|Neil Hartley, outgoing president of Local Government Managers Australia.|
By Angela Dorizas
More than 400 local government managers and elected representatives gathered in Adelaide to explore the sector’s role in helping communities prepare for, respond to and recover from future crises.
The Local Government Managers Australia (LGMA) National Congress was officially opened by the Governor of South Australia, Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce, who described local government as “the most respected level of government” in Australia.
“When I look out at this group today, I don’t see a congregation of individual local government officials and elected representatives,” Mr Scarce said.
“Instead I see 400 world-class community leaders who work every day to enhance and sustain the lives of 22 million Australian men, women and children; and who together have the power to make a difference.”
Mr Scarce warned delegates that such respect was “hard to win, but very easy to loose”.
“Local government can’t afford to coast off previous performance and must address the challenges ahead,” he said.
Mr Scarce said the most pressing challenge he could see was the increase in ratepayer expectations about services to be delivered from a limited budget.
“Perhaps there is a limit to how much efficiency can be driven from the existing structural model.”
He encouraged councils to rethink their relationships within local government, and outside of the sector, in order to meet future challenges.
“We are increasingly reminded that it’s not possible to operate in isolation, either locally or globally,” he said.
“Financial crises and climate change are suddenly upon us, seemingly beyond our control. At the local level, you must not just manage the immediate impact, but also plan and anticipate for likely future impact.”
LGMA’s outgoing national president, Neil Hartley, provided an update on the activities of the association and the progress made in advancing federal-local relations.
“We have improved federal relations and we’ve met with a number of Commonwealth politicians over the year and LGMA is held in very high regard by federal leaders – something that’s been built on over many years,” Mr Hartley said.
Mr Hartley said the association had also worked to progress the Year of Women in Local Government – a program which had already proven to be a success.
“We’ve raised $100,000 from local governments across the nation to helping with that program,” Mr Hartley said.
“It’s been a great success – we’re only halfway through the year. That program is going to be a great boost for women into the future.”
Mr Hartley said he enjoyed his time representing local government as head of the association.
“This particular time, right now, is the most privileged time of my LGMA presidency,” he said.
“I trust that those people who follow after me will be able to lift the bar continuously so that in the future LGMA gets all the more stronger across the whole nation.”
Congress delegates also heard from national and international experts, along with individual councils, on issues surrounding the theme of ‘recovery, resilience and resources.
Senior recovery advisor, Professor Daniel Alesch, from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, US, delivered an important lesson on disaster management; and former Victorian Police commissioner and chair of the Victorian Bushfire Recovery and Reconstruction Authority, Christine Nixon, outlined the lessons learnt from the Black Saturday bushfires and the progress made in rebuilding devastated communities.
Former federal politician and director of social business at the University of New South Wales’ Centre for Social Impact, Cheryl Kernot, challenged delegates to forge new relationships with the third sector; and World Vision chief executive, Tim Costello, explored local government’s role in tackling global crises and inequalities, such as climate change, food shortages and population growth.
The conference concluded on Wednesday, with a handover of the LGMA national presidency to Paul West, general manager of Kingborough Council, Tasmania.
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