

“Australian local governments have been committed to and championed climate action for more than two decades,” Cr Scott said.

“A recent report by ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability showed around three quarters of Australian councils have set or are in the process of developing community emissions reduction targets and are working towards net zero.

“We have consistently advocated for more support for local governments to reduce emissions, and were thrilled when this advocacy delivered a new federal $100 million Community Energy Upgrades Fund for councils announced in June this year.

“The CHAMP pledge is an opportunity to deepen the partnership between the Australian Government and local governments to meet our community’s aspirations for increased climate action.

“We look forward to working with the Government on what the CHAMP pledge objectives mean in our local Australian context, and how we can work together to support our national emissions reduction targets.

“We are also keen to tap into the learnings and expertise of other councils around the world, whose governments have signed up to this global climate action agreement.”

Fire Danger Rating training now available

Local governments can increase their understanding of the Australian Fire Danger Rating System (AFDRS) ahead of the fire season through new eLearning courses.

The AFDRS eLearning update is a collaborative effort between AFAC, the national council for fire and emergency services, and state and territory fire agencies.

The eLearning is open to a broad range of stakeholders, from community members, councils and fire management professionals.

If you have not registered for AFDRS eLearning before, you will need to create an account and register here.

Federal Ministers respond to 2023 NGA resolutions

A number of key Federal Government Ministers have responded to resolutions from ALGA’s 2023 National General Assembly (NGA) of Local Government.

These responses cover a range of topics including emergency management, social services, climate change and energy, Indigenous affairs, cyber security, communications and housing.

Further Ministerial responses are expected in early 2024, and councils are encouraged to follow this progress on ALGA’s 2023 NGA Resolutions tracker.

More information for councils looking to submit motions to ALGA’s 2024 NGA will be released before the end of the year.

Urban rivers and catchments funding available

The Federal Government’s Urban Rivers and Catchments Program is now open to local governments.

A total of $109 million is available from July 2024 to fund around 100 waterway projects around Australia. There are two competitive grant streams:

  • Stream 1 – small to medium-scale project grants of between $150,000 to $2 million for community-led projects. A total of $51 million is available under this stream.
  • Stream 2 – larger scale project grants of between $2 million to $10 million for projects that include co-investment. A total of $58 million is available under this stream.

Projects must meet the geographic boundaries of the program and the eligibility criteria set out in the Grant Opportunity Guidelines.

Applications close on Tuesday 13 February 2024.

Submission to review of community engagement of renewable energy infrastructure

ALGA has provided a submission to the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner’s (AEIC) Review of community engagement practices.

The submission makes a number of recommendations from the local government sector focusing on community engagement in renewable energy infrastructure.

ALGA highlighted the importance of a fast rollout of renewable energy infrastructure including energy firming and transmission infrastructure in achieving Australia’s ambition for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. However, local governments’ experience shows an immense disparity in proponents’ approaches, standards of consultation and benefits for communities when it comes to renewable energy infrastructure.

Read submission