Territory Stories

Debates Day 6 - Thursday 15 May 2014



Debates Day 6 - Thursday 15 May 2014

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Parliamentary Record 12


Debates for 12th Assembly 2012 - 2016; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 12th Assembly 2012 - 2016




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Hansard Office

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Thursday 15 May 2014 4489 One of the enduring criticisms of those local government reforms was that conditional rating outlined in the current guidelines overly inhibited the capacity of regional councils to rate pastoral properties and mining tenements. We responded to strong arguments from the pastoral sector, in particular that rating of their properties was new, and while they were open to contributing to new local government, they wanted to ensure checks and balances limited the ability of councils to see these properties as cash cows and apply onerous rates. There was also an argument that the pastoral and mining sectors were not large users of local government services and the pastoral industry was, at that time, limited in its capacity to contribute to local government. The solution was to allow for the rating of these properties under the checks and balances described in the guidelines I referred to. We are now well into the second fouryear term of new bush councils and capacity for rating of pastoral properties and mining tenements. Hopefully this change reflects a new acceptance by those sectors of conditional rating and regional councils so they are more accepting of local government rating of these properties. However, I have doubts about the level of consultation government has undertaken with these sectors. Our contact with industry bodies has shown uncertainty about the changes and the impact on members. As Territorians know only too well, the CLP promised to be an open and accountable government in its 2012 pitch to voters. I call on the minister to be clearer on the extent of consultation with affected industries on changes to conditional rating. In particular, we would like to hear how industry concerns about the valuation of pastoral properties have been dealt with and what upper limit to the rate levy the government has in mind to be applied to the valuation of individual properties, thereby realising the final value of rate to be paid to a local council. Also, I would like the minister to be clear on what he has told the pastoral sector will happen to the current principle that the value of the rent applied to pastoral properties will be considered in any annual review of conditional rates applied by local government. As I said, the opposition does not oppose this bill. We see the merit in updating the Local Government Act, particularly when it is informed by the practical experience of those working in the sector. While the bill before us continues the work of continuing improvement to our local government legislation, and much of it is at the suggestion of the local government sector, it is not clear how much consultation there has been with elected council members and other industry sectors affected by the changes presented in the bill. While we support work to improve the legislative framework for local government in the Territory, we have yet to see any real progress with the work we started on the long-term financial sustainability of the regional councils. We have seen some cash splashes to local government in the bush, including the most recent announcement of direct grants to local authorities for local priorities. We have not sent any public disclosure of the financial costs of the new West Daly Regional Council, other than $1.5m in the budget handed down on Tuesday, or analysis of the ability of this new council to deliver expected services and be self-sustaining in the long term. We have not seen how assets will be carved up between the new West Daly Regional Council and the existing Vic Daly Regional Council. We have no overall sense of how changes are affecting the improvement of services or the long-term financial impost on Territory taxpayers. We have seen no public disclosure of the taxpayer-funded refresh of the Deloitte local government financial sustainability work started by our government in 2012. Similarly, why can the Local Government minister not be clearer with councils on when they will be hit with the new street lighting charges, reportedly an increase from $1.7m to nearly $4m? These new costs will pass directly to Territory families and businesses through increased local government rates. While we do not oppose the changes to the Local Government Act before us today, we call on the minister to be clear on the extent of consultation with the local government sector and other affected stakeholders in relation to the changes before us today. I also ask when we will see more evidence that he is supporting Northern Territory local government in a holistic way and not just cherry-picking, favouring the bush and trying to sure up his governments waning support in that sector. I thank the ministers office for providing me with a briefing. I thank the CEO and officers from the agency who were present to answer questions, and I look forward to hearing more contributions on this debate. Mr WOOD (Nelson): Mr Deputy Speaker, I thank the member for Nhulunbuy for a precise and concise analysis of the bill, far greater than I can give. It shows the member for Nhulunbuy puts a big effort into her shadow portfolio. As you can see from her contribution, she has raised some of

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