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Options for local government reform

This Review is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to design a local government system that can respond to the growing demands and changing needs of our communities, now and in the decades ahead. Tasmania is a small state, and while we must celebrate and support our diverse local communities, we should also harness the collective strength that comes from working together to address the big challenges on the horizon. These challenges include tackling entrenched intergenerational disadvantage, managing the impacts of climate change, and supporting communities through any number of other technological, economic, and demographic transitions the 21st century will bring.

The future role for local government

Councils can and should play a vital role within their local communities and Tasmania’s broader system of government. We know that effective and capable local government is a key enabler of community prosperity and wellbeing.

Local government in Tasmania is facing growing challenges and will need to evolve and adapt to meet the changing needs of Tasmanian communities in the coming decades. We need to develop a model for the future of local government in Tasmania and reforms which will enable councils to support and empower their communities in a sustainable and effective way.

Councils are doing the best they can but the way they are set up now makes it hard for some – especially smaller, rural councils – to meet all the needs and expectations of their communities. The cost and complexity of the services councils need to deliver and important infrastructure they manage is constantly growing, and many councils are already finding it hard to access the skills and resources they need.

Delivering Essential Reforms

The Board has identified eight reform outcomes whcih the Review aims to deliver for the Tasmanian local government sector. These are the things we believe are essential if our system of local government is to deliver the services and support the Tasmanian community needs.

The Board has developed a range of ideas and options that we think could improve the capability of councils to deliver these outcomes for their communities, based on the key pressure points councils are facing now, and in the future.

Some of these ideas are about how councils can better support community wellbeing, improve the skills and conduct of councillors and ensure essential services and infrastructure are provided to all of us in a fair and sustainable way.

The reform options for delivering each outcome are detailed through the buttons below. There is also a survey on each page, so that you can tell us what you think about each of the reform options.

Building local government capability and capacity now and for the future

The Board has gathered information and listened to a wide range of Tasmanians’ views on what councils do well, what can be improved, and how we can design the local government sector to best serve the next generation.

The Review has highlighted councils’ key role in supporting the future wellbeing and prosperity of Tasmanian communities and has heard that this will require more effective systems and approaches, as well as investment in additional capability and capacity.

Structural Reform - Three Potential Pathways

More broadly, in exploring reforms we have also heard from the sector and other stakeholders that the underlying organisation of our councils needs to change, so they can better support all Tasmanians into the future. We’ve heard agreement from the sector that:

  • The status quo is not an optimal or sustainable model for the sector as a whole, given growing demands, complexity, and sustainability challenges;
  • Some form of consolidation is necessary to deliver greater economies of scale and scope, at least for some services; and
  • The scale and extent of the consolidation needed to deliver significantly better services will not occur on a purely voluntary basis within the current framework.

Changing the status quo in this respect means redesigning Tasmania’s system of local government to ensure councils in the future have the necessary scale, resources, capability, and capacity to deliver on their critical functions. Based on the conversations we’ve had and the information we’ve considered, we think this will require some form of ‘joining up’ of our current councils.

The Board is considering three main reform pathways for building capability across the local government sector, which we are now seeking feedback on.

3 pathways - 1. Significant mandated sharing of services. 2. Boundary consolidation ot achieve fewer, larger councils. 3. A hybrid model combining elements of both