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Priority reform areas


The six Priority Reform Areas are intentionally broad, because we want to remain open to a broad range of potential reform pathways, which will each need to comprise a range of possible funding, structural/administrative, legislative, and governance changes.

> Defining councils’ role in the 21st century

Getting the role of local government right is ‘mission critical’. Where the Board lands on the future role of councils will inform its recommendations on the scope of functions and services councils should deliver, and the administrative, financial, and legislative mechanisms through which they should deliver them. And those things will, in turn, determine the mix of skills and capabilities that the sector needs to deliver those services well. We want to lead a community conversation about what councils should do in the future so we can use that as the basis for identifying the reform options and pathways that will best support that vision.

In Stage 2, the Board will:

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> Local representation and good governance

The Board believes there is significant room for improvement in the overall standard of local governance in Tasmania, including in relation to community engagement and broad participation, the representativeness, skills, and professionalism of elected members, organisational workplace culture, and the transparency in, and accountability for, performance.

In Stage 2, the Board will explore options for enhancing:

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> Strategic and Regional Capability

Tasmania’s current system of 29 councils makes it highly challenging to effectively coordinate effort and resources in support of common regional and statewide policy goals. Various regional entities and governance arrangements have been established to overcome this issue, but councils operate within a structure that requires them, first and foremost, to pursue their own municipality’s interests.

In Stage 2, the Board will:

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> Efficient and Effective Infrastructure and Service Delivery

We believe that there are likely to be a range of areas where functional consolidation and greater scale economies would drive substantial cost efficiencies and deliver better value for the Tasmanian community overall. More importantly, such consolidation would better support the development of a ‘critical mass’ of strategic capability in regulatory and other service delivery areas where many councils are currently struggling, which can only result in higher-quality, more responsive services.

In Stage 2, the Board will:

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> Sound and Consistent Planning and Regulatory Services

We need to resolve the role that councils play in land use planning, particularly development approvals. The Board’s preliminary view is that the current model contains inherent tensions and conflicts and may not appropriately balance local concerns with broader regional and statewide costs and benefits. We have heard that in many cases it is not working well for councils and their communities, or for developers. With regard to other regulatory services, there is some evidence of variable service quality (and in some cases non-delivery). We need to better understand the current performance of councils and its drivers so we can look at alternative models that will deliver the capability needed to improve services.

In Stage 2, the Board will:

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> Operational Sustainability

It appears inevitable that some councils’ rates bases will become simply too small to be able to fund the delivery, to a high standard, of all their current roles and functions in the medium-to-long term. Increasing subsidies to fund the continued survival of structurally unsustainable councils is not the answer. The Board will need to get a clear picture in Stage 2 of the current and projected financial position of all councils, particularly in relation to their future asset renewal liabilities. Once we understand this, it will inform a broader conversation about how we develop an efficient, equitable and sustainable funding model for future local government services.

In Stage 2, the Board will:

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