News

Australian Road Safety Awards

South Burnett Regional Council, City of Gold Coast, Logan City Council, and Maribyrnong City Council were all recognised at the 2022 Australian Road Safety Awards, presented at Parliament House last week. 

Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Senator Carol Brown commended all the award winners on their efforts to save lives and reduce injuries on Australian roads. 

“The awards remind us all about the importance of road safety and give confidence to decision makers at all levels that – working together – we can deliver on the promise of the new National Road Safety Strategy 2021–30,” Senator Brown said. 

“Tragically, last year 1,122 people died on Australian roads, while around 40,000 people are seriously injured each year.” 

“As part of our commitment to Vision Zero by 2050, the Australian Government is continuing to work closely with the states, territories, local governments and other stakeholders to deliver a strong plan for implementing the National Road Safety Strategy.” 

A list of this year’s award winners is available at www.arsf.com.au.

Regional airstrip funding

Fifty-five aerodromes across remote Australia – many of which are owned and operated by councils – will share in nearly $15 million of federal funding through round 9 of the Commonwealth’s Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program. 

This funding will support priority safety and access works, including runway resurfacing, fencing, lighting and drainage works. 

Assistant Minister for Regional Development Anthony Chisholm said these upgrades would make a big difference to communities across the country. 

“The Albanese Government knows that remote aerodromes make a major difference to the communities they serve, by keeping Australians connected to each other and to critical services such as healthcare, and getting goods in and out in a timely manner,” Mr Chisholm said. 

“This supports quality of life in remote communities, helps remote businesses grow and thrive, and builds opportunity and economic growth across our regions. 

More information on the Remote Airstrip Upgrade Program – and a full list of supported projects – can be found here. 

Picnics Unwrapped

Plastic Oceans Australasia is inviting Australian councils to host or participate in plastic-free picnics from 1-30 September to help heighten awareness of pollution from single-use plastics. 

Plastic Oceans Australasia’s mission is to change the world’s attitude to plastic within a generation, and through’ Picnics Unwrapped’ they are raising funding to expand the delivery of much-needed environmental education resources in regional and remote areas around Australasia  

Launched in 2021, the Picnics Unwrapped campaign has raised more than $25,000 to date.  

To find out more – including details of prizes that are available – visit Picnics Unwrapped. 

Community Refugee Integration Settlement Pilot

In December 2021 the federal government announced its new ‘CRISP’ program: the Community Refugee Integration and Settlement Pilot 

Based on the popular 40-year-old Canadian model, this program is expected to support 1,500 refugees referred by the UNHCR to the Australian government for resettlement between 2022 and 2025. 

The CRISP program involves locals forming groups to welcome and support refugee households as they settle into their new community. 

This includes meeting the new arrivals at the airport and helping them settle into their new home, and ongoing support might include help with navigating Centrelink, driving lessons or introducing them to a local businesses looking for staff.

Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia (CRSA) is delivering the CRISP program and is seeking informal local groups of five or more adults to put their hands up to welcome new refugees from overseas, with families starting to arrive from this month. 

Local clubs, businesses and faith groups can instigate the formation of these groups and support those individuals in this important work in a variety of ways.  

Councils can support the program by sharing information with their communities, and promoting a recorded information session. 

2022 Local Government Awards

Voting is now open for the 2022 National Awards for Local Government. 

For 36 years these awards have showcased the achievements of Australian councils, highlighting excellence and innovation across the sector. 

The 11 award categories in this year’s Awards are Creativity and Culture, Productivity through Infrastructure, Regional Growth, Cohesive Communities, Road Safety, Addressing Violence against Women and their Children, Women in Local Government, Indigenous Recognition, Career Starter, Waste Management, and Disaster Preparedness. 

Voting closes on 14 September and is now open online 

Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories the Hon Kristy McBain MP said this was a unique opportunity for communities to recognise the hard work of local councils.

“I’m delighted by the influx and range of incredible nominations we have had for this year’s awards, and I look forward to finding out who the winners will be when they’re announced in October,” Minister McBain said. 

“The awards will have special significance this year as many local councils have had to grapple with recovery from floods and other natural disasters in their community, as well as special measures to deal with the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For more information, visit www.infrastructure.gov.au/national-awards-local-government. 

ALGA News is changing

From Monday 5 September ALGA News will take on a new form as a joint newsletter from ALGA and LGiU Australia. 

All ALGA News subscribers will automatically receive this new fortnightly e-news, which will continue to include updates from ALGA on federal funding programs, local government policy announcements and ALGA events. 

Readers will also benefit from access to additional local government news and policy analysis curated by the LGiU Australia team. 

Launched in February 2020, LGiU Australia is a partnership between non-profit think tank and information service provider LGiU and SGS Economics and Planning. 

Thank you for your support of ALGA News, and we look forward to working with LGiU Australia to bring you even more local government news and analysis, direct to your inbox every fortnight. 

President’s column – 12 August 2022

We had a major win for local governments at last week’s Infrastructure and Transport Ministers’ Meeting in Melbourne, where an independent review into National Heavy Vehicle Law reform was tabled. 

ALGA has advocated throughout this review for councils to retain their right to manage heavy vehicle access on their local roads, and this was supported in the final report that was endorsed by state and federal ministers. 

Our focus will now shift to securing funding that will help councils to improve first and last mile access for heavy vehicles and boost  the productivity of our national freight network. 

Earlier this week I participated in a panel at the 2022 National Homelessness Conference that highlighted some of the great work councils are doing to address homelessness in our communities and provide more affordable housing. 

Many councils are already partnering with other organisations to deliver local affordable housing solutions, but local government could do even more with a dedicated funding stream. 

Finally, next week I’ll be representing councils in a series of roundtables ahead of the Federal Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit, which ALGA will also participate in next month. 

Skills shortages are a big challenge for councils right across the country, and in the coming months I’ll be sharing research ALGA has undertaken examining this issue, with funding support from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts. 

Climate Change Bill 2022 and the Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022

ALGA welcomes the Climate Change Bill 2022 and the Climate Change (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2022.

Working in partnership with other levels of government, councils can deliver highly effective climate change projects that can mitigate against the production of greenhouse gas emissions, and assist our communities to be better prepared and better able to adapt to future climatic conditions.

Councils across Australia are asking the Federal Government for a Local Government Climate Response Partnership Fund of $200 million over four years to enable planning and preparation to minimise the impacts of climate change in our communities and enable councils to achieve climate neutrality as soon as practicable.

Economic modelling commissioned by ALGA shows that this initiative would create 467 new jobs and contribute $73 million per year to Australia’s GDP.

Councils are committed to reducing Australia’s emissions, but with a dedicated federal funding stream could do even more, delivering local solutions to this national challenge.

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Importance of the Financial Assistance Grants

In 2022 ALGA commissioned AEC to undertake an analysis of the importance of Financial Assistance Grants to local government, which found that these untied federal grants contribute more than 20% of annual operating revenue for nearly one in four Australian councils.

Financial assistance to local governments from the Commonwealth is relied upon by all councils to provide local services and infrastructure that enable the liveability of our communities.

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President’s column – 29 July 2022

As we celebrated the first sitting week of the 47th Parliament in Canberra, your ALGA Board also met to finalise National General Assembly motions and discuss post-election ALGA priorities.

I was honoured to be in Canberra to congratulate former ALGA Vice President Tracey Roberts MP on her first speech, and welcome former mayors and councillors, including Jerome Laxale MP and Dai Le MP, to their new roles.

A special thanks to newly elected Federal MP Andrew Willcox, whose first speech called for restoring  Financial Assistance Grants to at least one percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue.

As the former mayor of the Whitsunday Regional Council, he understands the budgetary pressures councils are under, and how important this un-tied federal funding is to our communities, especially in regional and rural areas.

To advocate for your local government priorities, I met with Local Government Minster Kristy McBain MP and the office of Cabinet Local Government Minister Catherine King MP, as well the Shadow Local Government Minister, Andrew Gee MP.

To progress local government engagement with the Commonwealth Government, I met with Minister Linda Burney MP to discuss the importance of local governments in the forthcoming referendum on a Voice to Parliament, Assistant Minister Senator Jenny McAllister to discuss the importance of local government in energy policy, and emissions reduction planning, and the Prime Minister’s new Special Envoy for Disaster Recovery, Senator Tony Sheldon.

To ensure ALGA is working across the Parliament, on your behalf I also met with newly elected Greens Senator David Shoebridge, and One Nation Senators Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts.

As expected, the Government moved quickly, introducing a number of pieces of legislation, including their new climate bill.

Local government has a key role to play in reducing emissions, and many councils have already set ambitious local targets.

While many councils are already installing energy-efficient lighting and increasing tree canopy coverage, others are going even further, investing in renewable energy plants or supporting residents to install solar panels.

These initiatives could be replicated in communities right across the country with dedicated funding support, which is why ALGA is calling for a new Local Government Climate Response Partnership Fund of $200 million over four years.

The Government also introduced its Electric Car Discount Bill into Parliament this week.

As part of their local emissions reduction strategies, many councils are investing in EVs for their fleets and in EV charging networks to support communities making the switch from conventional cars and trucks.

I’ll have more to say about local government’s great work supporting EV uptake when I deliver an address at the National Electric Vehicle Summit next month.

Finally, registrations are now open for our 2022 National Local Roads and Transport Congress, to be held in Hobart from 2-3 November. A draft program will be released in the coming weeks so please keep an eye out for it.

We hope to see you there!

Cr Linda Scott,
ALGA President

Circular economy leaders booked for Melbourne conference

Infrastructure’s role in driving a circular economy – with recycled and reused materials at the forefront – will be explored at a Melbourne conference in September.

The Greener Infrastructure Conference, convened by ecologiQ, will also examine how governments at all levels can use procurement and policy to change how waste is used.

Keynote speakers will include Victorian deputy Premier Jacinta Allan, world-renowned recycling revolutionary Professor Veena Sahajwalla, and the Chief Engineer of Engineers Australia, Jane MacMaster.

Australian Council of Recyclers CEO Suzanne Toumbourou will also be speaking at the two-day conference on 6-7 September.

Click here for more information.

In other events news, the 2022 Australian Disaster Resilience Conference will be held in Adelaide on 24-25 August.

Under the theme “Resilience in a riskier world: adapting and transforming for the future”, a diverse and passionate line-up of keynote speakers, presenters and panels will provide delegates with two full days of content spread across two streams.

Following the conference, the National Recovery Forum on 26 August is a free event that will bring people involved in disaster recovery together to share knowledge and ideas for communities to recover well from disasters.

Registrations for both events are now open.

How councillors can build urban transition leadership skills

Twenty councillors from across Australia are being sought to take part in a pilot program to create practical tools for leading communities through urban change.

The six-week program, run by Studio THI (formerly the Hornery Institute) will involve two-hour online workshops from 4-6 pm every Monday, starting 1 August 2022.

Studio THI says the program will help councillors consolidate their knowledge of sustainable urban development and provide them with a suite of co-created practical tools to lead their community through urban change.

Click here to find out more about the program and to apply to be part of it.

Grim outlook painted for Australia’s vulnerable ecosystems

Climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, and mining continue to threaten at-risk species and ecosystems, the latest State of the Environment report says.

Released last week by Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek, the State of the Environment Report 2021 paints a sombre picture of the overall outlook for the Australian environment.

Among other things, the report finds that:

  • more mammal species have become extinct in Australia than any other continent and Australia continues to have one of the highest rates of species decline among OECD countries;
  • at least 19 Australian ecosystems have been reported as showing signs of collapse or near collapse;
  • 7 million hectares of habitat for terrestrial threatened species was cleared or substantially degraded between 2000 and 2017;
  • Australia has the third highest amount of soil organic carbon loss in the world; and
  • mass coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017, followed by a further bleaching event in 2020 has resulted in widespread coral losses.

Report Authors Dr Ian Cresswell, Dr Terri Janke and Professor Emma L. Johnston said that immediate global action to reduce carbon emissions would reduce pressures and improve trajectories for most aspects of the Australian environment.

They estimate that the total government spending on targeted threatened species spending in 2018-19 was around $122 million.

“But that is only about 15 percent of what is needed to avoid extinctions and recover threatened species (which is estimated at $1.69 billion dollars per year), the report said.

Resourcing and coordination issues in the areas of coastal management and heritage protections were also raised in the report.

“The need for better integration of, and effective adaptation to, climate change in coastal management is widely recognised, but implementation requires a much greater level of collaboration between Australian, state and territory, and local governments.”

“Coastal management in Australia lacks national coordination and integration, largely because of complex governance structures and blocking mechanisms.”

The report goes on to highlight “the inadequate number of expert staff in many heritage and protected areas agencies at all levels of government”.

“Australia faces a declining skills base in areas of heritage management, as well as in trades and crafts required for heritage construction, repair and restoration methods, materials and tools. Lack of relevant expertise and skills is a particular issue for small to medium local government bodies with limited resources,” it says.

Flood victims rush Qld’s $471m resilient homes program

Over 4200 people have registered with the Queensland government for funding to repair and retrofit their houses to better cope with future floods.

The $741 million Resilient Homes Fund also allows for properties to be bought under a voluntary buy-back program.

State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning Minister Steven Miles said this week that as of 26 July, 437 people had registered their interest in the buy-back program.

A further 1252 had registered for the house-raising program and 1491 for the rebuild program, with 664 people unsure which option is best suited to their individual needs.

Mr Miles says the Resilient Homes Fund  is the largest program of its kind ever delivered in Australia.

It was launched in the wake of February’s flood disaster in southeast Queensland and has since been opened to homeowners across 37 local government areas impacted in the 2021-22 disaster season.

It is being administered by the Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) and delivered through the jointly funded Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).

In related news, a report commissioned by the QRA  says 500,000 Queenslanders were impacted by this year’s floods and that the damages bill will reach $7.7 billion.

‘New national laws needed to restore damaged ecosystems’

New national environment laws enforced by a federal environmental protection agency have been flagged by Environment Minister Tanya Pliberesek.

Speaking at the National Press Club last week after the release of 2021 State of the Environment Report, Ms Pliberek said a “fundamental reforming” of national environment laws was needed to restore damaged landscape, repair coral reefs, and recover threatened species.

“Australia’s environment is bad and getting worse, as this report shows,” Ms Plibersek said. “And much of the destruction outlined in the State of the Environment report will take years to turn around.”

“To offer proper protection, we need to set clear national environmental standards – with explicit targets around what we value as a country, and what the law needs to protect.

“This will require a fundamental reforming of our national environment laws – and empowering a new Environmental Protection Agency to enforce them.”

She said a formal government response to the 2021 Independent Review of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation by the end of the year would help guide the change.

Among other things, Ms Plibersek foreshadowed:

  • promoting recycling, reusing and repairing as much as possible to combat a plague of marine plastics;
  • an immediate start on improving environmental data and regional planning to establish a shared view around what needs to be protected or restored, and areas where development can occur with minimal consequence;
  • Supporting investment for land-based carbon projects and blue carbon projects delivering biodiversity, improved drought resilience, and increased agricultural productivity;
  • Supporting blue carbon projects to restore mangroves, tidal marshes, and sea grasses to improve marine habitats and protect coastlines from rising tides and storms; and
  • Introducing standalone cultural heritage legislation.

She also said the Government will set at a national goal of protecting 30 percent of our land and 30 percent of our oceans by 2030.

“Much of the destruction outlined in the State of the Environment report will take years to turn around,” Ms Plibersek said.  “Nevertheless, I’m optimistic about the steps we can take over the next three years.”

 

Disaster funding extended to another five NSW LGAs

Disaster assistance has been made available in five additional local government areas (LGAs) in NSW after damaging rains and flooding.

Assistance is being provided through the jointly funded Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) to the Kempsey, Port Macquarie Hastings, Narromine, Oberon, and Strathfield LGAs.

It takes the number of LGAs in NSW that have been disaster-declared since the June-July rains to 42.

NSW Emergency Service and Resilience Minister Steph Cooke said the NSW and federal governments are working closely to put additional funding and resources into the ongoing clean-up and recovery process.

DRFA assistance has also been extended to flood-affected communities in southern Queensland after flooding in May.

Primary producers in the Balonne, Lockyer Valley, Southern Downs, Somerset, Western Downs, and Gympie LGAs are eligible for additional primary producer recovery grants.

Non-profit organisations in those LGAs (as well as Toowoomba and Moreton Bay) will be eligible for grants of up to $50,000  to assist with clean-up and repair efforts.

Airport high alerts after FMD outbreaks in Indonesia

Biosecurity and surveillance measure have been stepped up at Australian airports following outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) across Indonesia.

The measures include giving airport biosecurity officers extra powers to direct travellers from Bali and other Indonesian ports to use sanitising foot baths or clean their shoes.

Testing and surveillance of meat products has also been boosted after viral fragments of foot and mouth disease (FMD) were detected in Melbourne and Adelaide last week.

FMD is a viral disease affecting cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, deer, camels, and water buffalo and would devastate Australia’s $80 billion livestock industry if detected here.

Federal Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Murray Watt flew to Indonesia earlier this month to assess the situation and offer technical and other support.

The federal government has committed $14 million to manage the increased threat of FMD and LSD, in addition to $1.5 million to supply vaccines in Indonesia and $500,000 to support industry-led assistance through Meat and Livestock Australia.

To prevent an FMD incursion in Australia, the government also funding 18 new biosecurity offices in airports and mail centres.

Other measures include:

  • biosecurity detector dogs deployed in Darwin and Cairns airports;
  • additional signage and the distribution of flyers at major airports, informing travellers of FMD risk and precautions; and
  • expanded social media campaigns and messaging informing travellers of their biosecurity responsibilities

Responding to growing concerns about the FMD threat, including from local governments in agricultural areas, federal and state government departments and agencies say they are working closely with the livestock industry to stay abreast of events in Indonesia, and to highlight the need for vigilance and prevention activities.

RCV probes alternative income streams for rural councils

Rural Councils Victoria (RCV) has engaged SGS Economics and Planning to explore specific funding challenges facing its member councils.

The research also aims to identify potential alternative income sources for rural councils struggling financially to meet the needs of their communities.

Such challenges can stem from smaller dispersed populations, lower rates base, and large geographic service areas.

Rural councils rely heavily on federal and state government grants to service the needs of their ratepayers and to remain financially viable.

The own-source income options being examined by SGS go beyond rating, fines, fees, grants and contributions, and will include those being used currently by local governments within Australia and internationally or those identified as opportunities that have potential to support the ongoing financial sustainability of RCV members.

To that end, SGS is conducting a survey of local governments across Australia (metro, rural and regional) to share examples of own-source income options (beyond rating, fines, fees, grants and contributions).

This survey would best be completed by the council’s chief financial officer or another staff member with detailed knowledge of the council’s own-source income streams.

Only one response is required per council.

CFOs who would prefer to speak directly with the research team, or who have further questions about this project, can contact Tom Milverton of SGS Economics and Planning at TMilverton@sgsep.com.au or via phone at +613 8616 0331.

 

LGs offered support to raise awareness of single-use plastics

A nationwide project to reduce single-use plastics from entering landfills and the ocean has been widened to include support for councils.

Plastic Oceans Australasia’s (POA) EPIC Business (community initiative) program will provide support and guidance for councils, community groups and schools.

POA will work with councils to make strategic investments in pre-paying waste avoidance programs (to lock in current rates) and education (for council staff, schools, and community groups)

The program – designed alongside scientists, professors, and teachers – includes resources and educational content tailored for people of all ages to assist in reducing their plastic footprint while encouraging behavioural change for environmental benefits.

Email business@plasticoceans.org.au for information about the EPIC Community Initiative package.

Entries for the 2022 National Awards for LG closing soon

Entries for the 11 categories of the 2022 National Awards for Local Government, including entry-level employment initiatives, waste management and disaster preparedness, close next month.

Submissions of no more than 350 words can be entered via the online platform. Following the entry period, councils and communities will have the opportunity to recognise the work and achievements of their peers in the local government sector through an open voting system.

Now more than ever, the work of local governments is vital in delivering services and support for local communities across Australia.

To recognise this outstanding work, the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications is also inviting the public to nominate their local councils.

Click here to submit a nomination on behalf of a council or go to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications’s website for more information.

Entries close at 11.59pm AEDT Wednesday 3 August.

In other awards news, nominations for national awards recognising outstanding contributions supporting and promoting Australia’s agricultural industry are now open.

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Secretary Andrew Metcalf said the 2022 Australian Biosecurity awards highlight the diverse work being undertaken to improve Australia’s biosecurity system in the face of increasing and evolving threats.

“Biosecurity risks are becoming more complex and harder to manage for many reasons, including the increasing spread of pests and diseases overseas and an increase in cargo and mail volumes,” Mr Metcalfe said.

“Australia’s biosecurity system protects $50 billion in inbound tourism, $64 billion in agricultural exports and 1.6 million Australian jobs,” he said.

Nominations across eight categories close on 22 August 2022 at 5pm AEST. For more information, go to the department’s website.

Winners will be announced in November

Sheldon to fill newly created disaster recovery envoy role

NSW Labor Senator Tony Sheldon has been appointed to the new role of Special Envoy for Disaster Recovery by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

Senator Sheldon, a former national secretary of the Transport Workers Union, will work with Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt to “ensure much-needed support is delivered to communities when natural disasters hit”.

Mr Albanese said that Senator Sheldon’s appointment and the Government’s pledge to establish a new $200 million Disaster Ready Fund for mitigation works demonstrated its commitment to strengthening disaster management.

“Creating a Special Envoy for Disaster Recovery illustrates how seriously we are taking natural disasters,” Mr Albanese said.

“Senator Sheldon is someone who has spent his entire working life helping others and is a strong contributor in our Senate team.”

“My government will always take responsibility and stand with Australians before, during and after a natural disaster.”

Senator Watt said disaster victims felt “abandoned” in past years and Senator Sheldon’s appointment would help ensure that didn’t happen in the future.

“We know that disaster recovery can take a long time, but Senator Sheldon’s appointment will ensure our government is doing all it can to get support where it’s needed, as quickly as possible,” Senator Watt said.

Sustainability/productivity focus at 2022 Roads Congress

The sustainability, resilience, productivity, and safety of roads and transport infrastructure will be a major focus of ALGA’s 2022 National Local Roads Congress.

The growing incidence of extreme weather events in Australia has significant implications for the sustainability of council road and other infrastructure assets, which the 2021 State of the Assets Report valued at $467 billion.

As councils recover from natural disaster like flooding and bushfires, it is imperative that infrastructure that is replaced or repaired is more resilient to the impacts of similar events in the future.

Councils also play a vital role in fostering regional and national productivity by providing access to local roads to higher productivity freight movement, and this will be another focus of the Congress given local government’s limited resources.

As well, the Congress will canvass practical solutions that councils can apply now to help them reduce the road toll on roads they manage.

Delegates will be hearing from federal Ministers, shadow Ministers, and representatives from all three tiers of government on the three themes of improving road safety, sustainability and resilience, and productivity.

There will be around 20 sessions in total, an exhibition with sponsor booths, a technical tour, and a social tour.

Click here to register for the event, which will be held at Hobart’s Wrest Point Casino on 2-3 November.

Fair funding for our communities

ALGA President Linda Scott said the Australian National Audit Office’s review of the Building Better Regions Fund was a timely reminder of the importance of fair and transparent federal funding.

“Formula based funding programs such as Financial Assistance Grants and the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program are completely transparent, and benefit every Australian community,” Cr Scott said.

“The October Federal Budget is an opportunity for the Government to re-direct funding from competitive grants programs to FA Grants and ensure that funding is fairly provided right across the country.”

“Financial Assistance Grants have declined from 1 percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue in 1996 to just 0.55% today, and this has had a significant impact on many of our regional and rural councils that rely heavily on this funding.”

“Some councils are looking at closing local facilities such as swimming pools or reducing their community centre hours of service due to budgetary pressures.”

“Other councils can’t move ahead on key projects such as vital stormwater upgrades because they’ve been unable to secure funding through over-subscribed grants programs.”

“Over time we want to see Financial Assistance Grants restored to 1 percent to ensure that every Australian council is sustainable, and every community is liveable.”

Councils key to meeting emissions targets

ALGA President Linda Scott has welcomed the climate bill introduced by the Government into Parliament this week, while highlighting the role councils can play in helping meet national emissions targets.

“The 2021 Australian Local Government Climate Review found that more than 70 percent of responding councils have set or are planning ambitious emissions reduction targets for their own operations, while 80 percent have set or are investigating emissions reduction targets across their entire community,” Cr Scott said.

“Meeting these targets will make a significant contribution to reducing our emissions at a national level.”

“By setting a clear and transparent national minimum standard, this Bill will support more councils to develop and implement their own local plans.”

“Right across our nation councils are introducing energy-efficient LED streetlighting, installing electric vehicle charging stations, using recycled roads materials, and increasing tree canopy coverage.”

“Some are going further, investing in renewable energy plants, or supporting residents to install solar panels. These initiatives could be replicated by more councils with greater funding support.”

“ALGA is calling for a Local Government Climate Response Partnership Fund of $200 million over four years that will help councils minimise the impacts of climate change and achieve climate neutrality as soon as practicable.”

“Councils are committed to reducing Australia’s emissions, but with a dedicated federal funding stream could do even more, delivering local solutions to this national challenge.”

 

President’s column – 15 July 2022

WIN! Advocacy for increased disaster mitigation spending rewarded.

We applaud the Albanese Government for prioritising greater investment in long-term disaster mitigation measures that will grow the resilience of our communities.

Floods that have again devasted Greater Sydney, the Hunter Valley, and surrounding areas show resilience spending must be ratcheted up.

That has been ALGA’s long-standing policy position, and our consistent calls for additional funding were rewarded last week when the Albanese Government said greater investment in disaster mitigation was a high priority.

Once legislative changes to the $4.6 billion Emergency Response Fund are complete, councils and state governments will be able to apply for new funding for mitigation projects.

The announcement by the Federal Minister for Emergency Management, Senator the Hon Murray Watt, follows our success in getting Labor to commit to investing $200 million each year in disaster mitigation through a new Disaster Ready Fund.

After years of obfuscation about increasing extreme weather risks, the Albanese Government’s proactive attitude to mitigation spending is refreshing.

We also commend Prime Minster Anthony Albanese’s recent comments about the need for greater cooperation by governments in floodplain planning and development.

All options must be on the table as we look at the lessons from these latest floods, including land swaps and buybacks.

The relocation of Grantham after the deadly floods in 2011 is a standout example of what our three tiers of government can achieve when we work together on practical solutions.

This is resource-intensive, and as we strive to keep our communities as safe as possible from natural disasters ALGA will continue to call for councils to be adequately supported.

Did you know there were 1,043,776 unoccupied dwellings on the night of the 2021 Census?

This statistic is one aspect of an affordable housing and rental crisis that is having significant social and economic impacts in cities and towns across Australia, including rural and regional communities.

I said in an ABC Radio National interview this week that while we have few levers at our disposal, councils are working hard to make a difference, including managing the impacts of online holiday rental platforms.

The scale of this problem demands a national summit, and I will continue to call for this as a precursor to developing a national housing strategy (with local government input).

We will also keep calling for federal government funding of $200 million over four years to help councils develop and implement innovative housing partnerships like those outlined in the Local Government Association of Queensland’s (LGAQ) housing action plan published this week.

Linda Scott,
ALGA President

 

37 flood-impacted LGAs in NSW in line for DRFA assistance

Disaster assistance has been made available in 37 local government areas (LGAs) in NSW impacted by severe storms and flooding earlier this month.

Assistance is being provided through the jointly funded Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA) and will include $80 million to help with the clean-up and removal of flood and storm-related damage, debris, and green waste.

As well, each of the 37 impacted councils will receive $1 million grants to assist with their immediate recovery costs.

The LGAs are Bayside, Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Camden, Canterbury Bankstown, Campbelltown, Central Coast, Cessnock, Cumberland, Dungog, Fairfield, Georges River, Hawkesbury, Hornsby, Kiama, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Lithgow, Liverpool, Mid Cost, Muswellbrook, Nambucca, Newcastle, Northern Beaches, Penrith, Port Stephens, Randwock, Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, Singleton, Sutherland, The Hills, Upper Lachlan, Warren, Wingecarribee, Wollondilly and Wollongong.

Almost 528,000 people affected by the severe storms and flooding have already received more than $436 million in disaster assistance.

Federal Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt said the flooding had led to several evacuations throughout Metropolitan Sydney, the Hawkesbury, and the Central Coast.

“We have seen some of these impacted communities being hit by floods for a third and fourth time in 18 months, which is extremely distressing to the residents of these communities,” Minister Watt said.

In other DRFA news, communities in the Mid-West and Gascoyne regions of Western Australia affected by flooding earlier this year can now access disaster recovery funding.

A low-pressure system moved through Western Australia on 26 March, bringing a week of significant rainfall to the local government areas of Murchison, Upper Gascoyne, Carnarvon, and Yalgoo.

Senator Watt said the assistance provided through the jointly funded DRFA will ensure local government, primary producers, and small businesses are supported in their recovery journey.

Qld single-use plastics roadmap widened to include microbeads

Plastic microbeads will be banned in Queensland from 1 September 2023 under a five-year roadmap to phase out harmful, single-use plastics.

Mass releases of lighter-than-air balloons will also be banned next year, along with polystyrene packing peanuts and plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

As well, new minimum standards will be introduced for heavy plastic bags requiring them to be tested for reusability and the ability to be recycled once they’ve reached the end of their lifespan.

The roadmap comes off the back of new survey results which showed 91 percent of Queenslanders backed further bans on single-use plastics, as well as consultation with peak retail and environment groups.

The Queensland government phased out single-use lightweight shopping bags in 2018 and last year banned several single-use plastics food products like straws, stirrers, cutlery, plates, unenclosed bowls, and expanded polystyrene (EPS) takeaway containers and EPS cups.

Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said that together with the roadmap, the Government would continue working to reduce single-use plastics and prevent plastic pollution.

“We will continue to deliver and support initiatives to address problematic plastic pollution including ongoing support for the Plastic Free Places Program which assists businesses in regional Queensland to eliminate six key single-use plastic items,” she said.

In related news, bans on nine single-use plastic items came into effect in Western Australia on 1 July.

The items include plates, bowls, cutlery, drink stirrers, drinking straws, thick plastic bags, expanded polystyrene (EPS) food containers, helium balloon releases and unlidded containers.

Disposable plastic cups for cold drinks will be banned from October.

The bans are the first stage of WA’s Plan for Plastics introduced on January 1, 2022.

 

Learn how your council can address climate change

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) is convening a new series of free climate change webinars in partnership with the NSW government.

This series will comprise four 90-minute webinars showcasing how many councils displayed adaptation in action via the Increasing Resilience to Climate Change grant projects, as well as how councils can fund net zero emissions actions.

Guest speakers from a range of councils will share practical tools, challenges and lessons learnt in implementing their projects.

Discussions will also canvass how to address climate change in your own operations and communities.

The first webinar (Adaption in Action: Infrastructure) will be on Tuesday 19 July from 10am-11.30am.

View the draft program here, and click here to register.

NATSPEC notches up 15 years as construction specs custodian

Last month marked NATSPEC’s 15th year as the key organisation that develops, updates, and distributes AUS-SPEC specifications and information.

AUS-SPEC facilitates local governments to design, construct and maintain their infrastructure assets and is a joint venture between NATSPEC and the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (IPWEA).

CEO of IPWEA David Jenkins said: “This set of comprehensive specifications has stood the test of time and, with our partners at AUS-SPEC, we remain committed to improving the long-term sustainable service delivery of infrastructure.”

The AUS-SPEC specification system is an essential technical resource that facilitates the life cycle management of assets. This is part of NATSPEC’s objective to improve construction quality and productivity through the leadership of information.

NATSPEC, a national not-for-profit owned by government and industry whose objective is to inform and improve the construction quality and productivity of the built environment, began maintaining AUS-SPEC in June 2007 on behalf of IPWEA and Standards Australia.

AUS-SPEC specifications for the management of minor infrastructure were first released in 1997.

Supported by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), this was a joint venture between IPWEA and Statewide Roads through its Technical Management consultancy (SWRTM), part of Sinclair Knight Merz (now Jacobs), in coordination with several councils.

Standards Australia took over as IPWEA’s joint venture partner in 2003.

Since 2007, NATSPEC has restructured AUS-SPEC into the National Classification System and added NATSPEC Basic and Landscape information to relevant AUS-SPEC packages.

In 2018, AUS-SPEC released the Rural Roads package to assist rural and remote councils in managing their sealed and unsealed road networks.

Road owners can compile their specifications online using the work section templates in SPECbuilder.

Click here for more information on AUS-SPEC’s subscription-based service. The eight available packages are Complete, Contracts, Urban and open spaces, Buildings, Roadworks and bridges, Public utilities, Maintenance, and Rural Roads.

Misbehaving WA councillors face suspension under new reforms

Councillors guilty of serious breaches of WA’s Local Government Act 1995 could be suspended for three months under new reforms unveiled last week.

Those councillors suspended three times could face 10-year bans from elected office.

Other changes in the proposed reform package presented by Local Government Minister John Carey include:

  • a new Inspectorate of Local Government to investigate and oversee complaints;
  • the creation of Local Government Monitors, who can be appointed by the Inspector to assist in resolving ongoing issues;
  • mandatory recording of council meetings, and live streaming for larger tier one and two local governments; and
  • the introduction of parental and medical leave entitlements for elected members.

The reforms further propose that all meetings to do with town planning and development applications, budgeting, major land transactions, and leases of local government property must be held in full public view.

Matters that will remain confidential include CEO appointments, management of behavioural complaints about elected members, and local government cyber security.

Minister Carey said the WA public was fed up with dysfunction and repeated bad behaviour in local government.

“The reality is most local governments and councils are doing great work for their communities but these reforms will ensure we have penalties in place that properly address poor behaviour,” he said.

The reforms follow several reports and consultations into the Local Government Act over the past five years. They will be enshrined in legislation introduced into state parliament by the end of the year.

Record new betterment funding of $170m for Qld councils

A federal/state funding package announced last week will see disaster-damaged essential public infrastructure in Queensland rebuilt to a better standard.

It is the largest ever amount made available in a single disaster season in Queensland, with $150 million directly targeting local government areas seeking to build back better following the extraordinary flooding events of 2021-22.

The money will be provided by the Federal and Queensland government through the jointly funded Commonwealth-State Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).

Federal Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt said the funding will allow applicable councils and state agencies to improve key assets such as causeways, culverts, roads and bridges to better withstand the impacts of natural disasters.

Eligible applicants within local government areas impacted by the Central, Southern and Western Queensland Rainfall and Flooding; Ex-Tropical Cyclone Seth Flooding; and the South-East Queensland Heavy Rainfall and Flooding can apply for projects from the $150 million funding to improve the resilience of essential public assets that were damaged as a direct result of those floods.

A further $20 million made available through DRFA efficiencies is available in all 66 local government areas activated for disaster funding following the nine disasters that impacted Queensland during the 2021-22 disaster season.

Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) chief executive Alison Smith thanked the State and Federal governments for the joint DRFA funding package.

“Queensland is Australia’s most disaster-prone state so we must always endeavour to build damaged infrastructure back at standard designed to endure the next disaster to strike,” Ms Smith said.

“Councils cannot do this on their own so we welcome the support of the State and Federal governments through critical initiatives like this $170 million funding allocation.”

Councils and state agencies can apply for the $170 million Betterment funding via the Queensland Reconstruction Authority home page.

Watt vows to unlock Emergency Response Fund for mitigation

The Emergency Response Fund will be remodelled to allow local and state governments to apply for more disaster mitigation funding.

Federal Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt told a Sydney newspaper last weekend that the government was committed to changing the ERF Act to enable more investment in mitigation projects.

“The fact that we’ve got a fourth flood in some [NSW] areas in 18 months shows that we need to come up with longer-term flood mitigation solutions for that region,” he said.

“The former federal government didn’t do enough when it came to disaster mitigation. And that’s something that we are intending to fix.”

Senator Watt said once Labor was able to make the necessary legislative changes to the fund, it would open up applications for states and councils to pitch mitigation projects.

“We want to see that money flowing as quickly as possible.”

“We’ll obviously have to undertake application processes … and assessments of projects,” he said. “But it’s a much bigger investment in disaster mitigation than we’ve ever seen from a federal government.”.

The ERF was set up in 2019 with seed money of $3.98 billion. With interest earned, it has since grown to $4.58 billion.

Under the Act, the federal government can draw down a maximum of $200 million in any given year ($150 million on response and $50 million on resilience projects) beyond what is already available to fund emergency response and natural disaster recovery and preparedness through the National Recovery and Resilience Agency and other Commonwealth channels.

When in Opposition, Senator Watt repeatedly questioned why more ERF funding wasn’t being made available for disaster prevention and resilience.

Before the May federal election, Labor responded to ALGA’s advocacy on disaster mitigation and resilience by committing up to $200 million yearly to a new “Disaster Ready Fund”.

New round of trials for ‘game-changing’ road analysis tool

A predictive analysis tool to improve road maintenance is a step closer to being rolled out with new trials set to begin in NSW.

The Asset AI initiative involves installing sensors on garbage trucks and buses that can track road deterioration, including identifying potholes before they form, and prioritise road repairs.

The tool was pre-trialled at Canterbury-Bankstown Council last year, with Mayor Khal Asfour, pictured, saying the technology will save councils and ratepayers money and improve road safety.

“We do an audit of our roads once every four years and it is very expensive. This new technology will allow us to do it on a weekly basis instead,” Cr Asfour said.

“Asset AI uses predictive analysis to improve road maintenance by predicting the risk to the community rather than just reporting the condition of the road assets, and that’s great news for our residents.”

The Asset AI initiative is being funded by the NSW government and led by Transport for NSW and the Roads and Transport Directorate, a joint venture between Local Government NSW (LGNSW) and the Institute of Public Works Engineering Australasia (NSW and ACT).

IPWEA President Grant Baker says Asset AI could revolutionise current practices.

“This initiative is a game-changer for local government to re-imagine the way they currently assess and audit roads to fully benefit from new technology,” Mr Baker said.

Further testing will occur in regional and metropolitan areas of NSW, including Georges River, Blayney, Central Coast, Liverpool, Wingecarribee, Sutherland, Warren Shire, Liverpool Plains, Griffith, Tamworth, Wollongong, and Murray River Councils in September.

The Asset AI project is expected to be available to all NSW Local Government areas in late 2023.

CSIRO/NRRA flood study in Northern NSW gets green light

A research project to minimise flood risks in Northern NSW has been approved by Federal Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt.

The study was first announced by the then Coalition government in March after catastrophic flooding in the NSW Northern Rivers region.

Although supported by the then Labor Opposition, the initiative was paused during the election.

Senator Watt said the $11.2 million Northern Rivers Resilience Initiative will be led by the National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA) in partnership with the national science agency, CSIRO, and will focus on understanding the impact of climate, catchment and hydrological drivers on flooding.

The first stage of the project will involve a six-month stakeholder engagement program, with a review and assessment of flood mitigation options across seven flood-affected Local Government Areas in the Northern Rivers region.

Stage two will provide landscape mapping for all catchments in the region: Richmond River, Brunswick River, Clarence River and Tweed River. Detailed flood modelling and scenario analyses will also be conducted for the Richmond River catchment.

An interim report is expected by November, with a final report due in May 2024.

Applications for CWANZ membership for now open

Cycling and Walking Australia and New Zealand (CWANZ) wants more councils to join its efforts to increase all aspects of active transport.

The organisation’s vision is safe and connected walking and cycling networks and neighbourhoods for all, through working collaboratively to recommend strategies and actions that make walking and cycling an easy choice and a normal part of everyday life.

CWANZ’s work program includes:

  • Creating networks and sharing knowledge via meetings, webinars and regular newsletters;
  • Building an active transport resources library for members, focused on walking and cycling; and
  • Reviewing guidance and trials relevant to walking and cycling prepared by an expert panel.

CWANZ members, including the state and territory transport agencies and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, meet via quarterly videoconference meetings with more regular meetings scheduled throughout the year for local government members and representative organisations.

Membership is free.

Expressions of interest close at 5pm (AWST) 18 July. Click here for more information or contact CWANZ executive officer Sam Bolton Sam.Bolton@transport.wa.gov.au or chair Tim Selby Tim.Selby@transport.nsw.gov.au

Call for first aid awareness training for all learner drivers

Senior Australian of the Year Val Dempsey is calling on all governments to make first aid training a part of gaining a driver’s licence.

Ms Dempsey, a long-time St John Ambulance ACT volunteer, also wants to see bystander first aid included in the National Road Safety Strategy.

Delivering a keynote address at last month’s National General Assembly, Ms Dempsey said first aid for learner drivers “could lead to an entire generation of mobile life savers”.

Bystander first aid, such as clearing a person’s airway, controlling bleeding and performing CPR, can also prevent death and reduce serious injury in the vital minutes before an ambulance arrives.

Around 1200 people are killed each year on Australian roads, and a further 44,000 are seriously injured, costing the economy $30 billion a year.

Ms Dempsey embarked on her mission more than three decades ago when bystanders came to help at the scene of her daughter’s car accident but didn’t know what to do, resulting in the loss of life.

She told delegates that achieving basic first aid awareness is relatively easy and straightforward.

St John Ambulance Australia’s driverfirstaid.org.au is a free 30-minute course that aims to instil lifesaving first aid skills into young drivers and their passengers. Contact marketing@stjohnact.org.au for more information.

Ms Dempsey was interviewed at the NGA about her work, along with ALGA President Cr Linda Scott.

How local governments can make better transport decisions

The Institute for Sensible Transport is running a group master class on transport and accessibility for local government elected officials and staff.

To be held at Potts Point in Sydney on 15 September, the master class will cover parking, congestion, and safety – issues commonly voiced to local government from the community.

With council decisions having important consequences for sustainability, urban liveability, public health and productivity, this master class provides practical tools for council staff and councillors to help make informed decisions about the future of their communities.

Click here to learn more about this master class.

 

Senate committee pulls pin on rural GP and health services inquiry

A federal parliamentary committee inquiring into GP and health services in outer metro and regional areas will not be providing a final report “at this time”.

The Senate Community Affairs References Committee said last month that considering its substantive interim report tabled on 1 April and the subsequent proroguing of Parliament by the Governor-General “it has determined that is unable to provide a comprehensive final report at this point int time”.

“However, the committee considers there is merit for this inquiry to be re-referred to the committee in the new parliament,” chair Janet Rice said.

“The committee will consider the issues of this inquiry in the event that it is re-referred.”

The committee received 218 submissions and held six public hearings in Canberra, Erina, Launceston, Whyalla, Melbourne, and Emerald during its inquiry into “the provision of general practitioner and related primary health services to outer metropolitan, rural, and regional Australians”.

The Australia Local Government Association’s (ALGA) submission to the inquiry recommended increased preventative health funding at the local level, through a Local Government Place-Based Preventative Health and Activity Program of $100 million over four years.

“This will increase local government’s capacity and resources to improve preventative health outcomes at a local level and to develop stronger partnerships with other levels of government and private sector partners,” the submission said.

New food safety guide for ‘expanding restaurant/cafe sector’

A new interactive guide to managing workplace and food safety in restaurants and cafes has been published.

The AR Interactive Restaurant and Café Guide outlines health and safety management systems to help hospitality staff minimise risk, maintain and improve food management – and is endorsed by the NSCA Foundation.

The foundation says hospitality staff respond well to information relayed via visual means such as videos and 3D animations rather than technical written documents.

As such, the guide has been developed with interactive augmented reality (AR) capabilities for use with a smart device, by simply downloading the free Pro-Vis AR App via the App Store or Google Play.

Potentially Hazardous Foods – Temperature Control is a primary focus of the guide to interpret the requirements included in Food Safety Standard 3.2.2 Food Safety Practices and General Requirements.

The guide aligns with hygiene and food safety practices developed by Food Standards Australia Zealand (FSANZ) and is designed to be displayed in the workplace.

2022 floods ‘now Australia’s third costliest natural disaster’

Insured losses from the South-East Queensland and Northern NSW floods in late February/early March have reached $4.8 billion.

The Insurance Council of Australia, which is tracking claims, is now classifying the floods as the third costliest extreme weather event in Australia’s history.

Only Cyclone Tracy (1974) and the Sydney hailstorm (1999) caused more insured losses.

Close to 225,000 insurance claims relating to the flood event have been lodged across both states, an increase of 3.6 percent on last month’s count.

However, as claims assessments continue to be completed, insurance costs for the event have increased 12 percent on last month, driven in part by increasing materials and labour costs.

With almost 125,000 home claims stemming from the 2022 East Coast Floods, ICA chief executive Andrew Hall says local councils need to be preparing for an influx of development applications for the very large number of property rebuilds and repairs required.

“Past experience has shown us that local councils need to be looking at what they can do to process the higher-than-usual number of development applications we expect to see as a result of this flood,” he said.

Hornsby Shire wins again in 2022 MobileMuster awards

Hornsby Shire Council has been named one of Australia’s top local government mobile phone recyclers for the fourth year running.

The NSW council was named one of seven state and territory winners of MobileMuster’s 2022 recycling awards announced at the Australian Local Government Association National General Assembly last week.

Other winners included East Arnhem Regional Council (NT), the City of Launceston Council (Tas) and the City of Monash Council (Vic), Brisbane City Council (Qld), City of Onkaparinga (SA), and City of Stirling (WA).

MobileMuster’s local council partners collected over 5.8 tonnes nationally in 2021-22, including over 35,000 handsets and batteries. Over the 12 months, Hornsby Shire residents deposited 670kg of unwanted mobiles and accessories at the council’s Thornleigh community recycling centre.

Head of MobileMuster Spyro Kalos congratulated Hornsby Shire on its achievement and acknowledged the significant work local councils do in supporting the community to recycle.

“Our local council partners play a crucial role in educating the community on why and how to recycle, along with providing easily accessible drop-off sites,” he said.

“With e-waste a growing waste stream, now more than ever our local council partners are an important part of the solution in collecting and recycling more mobile phones and their accessories.”

 

Merger of key agencies ‘will build disaster preparedness’

Emergency Management Australia (EMA) and the National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA) will be merged to create a new single federal agency.

The new organisation, to be called the National Emergency Management, Resilience and Recovery Agency (NEMRRA), will start operating on 1 September.

Announcing the changes today, Federal Emergency Management Minister Murray Watt said the NEMRRA will combine the situational awareness, emergency preparedness, crisis management, and response functions of EMA and the recovery and resilience functions of the NRRA.

“Combining all these disaster-related functions into one agency under the Home Affairs Portfolio is a significant step forward and strengthens Australia’s ability to prepare for, manage and recover from an increasing number and severity of disasters,” Senator Watt said.

He also said the Office of the Coordinator-General of the NRRA will cease to exist, with the current Coordinator-General, Shane L. Stone, to take leave immediately before ceasing his employment with the NRRA on 31 August.

“I am confident that these structural changes will assist in delivering the Albanese Government’s commitment to ensure that Australia is better prepared for the natural disasters we know will come,” Senator Watt said.

“Due to the effects of climate change, Australia will face more major natural disasters in the future, and we have to prepare and adapt now to ensure that as a nation we’re in the best position to deal with that inevitability.”

ARRB looks to boost use of recycled materials in road and rail

There is ample scope to use more recycled materials, including plastic and organic food waste, in road and rail projects, a new report says.

The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) says using more recycled materials in road and rail infrastructure confers many national benefits, including less waste sent to landfills, lower greenhouse gas emissions, job creation and better, more durable roads.

However, despite a long history of using recycled materials in infrastructure, it’s “still not business-as-usual within roads and rail”.

The two-part AARB report attributes the slow take-up of recycled materials in road and rail construction to a lack of awareness and education, the disconnection between market demand and supply, lack of specifications and guidelines and most importantly, the lack of consistent and scientific evidence to report on longer-term performance and sustainability benefits.

Commissioned by the Federal Government’s Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, the report examined 10 recycled materials for their potential use within road and rail infrastructure.

They were crushed concrete and brick, crushed glass, reclaimed asphalt pavement or RAP, crumb rubber, ground granulated blast furnace slag, fly ash, bottom ash, recycled organics, recycled ballast, and recycled plastics.

“Many recycled materials are shown to actually improve the performance of roads,” the report says.

“This project provides robust, evidence-based knowledge on how to optimise the uptake of recycled materials in infrastructure projects.”

The report also recommends using plastic and organic food waste more widely for road and rail infrastructure projects. Plastic can be used for applications such as building noise walls, while organic food waste was earmarked for more widespread use in landscaping and erosion control.

Constitutional recognition of LG ‘on Labor’s future agenda’

Kristy McBain has flagged Constitutional recognition of local government as likely to be on the radar of a second-term Albanese Labor government.

Interviewed by a national media outlet this week, the Regional Development, Local Government and Territories Minister acknowledged councils have long campaigned for constitutional recognition, saying that “I think it will be a priority for this government”.

“But our priority for the first term is making sure we have an Indigenous voice to parliament recognised in our constitution.”

“We don’t want to muddy the waters on that very pertinent issue, so this [local government recognition] will have to take place down the track.”

In the interview, the Minister welcomed Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s commitment to include local government in the National Cabinet meeting of state, territory, and federal leaders.

While it would only be for one meeting a year, she said that meeting would be entirely devoted to local government.

“They deserve a voice in National Cabinet, and I’m pleased that in that first meeting, everyone agreed to one whole meeting being dedicated to the local government sector and having the President of ALGA there,” she said.

Asked about criticism of the former Coalition government for giving grants to grassroots organisations that arguably were in the purview of local government, Ms McBain said the federal government “has a role to play” in funding infrastructure.

“It is especially hard for regional, rural and remote councils to raise their own revenue, so the federal government should be assisting with community-building initiatives. It should be assisting with sporting infrastructure and cultural infrastructure,” she said.

“But we should also be allowing those communities to tell us what they need, rather than having specific tied grant funding. There is a fine balance between untied and tied grant funding and we need to work with the sector on that.”

Millennials and G-Xers leading the charge to the regions

Internal migration to the regions has reached a five-year high, with young people leading the way, according to the Regional Australia Institute (RAI).

The RAI’s Regional Movers Index report for the March 2022 quarter shows the number of people moving to regional areas rose by 16.6 percent, almost double pre-pandemic levels, with most being  Millennials or Gen Xers.

RAI chief executive officer Liz Ritchie said younger cohorts were welcome additions to any regional community as they often brought business skills to grow the local community, as well as families who integrate into local schools and community sports activities.

“Regional living is attracting more young people and particularly younger families who are looking for bigger living spaces at a cheaper cost,” Ms Ritchie said.

As a result of the influx, demand for housing is soaring, particularly in South Australia.

The three local government areas which recorded the biggest growth rates in the 12 months to March 2022 were Ceduna (114 percent), Mount Gambier (85 percent) and Port Augusta (74 percent).

In other jurisdictions, Moorabool in Victoria and Western Downs in Queensland experienced substantial growth rates of 56 percent each.

President’s column – 1 July 2022

We had a big win at our 2022 National General Assembly last week when our new Minister Catherine King committed to working with Minister Kristy McBain to re-establish the Australian Council of Local Governments.

This is an annual meeting with the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, Mayors, Shire Presidents, and councillors that was founded under the Rudd Government in 2008 but later abolished by the Coalition.

We look forward to working with our new Government to re-establish this forum in 2023.

This year’s NGA was our biggest in almost a decade, with local government leaders from around the country converging on Canberra to consider how we can best partner with our new Government and Parliament.

It was great to hear Ministers King, McBain, and Watt all reiterate their support for better engagement and closer collaboration between our two spheres of government; and Nationals Leader David Littleproud indicate that the Morrison Government made a mistake excluding local government from National Cabinet.

We also heard from Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney on the importance of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, as well as our new Communications Minister Michelle Rowland at our dinner on Monday night.

Our Governor-General David Hurley acknowledged the terrific work councils are doing supporting disaster-impacted communities, and Ukraine Ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko gave a moving account of the destruction and brutality unleashed on Ukraine by Russian invaders.

I was humbled to witness delegates unanimously pass a motion of support for the people of Ukraine, and their legitimate, democratically elected governments.

We’re grateful our new Prime Minister Anthony Albanese signalled his determination to work closely with us, hosting a delegation of mayors from flood-affected councils at Parliament House.

These were just a few of the highlights, and you can read the post-event communique on our website and also download professional photos from the event.

Finally, our 2022 National Local Roads and Transport Congress will be held in Hobart from 2-3 November.

Registrations are now open, and I hope to get the chance to see you there.

Linda Scott,
ALGA President

2022 National General Assembly of Local Government communique

Local government leaders from around Australia gathered in Canberra from 20-22 June 2022 for the 28th National General Assembly of Local Government (NGA).

This event was held on the traditional lands of the Ngunnawal people, and the Assembly paid its respects to their elders past, present and emerging, and acknowledged the vital and ongoing contributions First Nations peoples continue to make to our nation.

Around 1,000 delegates welcomed and congratulated the Albanese Government on being elected and thanked the many federal members of parliament who attended and spoke at the NGA or associated events, including Minister King, Minister McBain, Minister Watt, Minister Burney, Minister Rowland, Leader of the National Party David Littleproud, and Zali Steggall OAM.

All reaffirmed the importance of local government, and councils look forward to seeing action through better partnerships.

Local governments asked for a Minister in Cabinet and we welcome the appointment of Cabinet Minister King supported by former Bega Valley Shire Mayor Minister McBain.

The Assembly welcomed the announcement from Minister King that she would work with Minister McBain to re-establish the Australian Council of Local Governments and was encouraged by the Government’s willingness to engage and partner with local councils.

In keeping with the theme of the Assembly ‘Partners in Progress’, councillors committed to partnering with the Australian Government to progress critical reforms, including national productivity, climate change transition, Closing the Gap, housing affordability including increased social housing, appropriate road safety reforms, restoring integrity of federal funding to local government, and improved local delivery of community services.

The Assembly committed to progressing the next step of Closing the Gap and passed a motion supporting the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The Assembly heard from leading economists that local government is the most productive level of government yet collects just 4 percent of national taxation revenue.

The Assembly agreed that councils need more sustainable and transparent formula-based funding to restore integrity to federal funding of local government.

Further, they noted the essential federal funding support to local communities and called on the Government to review Financial Assistance Grants and restore them to at least 1 percent of Commonwealth taxation revenue.

Delegates and speakers recognised the protracted challenges of the COVID pandemic, unprecedented droughts, bushfires, and recent floods, and commended the work of local councils, local communities and government agencies on their work on emergency response and recovery.

A number of flood-affected leaders also met personally with the Prime Minister, and highlighted ways to better work together to prevent and prepare for natural disasters.

The Assembly warmly received Governor-General David Hurley and his comments on the vital role councils are playing in supporting disaster-impacted communities and will need to play in the future.

The Assembly noted however that more needs to be done on mitigation and the prevention of climate-induced natural disasters.

The Assembly discussed the global challenges to democracy and the critical importance of local government.

The Assembly reaffirmed its commitment to strong local leadership, transparency and public accountability, free and fair elections and local democracy.

After a stirring address from the Ukraine Ambassador, the Assembly passed a unanimous motion supporting the Ukraine people and their legitimate and democratically elected governments.

Other critical issues addressed at the Assembly included migration between cities and regions, housing affordability and the role councils can play in social housing in particular, critical workforce challenges and road safety.

Delegates agreed to continue to meet with their local federal members to highlight the importance of sustainable and transparent funding for local governments, and better partnerships that will help support progress in every community.

Convened by the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) the NGA is the largest national gathering of democratically elected representatives in the nation.

ALGA is the national voice of local government and will review more than 106 policy initiatives adopted by resolution of the Assembly in the coming months.

Australian local governments stand in solidarity with Ukraine

Today councils from across Australia have come together at the 2022 NGA in Canberra to support the people of Ukraine, unanimously passing the following motion:

“We the delegates of the 2022 National General Assembly of Local Government stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and its legitimate elected democratic governments in seeking peace, security and stability within the State of Ukraine.”

The motion followed an address to the Assembly by the Ukraine Ambassador, His Excellency Vasyl Myroshnychenko.

ALGA President Linda Scott said the Ambassador was warmly received by almost 1,000 councillors and local government leaders.

“Councils around Australia – and the world – are committed to local democracy, and we have been horrified by the images we have seen and the reports we have read coming out of Ukraine.”

“As we gathered in Canberra today, we wanted to send a powerful and united message of support to the Ukraine people, and their democratically elected governments.”

Speaking to NGA delegates, the Ukraine Ambassador said he had been pleased by the support he had received from local governments.

“I have travelled extensively and met many mayors and lord mayors and I am amazed by all the people I have met.  I have received many letters of support from local governments across the country,” Ambassador Myroshnychenko said.

“We need more support; the level of destruction is enormous. Hospitals, schools and important infrastructure have all been destroyed. It will take one to two generations to re-build.”

“Local governments can help mostly by connecting local services to those Ukrainians who have relocated into your communities, and by raising money to help Ukrainians rebuild critical infrastructure such as schools and hospitals,” he said.

Littleproud: Excluding local government from National Cabinet was a mistake

Speaking to councillors yesterday afternoon at the National General Assembly (NGA) of Local Government in Canberra, Leader of the National Party David Littleproud said excluding local government from Cabinet was a mistake by the previous Government.

ALGA President Linda Scott it was encouraging to see growing support for including local government in national decision-making.

“We welcomed the announcement by the Albanese Government last week that local government would be appointed to National Cabinet, as well as the Council on Federal Financial Relations,” Cr Scott said.

“This will initially be at one meeting per year, but we will be putting our ongoing membership of these forums on the agenda at the first meetings we attend and working towards securing full voting membership at all future meetings.”

“Councils are the quiet achievers in our federation and shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to decision making that impacts on all Australian communities.”

On day one of the NGA, other presenters included Governor-General David Hurley, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Catherine King, and Minister for Emergency Management Senator Murray Watt.

 

New survey on implementing urban consolidation policies

A survey to help university researchers better understand the benefits, costs, and barriers to increasing residential density in middle ring areas has opened.

The University of Queensland survey seeks to understand the experiences and thoughts of those involved in, and impacted by, the residential development industry, including planners, engineers, architects, urban designers, and elected officials.

The researchers also want to ascertain if existing planning tools are effective at achieving planning policy goals.

The survey will take 15 minutes to complete, and all answers are anonymous.

Participation is voluntary and you can cease participating at any time by not completing the survey.

Questions about respondents’ demographics and living situations are anonymous, voluntary, and can be skipped.

 

National communicable disease group tasked with JEV response

A national expert working group has been set up to support government responses to human cases of Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV).

JEV was declared a Communicable Disease Incident of National Significance in March after being detected in piggeries in NSW, South Australia, Queensland and Victoria.

JEV is spread only through mosquito bites, and while most people will exhibit no symptoms at all if infected, illness can occur.

Symptoms usually start with a sudden onset of fever, headache and vomiting.

A small proportion of people infected (less than one percent), may develop encephalitis and experience symptoms including neck stiffness, severe headache and coma, and more rarely, permanent neurological complications or death.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms, where there has been high mosquito activity, should be tested after other common causes have been excluded.

Vaccines will be made available to those most at risk of infection, based on locality and profession. More information about priority vaccination can be found on the Department of Health website.

JEV cannot be transmitted from human to human nor by consuming meat from an infected animal. Applying a mosquito repellent containing picaridin or DEET on all exposed skin can provide protection, along with wearing long, loose-fitting clothing when outside. Mosquito nets or screens should be properly fitted to accommodation and tents.

For more information about the spread of JEV in people and human health information visit the Department of Health website.

Nominations set to open for expanded LG national awards

The 2022 National Awards for Local Government have been expanded to 11 categories, with nominations to open at 9am on Wednesday 22 June.

Convened by the Federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development, the awards promote local government’s significant role in delivering targeted quality services to Australians in urban and regional communities.

The department is inviting nominations for projects that display excellence, innovation and outcomes that can be replicated or shared across regions to have outstanding local government achievements recognised nationally.

Short form entries are invited across 11 award categories:

  • Creativity and Culture;
  • Productivity through Infrastructure;
  • Regional Growth;
  • Cohesive Communities;
  • Road Safety;
  • Addressing Violence against Women and their Children;
  • Indigenous Recognition;
  • Women in Local Government;
  • Waste Management;
  • Career Starter; and
  • Disaster Preparedness.

Submissions will be accepted until 11.59pm AEDT, 3 August,  followed by a voting period in which Councils and their communities have the opportunity to vote for projects across each category that display excellence, innovation, and outcomes that can be replicated or shared across regions.

2022 Award winners receive a commemorative trophy and an award certificate presented by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts.

For more information on the 2022 National Awards for Local Government visit the website.