08 Aug 2017 newsspeechparliament

Remarks on Local Government (boundary adjustment) Admendment Bill


The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (16:04): I rise to make some remarks in relation to this bill, which
is supported by the Liberal Party. This bill has become necessary to replace the previous system
under the Boundary Adjustment Facilitation Panel, which was abolished as part of the omnibus
legislation to review a range of boards and committees under various government agencies and
departments, and the panel's functions having been transferred to the Minister for Local Government.
So, a new process needed to be found. It was the task of the Office of Local Government, together
with the Local Government Association (LGASA), to review this process.

I understand that South Australia is the only state that does not currently allow a minister to
initiate boundary adjustment proposals and is instead reliant on ratepayers and councils themselves
to put forward suggestions. I am advised that over more recent years minimal changes have occurred
and I can recollect that it has been the subject of some questions in this place. I think it was two
councils on Eyre Peninsula where there might have been a hostile takeover attempted by one council
on the other. I think it was quite an unsatisfactory process at that stage, even though it probably did
not affect a huge number of electors. Because a number of those regional councils have quite a
small rating base, it would have made quite a significant difference to the particular council that was
going to potentially lose some of its area.

There is a process for public-initiated submissions, which requires a minimum of 20 eligible
electors to be submitted to the council, which the council is then at liberty to support or not. That
proposal is then lodged with the minister. I understand that this particular bill process is in line with a
range of processes interstate and is supported by the LGA board and has been the subject of
discussion from the State/Local Government Forum. There is a particular pathway for what is called
'minor proposals', which correct historical anomalies, and then a broader initiation process, which
can be initiated by electors at two or more councils or a single council, or, indeed, minister, or, indeed,
resolution of either house of parliament.

There are amendments to the Local Government Grants Commission to assess the
proposals themselves and then make recommendations to the minister; the capacity for independent
analysis of the particular proposal, whether it be amalgamations or merely boundary changes; cost
recovery initiatives; and some principles, which the LGA has requested to support regional
collaboration to improve efficiencies, which is something that is obviously going to be welcomed by
many people who are concerned about the efficiency or otherwise of local councils.

The bill also allows the commission to appoint investigators to inquire into particular
proposals, including whether there are financial implications, what level of community support exists,
and a range of other matters. With those brief comments, I commend the bill to the council.