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Progress in improving efficiency and effectiveness of local government

Effective and efficient local government is important because local government delivers key economic, social and environmental services to its communities.

This section incorporates reports from all State Departments on activities in 2003-04 towards meeting these aims. It includes progress reports on developing performance indicators, reforming legislation, implementing National Competition Policy and other microeconomic reforms. Minor editorial changes, not affecting the meaning, have been made to the State and Territory reports.

Local government associations were invited to submit reports on their activities this year but no reports were received.

New South Wales

Department of Local Government

The New South Wales Government began implementing the Local Government Reform Program in September 2003. The aim of the program is to achieve an appropriate structure for local government that will deliver more efficient and effective services to the people of New South Wales.

All 172 councils responded to a request from the Minister in July 2003 to submit proposals by 31 August 2003 on reform options to best meet the needs of their communities.

Two main approaches to reform have been adopted. In some parts of the State regional reviews have or will be undertaken to develop a suitable reform proposal for referral to the Local Government Boundaries Commission for examination and report, while in others the Minister has referred proposals direct to the Boundaries Commission. The approach taken is largely dependent on the level of viability and consensus around the proposals that have been lodged.

The New South Wales Government has committed over $2 million to the Local Government Reform Program over 2003-04 and 2004-05, and given in-principle approval to a third year of funding in 2005-06.

The Department of Local Government is managing and providing resources for the regional reviews which involve the appointment of an independent facilitator who goes into a region, consults widely with communities in an open and transparent way, suggests options and then develops a proposal for change for referral to the Boundaries Commission.

As at 30 June 2004, six regional reviews had been conducted covering the areas around the ACT region, Clarence Valley region, Peel region, Albury region, and Macquarie region.

During 2003-04, the number of councils was reduced from 172 to 154. Table G.1 provides the names of the new councils, along with the former councils and the date the new councils were proclaimed and began operations.

Table G.1 Changes to New South Wales councils under the Local Government Reform Program, at 30 June 2004

Name of new council

Former councils

Date proclaimed and began operation

City of Sydney

City of Sydney, South Sydney

6 February 2004


Cooma-Monaro and part of Yarrowlumla

11 February 2004

Eastern Capital City Regional

Tallaganda and part of Yarrowlumla, Gunning and Mulwaree

11 February 2004

Greater Argyle Council

Goulburn and part of Mulwaree

11 February 2004

Greater Queanbeyan City

Queanbeyan and part of Yarrowlumla

11 February 2004


Tumut and part of Yarrowlumla

11 February 2004

Upper Lachlan

Crookwell and part of Yass, Gunning and Mulwaree

11 February 2004

Yass Valley

Part of Yass, Gunning and Yarrowlumla

11 February 2004

Clarence Valley

Copmanhurst, Grafton, Maclean and Pristine Waters

25 February 2004

Tamworth Regional

Tamworth, Manilla, part of Barraba and Parry and boundary alteration with Gunnedah

17 March 2004

Gwydir Shire

Bingara, Yallaroi and part of Barraba

17 March 2004

Liverpool Plains Shire

Quirindi, part of Murrurundi, Parry and Nundle and boundary alteration with Gunnedah

17 March 2004

Upper Hunter Shire

Scone and part of Murrurundi and Merriwa

26 May 2004

Greater Hume Shire

Culcairn, Holbrook (apart from 19 sq km) and part of Hume

26 May 2004

Albury City

Albury and part of Hume

26 May 2004

Corowa Shire

Corowa and part of Hume

26 May 2004

Bathurst Regional

Bathurst and part of Evans

26 May 2004

Mid-Western Regional

Mudgee and part of Merriwa and Rylstone

26 May 2004


Oberon and part of Evans

26 May 2004

Lithgow City

Lithgow and part of Rylstone

26 May 2004

Source: NSW Department of Local Government.

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Department for Victorian Communities

Priorities for 2003-04 continue to be implementation of Best Value, legislative review, the Local Government Improvement Incentive Program and further work to help local governments manage their infrastructure assets.

Implementation of Best Value

Best Value Victoria was introduced in December 1999 and requires all local governments to apply Best Value principles to their services by December 2005. The Best Value Victoria principles include establishing quality and cost standards, responsiveness, accessibility, consultation, continuous improvement and community reporting.

In 2003-04, the Best Value efforts of the Local Government Victoria Division of the Department for Victorian Communities, have concentrated on supporting the Best Value networks among councils with an emphasis on good annual reporting.

In 2002-03 all 79 councils provided a report to the Minister on the progress of the Best Value program. All councils have made a significant improvement in the timeliness and compliance of annual reporting and in the overall quality and number of service reviews completed, indicating that councils are making steady progress in completing their Best Value programs.

The Best Value Commission, established in 2000 to advise the Minister for Local Government on the implementation of Best Value across the state, published its third annual report in December 2003. The Commission will continue to promote the benefits of Best Value this year at its discussions with half of Victoria's councils and with local government peak bodies.

Legislative review

The Local Government (Democratic Reform) Act was passed in November 2003 amending the Local Government Act 1989 to reflect contemporary thinking about the role of local government.

The legislative changes implemented include:

  • council codes of conduct
  • disclosure of conflicts of interest
  • transparent decision making
  • sound financial management
  • accountable public reporting
  • democratic electoral systems
  • the role and charter of local government.

National Competition Policy - Local Government Improvement Incentive Program

As part of the Local Government Improvement Incentive Program introduced in November 2002 and replacing the system of National Competition Policy payments to councils, new Local Government Improvement Incentive Program Agreements were signed by the Victorian Government and individual Victorian councils, effective from 1 July 2004 until 30 June 2006.

Compliance for 2003-04 was based on three assessment criteria:

  • National Competition Policy (trade practices, local laws and competitive neutrality)
  • Best Value
  • Asset management.

Infrastructure asset management initiatives

There is a range of initiatives being implemented by Local Government Victoria in cooperation with the peak local government bodies to help councils improve their asset management capabilities. Initiatives include:

Improving asset management knowledge and practices

Asset management policy and guidelines for local government, Sustaining Local Assets, issued in December 2003, provides the policy framework and high level guidance to help councils develop and implement their own policies and practices. Consistent with the Victorian Government's own asset management policy, it incorporates the best internationally recognised principles, policies, and processes.

Monitoring and continuous improvement

The Asset Management Performance Measures Project, initiated by Local Government Victoria, provides councils with a measurement tool to monitor their own asset management improvement and to benchmark their performance against like council groupings. Implementation of the Asset Management Performance Measures Project will meet councils' need to measure their own asset management performance and to demonstrate continuous improvement to their communities. Local Government Victoria organised training for this project during May-June 2004. Local Government Victoria will collect aggregate data annually.

Measures taken in Victoria to develop comparable performance measures

Each year Local Government Victoria (Department for Victorian Communities) in collaboration with local governments publishes two reports on indicators - the Local Government in Victoria report and the Community Satisfaction Survey.

The Local Government in Victoria 2003 report includes the following indicators: rates, operating and capital expenditure, debt, infrastructure renewal, operating result and community satisfaction with overall performance, advocacy and engagement. This report provides commentary on State-wide indicator results, including analysis by local government type (that is, inner metropolitan, outer metropolitan, regional cities, small shires and large shires). It also includes individual local government results in an attachment. The report can be downloaded from www.dvc.vic.gov.au/ in the Local Government Victoria section under local government publications.

The results this year show a number of positive trends, including the fact that community satisfaction with local government remains strong, despite increases in rates during the past few years. Most local governments have increased expenditure on capital projects and made progress on addressing issues associated with community demand for infrastructure. In addition, many councils have also improved their asset management and information systems. The challenges posed by ageing infrastructure and the demands for new infrastructure remain strong, and most local governments will need to continue to address these issues.

The annual Community Satisfaction Survey was undertaken in early 2004, with 76 out of 79 local governments participating on a voluntary basis. The overall performance of local governments has stabilised since the survey began in 1998. This year, 80 per cent of respondents reported 'excellent, good and adequate' for Overall Council Performance compared with 79 per cent in 2003.

At a State-wide level, the key drivers of satisfaction, that is those service areas which most impact on how respondents view the performance of their council are economic development, followed by town planning policy and approvals, and local roads and footpaths. As in previous survey years, metropolitan respondents were generally more satisfied than country respondents. Nevertheless, there were a number of measures where country local governments achieved higher ratings than metropolitan local governments (including council advocacy, health and human services, traffic management and parking, appearance of public areas and enforcement of by-laws). The full research report is available at www.dvc.vic.gov.au/.

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Department of Local Government, Planning, Sport and Recreation

Measures taken in Queensland to develop comparable performance measures

Under its performance management program for local governments, the Queensland Department of Local Government, Planning, Sport and Recreation is committed to helping local governments in their efforts to achieve performance improvement and best practice in the services they provide to their communities.

In July 2004, the Department released its annual comparative performance report titled Queensland Local Government Comparative Information 2002-03. This report is produced in partnership with local governments and provides a comprehensive collection of performance and contextual information for key local government functions such as road maintenance, water, sewerage, waste management, library services, local government rating and financial management.

The performance measures contained within the report are reviewed yearly with any amendments and/or additions to the measures being based on the feedback and recommendations received from local governments during the course of the year.

The publication aims to help local governments develop new and more effective ways to deliver their services by providing an effective tool with which to monitor trends over time and to benchmark their performance both internally and against other councils.

With the publication also available on the Department's web site, at www.lgp.qld.gov.au/applications/estore/local_govt/#compar_2003, community members have greater access to the comparative information. In so doing, the publication helps enhance the transparency and public accountability of Queensland local government.

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Western Australia

Department of Local Government and Regional Development

The department provided a wide range of programs all of which were intended to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of local governments.

Local Government Amendment Bill 2003

This Bill is the first comprehensive amendment Bill of the Local Government Act 1995. It includes various matters resulting from the first major review of the legislation since the Act came into operation on 1 July 1996.

The Bill contains amendments to approximately 75 provisions of the Act.

One of the main objectives of the review of the Act has been to remove any inefficient or impractical provisions that have been of concern to local governments since the Act came into operation.

Significant changes to the Act included in this Bill that will improve efficiency and effectiveness of local government in Western Australia to deliver services are:

  • New provisions requiring each council to have an audit committee are included to ensure council members maintain an involvement in the audit process.
  • A new clause is added to the content and intent part of the Act to make it clear that local governments need to consider environmental outcomes. This will ensure consistency with the State Sustainability Strategy and the proposed Sustainability Act.
  • Local governments will be able to impound and dispose of abandoned vehicle wrecks within two weeks rather than two months, as is the present case.
  • Local governments will be empowered to close thoroughfares for indefinite periods, without re-advertising the closure, every four years.
  • Local governments will be able to dispose of property by private treaty without being required to give local public notice. Instead, details will need to be included in the minutes of meetings.
  • Local government elections will not be permitted to be held on the same day as State and/or federal elections.
  • Local governments with no wards will be able to operate with up to 20 per cent of their vacancies unfilled until the next ordinary or extraordinary elections are held.
  • A new clause is being added to enable regulations to be made to prescribe the minimum amount of rent that must be paid by an occupier to obtain eligibility to be included on the owners and occupiers roll for an election. Appropriate minimum amounts will be specified for different regions, for example, metropolitan and country areas.
  • The period for nominating for council elections has been reduced from 14 days to seven days. This will allow an extra week for the Electoral Commission to prepare postal voting papers.
  • A new clause is included to require the positions of Chief Executive Officers and senior employees to be advertised in accordance with details to be prescribed in regulations. Also, councils will be required to consider remuneration levels for CEOs recommended by the State Salaries and Allowances Tribunal.
  • New provisions will allow regulations to be made to specify particular documents which councils must keep confidential.
  • Councils will be able to adopt the next financial year's budget in June. In addition, the Treasurer's approval will not be needed before a council can borrow money or undertake certain investments.
  • New provisions will require the Electoral Commissioner to conduct any boundary polls where an amalgamation of local governments is proposed.
  • The circumstances where councils may enter land to rectify nuisances are being widened to include enforcement of laws relating to bee keeping, dilapidated fencing, artificial light and dangerous private thoroughfares.

There are many other amendments included in the Bill that improve the operation of the Act.

Other initiatives

The department continued to provide advice to local governments and individual elected members and senior staff about interpretation of the legislation and operational procedures.

The Financial Management Award program continued with appropriate recognition given to those local governments who demonstrated their skills in this area. Award winners are encouraged to mentor other local governments so the skill base can be spread around the State.

The CEO Support Program, which has been running for about 10 years and has been highly successful, helped seven new local government CEOs in 2003-04. Guidelines for complex and difficult operational areas continue to be prepared. Guidelines for 2003-04 included the conduct of council forums and an induction program for newly elected councillors.

The department works with the Western Australian Local Government Association and Local Government Managers Australia to provide a peer support program whereby councils whose performance is being damaged by interpersonal conflict can benefit from mediation and advice from their peers in the sector.

Many rural local governments are becoming more aware that they are going to have to work with surrounding councils to achieve many of their objectives. The best means of cooperation is through a voluntary regional organisation of councils and the department made some grants available to encourage councils to get together to assess the value of establishing a voluntary regional organisation of councils (VROCs).

Councils and individuals make mistakes and often such situations lead to inquiries being established. Following the completion of every major inquiry, the department releases a report outlining the lessons that other local governments can learn.

Elected members can benefit by becoming better informed about their roles. To this end, 14 training modules are available for elected members in Western Australian local government.

Measures taken in Western Australia to develop comparable performance measures

The department continues to address the issue of comparable performance indicators. However, obtaining reasonably reliable data from local governments is still proving difficult.

The concept of using Internet technology to facilitate data collections is still being explored. It is envisaged that this will lower collection costs, improve data quality and enhance collection timelines. It is expected that final technology requirements will be determined in the near future to enable such collections to occur.

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South Australia

Department of Transport and Urban Planning

This year the department concentrated to three measures aimed at improving local government efficiency and effectiveness. They were:

  • In order to improve councils' rating systems and communication practices a collaborative project between the State and local government was undertaken which helped councils determine social impacts, explore rate relief options and develop best practice communication strategies.
  • The joint State and Local Government Financial Accountability Advisory Committee continued to provide support to encourage improvement in financial management and accountability in local government, including an annual conference of local government auditors and development of guidelines for the accounting treatment of internal loans.
  • The Local Government Association of South Australia continues to provide an extensive education and training program for council members and staff designed to keep them up-to-date with key changes to legislation and best practice in local government.

Measures taken in South Australia to develop comparable performance measures

Reports compiled by the Local Government Association of South Australia under the Comparative Performance Measurement project were released to all councils in October 2003. Each council receives its own results and that of various groupings adopted by the sector for reporting purposes.

Regional workshops have been undertaken to disseminate the results and discuss regional analysis of the data. Suggestions from the workshops indicated that the Comparative Performance Measurement project continues to provide a foundation for continuous improvement in South Australian local government and is helping councils measure and analyse their performance over time.

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Department of Premier and Cabinet

National Competition Policy

In June 1996, as required under the Competition Principles Agreement, the former government submitted a policy application statement Application of National Competition Policy to Local Government to the National Competition Council (NCC). This statement was prepared in consultation with local government and provided broad guidance on how the key competition principles would be applied to local government.

A review of the 1996 application statement was started in 2002 and, following consultation with the Local Government Association of Tasmania, was completed in April 2004. A new application statement National Competition Policy Applying the Principles to Local Government in Tasmania (2004 Application Statement) signalled the end of the review. In addition, the 2004 Application Statement was accompanied by a supporting document Significant Business Activities and Local Government in Tasmania.

These new documents are provided to help local government continue to apply competition principles to its activities by reaffirming local government responsibilities in relation to the competition principles, as set out in the National Competition Policy (NCP) Agreements.

Under the 2004 Application Statement, in applying competitive neutrality principles, local government is required to:

  • identify relevant business activities which are considered to be significant business activities
  • undertake public benefit assessments of the corporatisation of those business activities, as outlined in the 2004 Application Statement
  • corporatise those activities where a public benefit assessment indicates the benefits outweigh the costs of doing so and apply full cost attribution to all other significant business activities.

The Local Government Act 1993 was amended in 1999 to require councils to report competitive neutrality costs for their significant business activities in their annual reports.

The 2004 Application Statement reaffirms the requirement, established under the Government Prices Oversight Regulations 1998, of each State and Territory to establish a competitive neutrality complaints mechanism. This mechanism provides that a person who believes he or she has been adversely affected by a contravention of the competitive neutrality principles may lodge a complaint with the Government Prices Oversight Commission (GPOC). GPOC is responsible for investigating all alleged breaches of the competitive neutrality principles in Tasmania.

The 2004 Application Statement also acknowledges that the Government Prices Oversight Amendment Act 1997 extended coverage of the Government Prices Oversight Act 1995 to include local government monopoly or near monopoly services. Consequently, local government monopoly, or near monopoly, providers fall under the prices oversight jurisdiction of GPOC. In this regard, the Government Prices Oversight Act has been applied to the three bulk water authorities.

The State's obligations under the Strategic Framework for the Efficient and Sustainable Reform of the Australian Water Industry require bulk water authorities to charge on a volumetric basis to recover all costs. These authorities are also required to earn a positive real rate of return on the written-down replacement cost of their assets.

In November each year, GPOC starts an annual audit process requiring councils to provide advice on the performance of their water and wastewater businesses for that year. In early 2004 GPOC completed its 2002-03 audit of councils' cost recovery performance for providing water and wastewater services. The audit findings were presented to the National Competition Council in April 2004 with the submission of Tasmania's 2004 National Competition Policy Progress Report. The audit found a generally high level of compliance by Tasmanian councils in both water and wastewater pricing.

Furthermore, under Regulation 32 of the Local Government Regulations 1994, councils are required to demonstrate that the Urban Water and Wastewater Pricing Guidelines for Local Government in Tasmania are being applied to supply of domestic water. In order to demonstrate this, councils need to include, in their annual reports, a statement about its plans for water it will supply for domestic consumption; and sufficient financial information to demonstrate that it is applying pricing guidelines to this water supply. Previous requirements called for a statement to appear in a council's operating plans for the forthcoming year.

Partnerships Agreement Program

The State and local governments in Tasmania have forged a close working relationship through developing and implementing the Partnership Agreements Program. The program allows the two spheres of government to work together to improve economic, environmental and social outcomes on a local, regional and State level.

The agreements involve negotiation of an agreed approach to a range of issues the two parties identified. The three-year agreements are not legally binding contracts but are essentially memorandums of understanding between the two spheres of government.

The program includes bilateral, regional and State-wide agreements that are capable of delivering a range of strategic, cooperative and targeted programs to Tasmanian communities. The Partnerships Program began in 1998 and has now entered a second phase where early agreements are being reviewed and renegotiated.

While the focus has been on agreements between State and local government, substantial progress has been made in developing a tripartite agreement between the three spheres of government focusing on provision of aged care services. It is expected an agreement focusing on community awareness, sharing of information and improved planning outcomes, will be finalised in 2004-05.

Twenty-one bilateral agreements between the State government and councils have now been initiated and included in the bilateral partnership agreements across the State. A peak group, that includes a government representative (in most cases a Cabinet Minister), oversees each bilateral partnership agreement. Regional agreements have also been signed with region north!, Cradle Coast Authority and Southern Tasmanian councils.

The Premier's Local Government Council oversees State-wide agreements. This Council consists of the Premier as Chair and nine elected local government representatives. State-wide agreements involve issues that are relevant to all councils and they enable the government to develop a strategic whole-of-State approach. There are four completed State-wide agreements: waste management, simplifying planning schemes, consultation and communication, and financial relations between State and local government.

The cooperative relationship between State and local government in Tasmania was further strengthened with the signing of a State-wide partnership agreement to reform financial relations between the two spheres of government. Developed through the Premier's Local Government Council, the agreement was signed by the former Premier of Tasmania, the Hon. Jim Bacon MHA and the President of the Local Government Association of Tasmania, Councillor Lynn Mason. Under the reform package, the State government has agreed to pay council rates on Crown land, apart from certain types of reserves, and hydro generating assets and related infrastructure. Councils will now be required to pay State taxes, including payroll and land tax, with similar exemptions. $10 million worth of levies on local government has been abolished. The net result is that local government stands to benefit by up to $4 million a year from the start of the reforms in July 2004. This is the first time this kind of reform has been achieved in any Australian State.

The Partnerships Agreement Program is linked to Tasmania Together the 20-year social, environmental and economic plan for Tasmania. Agreements provide a way of delivering strategic programs to help implement Tasmania Together benchmarks at the local level. Bilateral agreements are also linked to individual councils' strategic plans.

The Partnership Agreement Program has proven extremely successful. It has attracted attention from other States and Territories, as well as from overseas.

More information on partnership agreements can be found at www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/lgo/.

Review of the Local Government Act 1993

In early 2003, the State government began a review of the Local Government Act 1993. The review is covering the entire Act. The review's objective is to update the Act to ensure it promotes the best local government practices, meets the needs of local communities and reflects the goals of Tasmania Together.

The Minister Assisting the Premier on Local Government established a Steering Committee to provide the government with guidance on the overall strategic direction to be taken in relation to the review. The Steering Committee established three working groups to research and provide recommendations regarding the approximately 330 issues raised in the first phase of consultation (March to April 2003). The three working groups were governance, accountability and council operations. The Steering Committee and the working groups included representatives of local government, the community and the State government.

In August 2003, the Minister asked the Steering Committee to release the working group's findings and recommendations from eight weeks of consultation. Forty-six submissions were received from local government and the community. State agencies were also invited to comment. The Steering Committee reported to the Minister in November 2003. To help the government decide on four major issues arising from the review, an independent survey of more than 3000 electors across Tasmania was commissioned. The Minister considered the Steering Committee's findings and recommendations and decided which proposals should be included in the draft Bill or Regulations and which should be rejected or deferred.

In March 2004, the Minister published an exposure draft of the Local Government Amendment Bill 2004, along with a report outlining the outcome for each amendment proposal and discussing the proposals that were included in the draft Bill. Before publication, the Minister accepted a request from local government for the consultation period to be extended from five to 10 weeks; this meant the Bill could not be introduced to Parliament until the Spring 2004 session and that the government would therefore defer local government elections, scheduled for October 2004. Fifty-three submissions were received and are currently being used to finalise the Bill.

In June 2004, an exposure draft of the Local Government (Meeting Procedures) Regulations 2005 was released for eight weeks consultation. Submissions closed on 30 July 2004.

The government is also developing new Local Government (General) Regulations 2005 to replace the Local Government Regulations 1994. These new Regulations will include the matters currently addressed by the Regulations along with a number of proposals arising from the review of the Local Government Act 1993. The government will release an exposure draft of these Regulations later in 2004.

Deferral of local government elections

On 24 March 2004, the Governor made an Order to defer local government elections from October 2004 to October 2005.

Treatment of local government by-laws

The Local Government Division of the Department of Premier and Cabinet has in place procedures for reviewing all proposed council by-laws to ensure any provisions imposing restrictions on competition or measures having the effect of restraining business are fully justified as being of public benefit.

Those procedures were implemented by distribution, to all Tasmanian councils in August 1997, of the By-Law Making Procedures Manual. This element represents the by-law component of the government's ongoing Legislation Review Program.

All by-laws proposed since then have been required to comply with the new procedures. The procedures were further formalised in 1999 following an amendment to the Local Government Act 1993 to require any new by-laws with a significant impact on the community to be subject to preparation of a regulatory impact statement. The purpose of the regulatory impact statement is to explain those impacts, their justification, alternatives considered and the public consultation process to be followed. The regulatory impact statement is to be written in plain English and be made available to affected stakeholders or to the community at large, as appropriate.

Since the current Local Government Act 1993 commenced in January 1994, all new by-laws gazetted to take effect (approximately 140) have been subjected to the legislation review processes. Councils now carefully consider the matters they wish to regulate by means of a by-law under the Act's rigorous review and consultation provisions. Discrete State legislation has removed the need for much of the previous content.

Under the Act, a by-law automatically expires eight years after it has been gazetted. This provision has prompted Tasmanian councils to review their need for individual by-laws and to focus instead on governance arrangements that comply with National Competition Policy principles.

During 2002-03, the Local Government Division established the first database of all current Tasmanian by-laws. It is actively monitored and maintained. Councils have found this facility useful as a source of accepted precedents when developing their own by-laws and members of the Tasmanian community have been able, for the first time, to check and compare by-laws across the State.

As at 30 June 2004, the number of current by-laws shown on the web site was 120. In addition, the steadily increasing number of hits on the web site has demonstrated the value of this resource both to the community as well as to council administrators. It has led to higher standards of preparation, consistency and expression. The by-law database can be found at www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/lgo/.

Local Government Board

The Local Government Board is a statutory body established in 1987 under the Local Government Act 1962, and continued under the Local Government Act 1993.

The Minister Assisting the Premier on Local Government, the Hon. Jim Cox MHA, has recently appointed the Local Government Board for a new 12-month term beginning 1 July 2004. The members of the Board are Ms Margaret Sing (Chairperson), Mrs Mary Binks, Mr Brian Inches, Mr Trevor Cordwell and Ms Marguerite Scott.

The Board's principal function is to conduct general reviews of councils. It looks at the way councils are operating and delivering their services and the way they are working with and meeting the needs of their communities.

The Local Government Board is required to undertake a general review of each council at least every eight years. In each general review the Board addresses boundary or name changes; governance; regulatory functions; community development, communication and consultation; equity, access and human resource management; asset management; financial matters; external relations and developing local government; and public submissions.

Five general reviews were completed during 2003-04 of the Central Highlands Council, Dorset Council, Glenorchy City Council, Southern Midlands Council and Waratah-Wynyard Council. Board reports can be found at www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/lgo/.

Measures taken in Tasmania to develop comparable performance measures

The aim of the Tasmanian Measuring Council Performance Project is to provide a comprehensive framework of key performance indicators for Tasmanian local government.

The key performance indicators provide an industry-wide framework for measuring and comparing councils' performance. The key performance indicators promote enhanced performance measurement by councils, benchmarking and identification of best practice, improved accountability to the community and establishing performance trends over time.

The framework provides councils, individually and collectively, with:

  • practical tools to measure and compare results against agreed performance outcomes and best practice standards
  • targets and strategies for councils to continuously innovate and improve the performance of their functions, including efficient and effective service provision
  • and operations
  • synergies to expand councils' capacities to produce better economic, social and environmental outcomes for residents and the community.

The Australian Government provided a grant of $55 000 under the Local Government Incentive Program to help implement the performance measurement system. This funding finished on 31 December 2003.

A key performance indicator steering committee, comprising State and local government officers and the chairperson of the Local Government Board, was established to oversee introduction of the performance measurement system for Tasmanian councils.

The Steering Committee has refined the performance indicators developed in 1999. Council performance was measured by 49 key performance indicators in the 2002-03 report. All 29 Tasmanian councils provided their data on a voluntary basis for the 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2001-02, and 2002-03 reports. The report for 2002-03 was released on 28 May 2004.

The project has been, and will continue to be, a joint effort of both State and local government. There is strong local government support for the measurement system.

The State government, through its initiative funding, has allocated sufficient resources to ensure successful ongoing operation of the key performance indicator framework.

The data collection form developed for the project includes not only the data for the key performance indicator project but also existing Australian Bureau of Statistics, State Grants Commission and Department of Treasury and Finance data requirements. This consolidated data collection process was used successfully for the 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2002-03 reports.

With four years data, the committee presented some of the information graphically in the 2002-03 report and for the first time trends were discussed. As more data becomes available the committee will be considering revising its dissemination strategy and presentation of performance measures. The reports can be found at www.dpac.tas.gov.au/divisions/lgo/.

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Northern Territory

Progress in delivering micro economic and other reforms

The beginning of 200304 saw introduction of two new community government councils. The first, Thamarrurr, subsumes the community of Wadeye and its outstations by replacing the Kardu Numida Council Inc. and extending local government services over 3450 square kilometres. The second, Nyirranggulung Mardrulk Ngadbeere Regional Council, is a merger between the community government councils to the immediate south east of the township of Katherine being BarungaManyallaluk and Wugularr joining with the communities of Weemol and Bulman. The new council services a population of around 1500 people and covers an area of 27 800 square kilometres from a base in Katherine.

In November 2003, the Local Government and Regional Development Division of the Department of Community Development, Sport and Cultural Affairs, in conjunction with the Northern Territory Grants Commission, introduced a new method for collecting local government financial data and performance information. Up until then, local governments had received separate data collection requests from the department, the Grants Commission and the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In most cases the data collected by the three agencies overlapped and the requirement for local governments to report to three separate entities was unnecessary and time consuming. The new return simplified the collection process, standardised local government data definitions and reduced the amount of data being collected to what was considered necessary and useful.

As part of the new collection process, the return was distributed to local governments by email and they were permitted to forward the completed return to a central email address. This method proved successful and will be continued.

The data collected on the returns will be used by the Grants Commission to assess local governments' financial assistance grants, the Australian Bureau of Statistics in the Government Finance Statistics and National Accounts, and the department in its performance measurement publications.

While some local governments experienced difficulty completing the return this year, the new process will, with experience and familiarity, make the collection process easier for local governments with an overall improvement in the quality of data collected.

Towards the end of 2003-04 long-awaited changes to the Local Government Act were made. The Northern Territory now proposes to review the Act to ensure it promotes best local government practices and reflects contemporary thinking about the role of local government.

Measures taken to develop comparable performance indicators

The aim of the Northern Territory performance indicators program was to introduce performance management tools to all councils in the Territory in such a way as to ensure they become an integrated and valuable part of community management practices. In support of that aim, the Department of Local Government (now the Department of Community Development, Sport and Cultural Affairs) linked the development and implementation of performance indicators for local governing bodies to the introduction of its best practice program.

While the Northern Territory has been collecting comparable performance indicators since 1997-98, not all local governing bodies embraced the reporting of such. Despite early enthusiasm there was an increasing decline in councils willing to collect performance data. The reporting of performance information was well within the capacity of the municipal and larger councils, but the capacity to provide the required information was more difficult for the smaller and remote councils.

In November 2003, in recognition of the difficulties experienced by the smaller councils, the Department of Development, Sport and Cultural Affairs in conjunction with the Northern Territory Grants Commission mandated a requirement for all councils to submit an annual return of local government data. This return combined the requirements of both agencies and simplified the reporting process requiring councils to provide financial and performance measurement data relating to 2002-03.

Of 62 councils, only two failed to lodge a completed or part completed return. A further 16 councils failed to complete the performance indicator section of the return. The department is continuing a process of informing councils of their, now mandated, obligation to provide annual performance measurement data.

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Australian Capital Territory

ACT NoWaste

A new Materials Recovery Facility to process an expanded range of domestically collected recyclables was commissioned in December 2003. The Materials Recovery Facility was constructed as a part of the first stage of developing the Hume Resource Recovery Estate.

ACT NOWaste continued to conduct targeted education and information campaigns to better inform the community on the use of available services. During 2003-04 specific education programs included the use of the new domestic collection services, increased landfill disposal charges, and the use of alternative free recycling services. There was also a campaign to address problems with sharps in the domestic recycling stream.

More than 50 schools were inducted into the Waste Wise Schools Program that aims to educate students, teachers and the local community in sustainable waste management practices.

Recycling at public events has been further facilitated with special bin tops, and a Guide for Recycling at Public Events was developed to provide advice to public event organisers to enable recovery of more recyclables and minimise waste disposal.

Roads ACT

In 2003-04 Roads ACT continued to develop road maintenance contracts and corresponding inspection and superintendence contracts for delivery of planned and unplanned road maintenance works. The contracts are performance based and incorporate the recently developed Urban Infrastructure Standards and, where relevant, include reference to Austroads Guidelines and to New South Wales and industry specifications for maintenance works. A government service provider provides the routine road maintenance works.

A contract has been awarded for implementation of an Integrated Asset Management System. This will allow more efficient and effective prioritisation and management of local government asset maintenance through collection of location, asset type and asset condition data. Data population has started and the first packages of roads assets, accident data and customer service will be available for use from September 2004.

Canberra Urban Parks and Places

As the purchaser of park and public place maintenance services, Canberra Urban Parks and Places is continuing to focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of service delivery by:

  • developing Asset Management Plans for all assets including a specific asset management plan for urban trees with 20 year predictive financial and tree growth modelling
  • conducting a new customer satisfaction survey which measures customers' interactions with Canberra Urban Parks and Places
  • establishing a recreation program to encourage better interaction with targeted community groups resulting in better informed decision making
  • initiating a sustainable parks management strategy to address long-term environmental sustainability to the community
  • introducing financial incentive mechanisms into maintenance contracts.

Measures taken in the Australian Capital Territory to develop comparable performance measures for local government services

Benchmarking has already been carried out and benchmarks currently adopted are included in Table G.2.

Potential benchmarking indicators (under consideration)

Additional benchmarking activities for ACT NoWaste could include:

  • cost of household service delivery and cost of overall service delivery to residents
  • participation rates in services
  • level of contamination in recycling stream (domestic only)
  • level of recyclables in waste stream (both commercial and domestic)
  • levels of recyclables and resources recovered
  • cost per unit (for example, tonnes) of specific resource recovery and waste management services
  • level of expenditure on waste avoidance and reduction
  • customer satisfaction ratings on services
  • number of customers using services (collection, landfill, drop-off centres, other).

Table G.2 Benchmarks for local government services in the ACT

Agency Performance measure Benchmark Comment
Roads ACT
Territorial road network resurfaced 810% per year Benchmarks sourced from 'Strategic Study into Management of ACT Roads and Stormwater Assets' by ARRB Transport Research Ltd
Municipal road network resurfaced 710% per year Same as above
Traffic signals Service level 'D' Service level D is defined as 'where drivers, during peak hours, are somewhat restricted in their freedom to select their desired speeds or to manoeuvre within the traffic stream.'
Traffic signals Service level 'B' Service level B is defined as 'where drivers, during business hours, have reasonable freedom in selecting their desired speed.'
Line marking Remark 34 yrs Under normal circumstances, line marking projects are identified on the basis of existing marking falling to a minimum threshold level for reflectivity of 100 mcd/lux/m2.
Signs replacement 8% per year Signs should be replaced on a 12-year cyclical program to achieve the Australian Standards guidelines for serviceability. Replacement of signs on a luminosity basis (other than for damaged signs) would again require costly and time consuming retro reflectivity measurements, which are out of proportion with the value of the asset.
Streetlights territorial maintenance bulb replace Every 3 years To bring in line with other jurisdictions
Streetlights municipal maintenance bulb replace Every 3 years To bring in line with other jurisdictions
Streetlights operation lamp faults Fix 90% within 5 days To bring in line with other jurisdictions
Community paths Depends on risk group Paths are divided into three risk groups:
High Around major group centres and between aged persons units and local shops etc. Inspection frequency is every 12 months
Medium Around local shops, high-density housing, tourist attractions and bus stops. Inspection frequency every three years.
Low Around low/medium density residential areas and cycle paths. Inspection frequency every five years.
Canberra Urban Parks and Places
Customer satisfaction (%) 67% Canberra Urban Parks and Places was an active member of the International Parks Strategic Partners Group, an affiliation of major parks management organisations, mainly in Australasia, that was concerned with industry best practice and benchmarking. Other members of the International Parks Strategic Partners Group included City of Melbourne; City of Brisbane; City of Adelaide; Auckland Regional Parks; Parks Victoria; New South Wales Parkes and Wildlife Service (metropolitan region); Centennial Park; Department of Conservation, New Zealand; Cleveland Metropark, United States; San Francisco Bay Area Parks, United States. Canberra Urban Parks and Places is now participating in the Yardstick benchmarking project that will provide audited comparative data at a more detailed level.
Total visits ('000) 9900
Total cost per visit (A$) $2.58
Total revenue earned annually (A$) $0.965m (excluding appropriation)
Total cost/hectare open to the public $5525 per hectare (6217 hectares)
ACT NoWaste
Average of cost of waste services $85 per household, per annum

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