About a thousand mayors and councilors from across the country gathered in Canberra this week for the annual National Local Government Assembly.
Wagga Mayor Dallas Tout said there was positive energy surrounding the three-day rally.
“It’s a good opportunity to do a number of things,” he explained.
“You spot the national trends with all the motions that have come forward and there’s all the talk about it.
“We also see where the federal government intends to go by hearing from a range of speakers.”
Top of Wagga City Council’s agenda was a motion calling for more community consultation on the impact of the multi-billion dollar inland rail project.
“We brought in a belated motion regarding domestic rail and we just made sure there was a point of contact within the federal government when it came to the livability type things that Inland Rail keep telling us that they are beyond the scope of their project,” he said.
“It actually got unanimous support and it allows ALGA (the Australian Local Government Association) to have someone in place so communities can go to that federal government contact point and figure out what can be resolved, whether it is noise or speed, trains or level crossings. or raise or lower the line, etc.
Eurobodalla Shire Council only recently joined ALGA and Councilor Anthony Mayne said it had been great meeting with other local government areas.
“This is a very important platform for the local council to make their voice heard with the federal government,” he said.
Securing a seat at the federal table has been high on ALGA’s agenda after local government was left out when the COAG was replaced by a national cabinet in 2020.
The new Labor government is committed to rectifying this and Cr Mayne said there was a strong commitment to seeing this through.
“We heard from Minister Kristy McBain, who was the former mayor of Bega Council, and she is here now as Minister for Regional Development and Local Government,” he said.
With his own county still in recovery mode after the Black Summer fires, he said this dialogue with the Commonwealth was vital.
“We have to deal with natural disasters like Lismore did this year and Bega and Eurobodalla had to deal with the Black Summer fires,” he said.
“Building our resilience around telecommunications, infrastructure etc. Everything lives and breathes at the local regional level and that’s really a key role for councils to play.”
Despite the wide range of local government representatives from over 500 councils, there are many common concerns.
A motion has been put forward for financial aid grants to be restored to one per cent of Commonwealth tax revenue.
According to ALGA, the value of grants to local authorities has declined over the past three decades to about 0.55%.
“It really impacts the council’s ability to provide services and care for its community, especially in these very difficult times with the fires and floods,” said Cr Mayne.
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One of the biggest issues on the table was housing. Dallas All of Wagga said it was a problem they all faced.
“Every community across the country has a housing crisis,” he said.
“It’s across the gamut, whether it’s social housing, affordable housing, residential development, the whole gamut of housing.
“The shortage of housing and also a shortage of particular types of housing and the lack of funding.”
When asked if the apparent pothole crisis that dominates council social media across the country has come to light, Cr Mayne gave a knowing smile.
“Not potholes per se,” he said.
“But we know that transportation is so important. It’s a big, big country and it’s a big job to take care of all these roads. It’s so expensive, and we’ve seen the damage.
“So yeah, that’s a hot topic and that’s key to a number of these tips.”
Original article published by Chris Roe on Riverine region.