President’s column – 26 March 2021

A big shout-out to all the Mayors, council staff, and emergency service personnel who helped safeguard local communities during this week’s “Alaska-sized rain event”.

That’s how the Bureau of Meteorology described the large weather system that deluged every state and territory except Western Australia and led to the inundation of hundreds of homes and the evacuation of thousands of people.

ALGA welcomes the fact that disaster assistance is being provided to affected households and individuals in seven local government areas in Queensland and 35 local government areas across Greater Sydney and regional NSW.

This is a result of active advocacy by state and territory local government associations and individual councils, and I urge all those who have been affected by this week’s floods to go to the Australian Government’s Disaster Assist website, the Queensland Reconstruction Authority’s website, or Service NSW for more information about available support.

As flood clean-up efforts continue, and damaged local government infrastructure is assessed for repair, your ALGA Board met with federal leaders this week to ensure they understood the importance of the Commonwealth’s Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements in supporting councils to renew or rebuild damaged community assets.

These repairs need to be looked at through a mitigation lens, and councils or state governments must be funded to “build back better”.

The Board also took the opportunity to meet with Federal Local Government Minister Mark Coulton MP as well as Shadow Ministers Jason Clare MP (Regional Services, Territories and Local Government), Catherine King MP (Infrastructure, Transport, and Regional Development), and Senator Murray Watt (Disaster and Emergency Management) to make the case for ALGA’s key Federal Budget and Election asks.

They include:

  • Support for the financial sustainability of local governments across the nation through a progressive increase in the Financial Assistance Grants to 1 percent of Commonwealth Taxation Revenue and an initial injection of funding to resolve the current bring forward arrangements.
  • Investment in local infrastructure that will address local needs and the different circumstances faced by councils and communities across the country and provide funding certainty which will allow councils to plan and deliver projects and train and retain additional staff.
  • Investment in disaster mitigation and maximize the considerable co-benefits that will accrue and to partner with local governments as we work to transition our communities to a net-zero emissions future and more extreme weather events
  • Facilitating the development of new circular economy enterprises at local and regional scales which create employment, reduce emissions and generate regional development opportunities; and  
  • The reinstatement of local government representation to the primary intergovernmental forum in Australia, the National Cabinet and ensure ongoing membership of other Ministerial forums.  

Finally, our Board was concerned to learn that the Commonwealth’s Emergency Response Fund remains untouched, and we will continue to urgently advocate for proceeds from this $4 billion fund to be allocated to all Australian local governments for supporting disaster recovery and mitigation.  

Linda Scott,
ALGA President