Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 17 October 2007
Parliamentary Record 17
Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Wednesday 17 October 2007 4894 I ask the government again: please hold off. Nothing will happen if this is held back even for one or two years. They are still collecting rates, building roads and mowing lawns at our reserves. All those things are happening; there is no problem. However, if you are not careful, you will destroy that community because the community will feel that it is not part of the reform process. When Litchfield Shire started, there was a group of residents who sat down and worked out some ideas about how a council should start. Through meetings and discussions in the area, they agreed on the size of the shire, the wards of the shire, council meetings and the types of rates. They elected the CEO, Peter Visentin who was with the council for 22 years. He was appointed by the council. Now we have a process where the government has told us the size of the shire; the government has told us how many shires; the government is going to find us a CEO, not the council; the government has set the rates; the government has told us the type of rating system; the government has set the timetable - the government, the government, the government, the government, the government! I do not hear community and that is a major failing. This government says a lot about openness and transparency in its philosophy. That may be, but it should apply it to local government as well. I support the government being open and transparent. People might laugh, but the one thing I always enjoyed about this Litchfield Shire Council was that it was set up to have two meetings a month. If you are trying to save money, I will tell you how: it had all committee meetings on the one night so that no one could claim a sitting fee for each committee. They had three committees, and it convened them all on the one night to save money. It also set up a system whereby it had two public forums. You can attend any council meeting at Litchfield and you can talk about anything in relation to Litchfield Shire at that meeting. There is nothing you cannot talk about. At the end of the meeting, there is another public forum to discuss what is being dealt with during that meeting. John Maley, who was the first President, believed very much in allowing the people of Litchfield Shire to have a say about their council. That is an important philosophy. We have moved from the community having a say, an open and transparent council. I say to people sometimes when they blame their council for different issues such as whether they want dog by-laws or swimming pool: Have you been to a council meeting? It is no good complaining about your council if you do not go to a council meeting and put those complaints. I had a gentleman phone today complaining about his road not having been sealed. There is a process for sealing roads, which is another innovative process in Litchfield Shire. If you have enough residents on the road who want it sealed, council will put them on a list and that road will be sealed. He said he believed that the council had made a wrong decision because they were not going to seal his road. I said to him: The basis behind Litchfield Shire is you have a democratically elected local government and you can attend the meetings and tell members of your local government you think they are wrong. They will vote in front of you and you will be able to see whether they support you or not. It is a very simple, open, down to earth form of local government. I heard some ministers say that Litchfield does not provide this or that. That is irrelevant. That is the concern of the residents and they can express their concern at the ballot box of local government. They can express that concern by attending meetings. They can express that concern by writing letters to their representatives in local government. That is their business. Unfortunately in this debate, we have two modus operandi to argue for the removal of Litchfield: one is that they are not providing the services that people want; and two is that the council is not viable. Whilst we can argue about the non-viability of the council - and I will argue that at another time - the issue of whether the council is providing good or bad services is not an area this government should be using to demolish Litchfield Shire Council. That is an issue for local ratepayers to take up. If I do not like the services my council is providing, I either put my hand up at the next election and say: I will stand for election to that council, or you find someone in the community who wishes to stand who agrees with you, and you vote for them. It is that simple. That is the process. That is what it is about. I have heard the Chief Minister say we do not have a library, a swimming pool and a rubbish dump. Regardless of the history of those issues, it is for the people of Litchfield to decide. It should not be used as a means to drive a wedge in the community so that you can argue the case for the dissolution of Litchfield Shire. In relation to the non-viability of the council, I simply do not understand where the minister is coming from. The minister has talked about financial models. He has spoken about there not being a model for expert advice over a long period of time. Once again, he has mentioned the model. Then he mentioned the draft business plan, as he
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