Local Government Boundary Adjustment Facilitation Panel

02 May 2013 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for State/Local Government Relations a question on the subject of the Boundary Adjustment Facilitation Panel.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: On 29 November last year I asked the then minister for state/local government relations, the Hon. Russell Wortley, a question about the local government Boundary Adjustment Facilitation Panel, following a submission by a small number of electors to transfer the hundreds of Mangalo and Heggaton from the District Council of Franklin Harbour to the District Council of Cleve, which was expected to report in early 2013. I said:

The proposal, if successful, will result in all the assets, revenues and grants which relate to that area being transferred to the District Council of Cleve.

The panel's proposal appears to be predicated on only one of the 13 requirements of section 26 of the Local Government Act for boundary change, namely, paragraph (c)(vii)—Communities of Interest, and there has been little, if any, consideration of the impact of the proposal on the sustainability and capacity of the remainder of the District Council of Franklin Harbour and its community.

The panel, on the advice of the Crown Solicitor, has declined to address the financial and community ramifications to the whole community of both councils, including the levels of compensation which might need to be paid between the councils. In fact, the Crown Solicitor has stated there is no capacity under the act to require compensation, other than amounts agreed between the parties, which will be a significant loss of revenues and assets to Franklin Harbour.

I sought an assurance from the minister that all affected parties would be fully consulted, and that there would only be a gazettal following a full and comprehensive study on the impacts, particularly the issue of compensation. My question to the minister is: can she provide any information in relation to this matter?

The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Minister for Forests, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for State/Local Government Relations) (14:32): I thank the honourable member for her most important question. The basis of her question is really a very good premise on which to base a good argument for the further need for amalgamations of some of our councils here in South Australia. We have 68 councils, with something like 20-odd in the metropolitan area. Eyre Peninsula has—I have forgotten—eight or nine councils in the one area. We have large numbers of very small councils still. Some are so small they are really not financially viable.

We have examples of where groups of ratepayers want to shift their alliance with a particular council because they do not believe they are getting good value from the council with which they are currently associated, but to move would mean even further adverse financial implications for that council. It is outrageous! Some of these councils should take a good hard look at themselves and look to amalgamating and improving efficiencies throughout particularly our regions, but the metropolitan region is just as bad.

Our policy position is one of voluntary amalgamation, so all I can do is encourage councils, whenever I get the opportunity, to rethink and closely look at the opportunity and benefits from amalgamating. In terms of the particular example that the honourable member has raised, as I was just talking in general terms, obviously the Local Government Act has established this independent body, the Boundary Adjustment Facilitation Panel, to investigate and make recommendations on proposals for council boundary changes.

The act sets out the process that the panel has to undertake in the way it receives submissions and suchlike. It gives no power to me as minister to actually influence the operations of the panel during its deliberations about the boundary changes. My involvement under the act requires me, on receipt of the panel's report on a public-initiated submission, to either accept the report or refer the report back to the panel with a request to consider the matters and to take such steps as I might specify.

The panel has issued a set of guidelines to assist both councils and also electors in the development of the preparation of submissions for the review of the panel. The proposals for boundary adjustments may be made by either council electors or jointly by affected councils. A submission to change the boundaries in an area can be made by a group of 20 or more electors. The submissions must first be made to the affected councils.

If supported, the councils then may make a joint proposal to the council. If either of the councils informs the electors that the submission is not supported, then electors may then submit a proposal to the panel directly for consideration. If the panel believes that the proposal has merit, it investigates the matter and consults with affected stakeholders. A report is then prepared for my consideration.

In relation to the Franklin Harbour-Cleve proposal, a group of eligible electors from the District Council of Franklin Harbour made a submission to the panel seeking to have the council boundary adjusted to excise a portion of the District Council of Franklin Harbour and include it in the District Council of Cleve. The proposal for the boundary change was released for public consultation, I am advised, until 24 December 2012. I am advised that the panel met on 21 February 2013 to consider the responses received during the community consultation period, and I understand there are still a number of steps for the panel to go through, including further consultation with the affected councils, before a report is then prepared for my consideration, and I await the outcome of that report.

While I am on my feet, if I could just clarify for the record in relation to the forestry advisory board that the requirement is for six meetings per year.