Time to lead from the front
Looking over the motions that member councils have submitted for debate at next month’s 122nd LGAQ annual conference is a great reminder of the breadth and depth of the expectations that Queensland communities have about their local councils.
The scope of the issues that councils deal with is growing ever more complex and difficult, even if the bulk of that activity remains unappreciated by the federal and state governments. That was reinforced to me this week during visits to Gladstone and Rockhampton councils. Our general manager of advocacy, Sarah Buckler, picked up a similar message as she toured councils around the state with the Queensland Treasury Corporation.
Policy debate at the Brisbane conference will include perennial issues such as flying fox management, financial sustainability and road maintenance. But there’s also new challenges on the horizon like the impact of disruptor firms like AirBnB on the way council goes about its business and what to do about the social fallout from poker machines.
For all that, two big challenges stand out: the role of local government in pursuing waste management reform and the insidious toll that the ongoing drought is taking on the social and economic fabric of rural and regional communities. These two issues alone are the subject of more than a dozen separate motions submitted to conference. What is clear from this is the need for the LGAQ and its member councils to take the lead in highlighting the community concerns about how these challenges are being handled at the federal and state level.
Here’s an example. Bus companies have begun banning unaccompanied passengers under 15 years from using their services, a decision that is having an enormous impact on rural families with children in boarding school. Local councils are right to be incensed by the inconvenience and cost this is having on their communities but, in protesting this individual move, there will be a far greater chance of it having resonance if its impacts are explained in the context of how these families are having to cope with ongoing drought.
To that end, the LGAQ Policy Executive will move two special motions at the conference: one suggesting a formal submission from the LGAQ calling for all levels of government to adopt a bipartisan, co-ordinated and whole-of-government response to the impacts of ongoing drought in Queensland communities; the other pushing the State Government to re-energise Queensland’s drive to a zero-waste future in genuine partnership with local government and industry.
It is time to recast the narrative around these two big issues. Next month’s annual conference is the opportunity to reaffirm the place local government deserves to hold in any strategy to address them: front and centre.
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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