The Northern Territory Parliament has passed the Local Government Bill, providing greater clarity, detail and accountability for local government councils.
A key provision is the strengthening and empowerment of local authorities with which regional councils will be required to work in partnership. This fortifies the capacity for local decision making.
Provisions in the new Act include:
improved financial accountability within the sector;
provision of registers of annual returns of interest, declared conflicts, gifts and benefits for council members;
better processes to address complaints against council members;
regional councils will take the projects and priorities of their local authorities into consideration when developing council plans and budgets;
additional consultation requirements before councils can declare special rates; and
provision for an independent panel to review ward boundaries and representation.
The new Act, which commences on 1 July 2020 to align with the next financial year, repeals and replaces the Local Government Act 2008 which brought into effect local government reforms across the Northern Territory.
The legislation, which has been extensively consulted over several years, increases democracy, transparency and good governance and provides councils with better guidance to administer the legislation in a consistent manner.
As stated by Minister for Local Government, Housing and Community Development, Gerry McCarthy:
“This new legislation has been modernised and strengthened to work effectively for the benefit of Territorians by supporting democracy, transparency and financial accountability within the local government sector.
“It increases involvement from local authorities which will now have more input on matters such as budgets, service delivery and funding with the aim of improving working relationships between councils, local authorities and communities.
“The Local Government Act 2019 provides a strong governing model for the local government sector and I thank the Local Government Association of the NT, councils across the Territory and stakeholders for their constructive contribution during the drafting of this legislation.”