Region’s councils vow to share load

COUNCILS in the Derwent Valley, Central Highlands, Southern Midlands and Brighton have established a successful cooperative model which they think other councils should consider adopting as part of the Local Government Review currently under way.

As State and Local Governments grapple with a review of the Local Government Act, Devonport has called for neighbouring coun- cils to amalgamate with them, but locally councils say cooperation and resource sharing can be the basis of reform while maintaining independence.

The Southern Central subregion’s highest profile project is its jobs hub, tasked with increasing workforce participation, addressing skills gaps, linking employers with employees and infrastructure needs now and in the future. The cooperative model involving the four councils could have the potential to be extended to other areas of need. Brighton Mayor Leigh Gray said the region covering Brighton, Central Highlands, Derwent Valley and Southern Midlands already had a very co-operative and collaborative approach.

“My role as chairman of this sub-region is to further push collaboration to ensure the region prospers,’’ Mr Grey said. “We have the best of both worlds – local independence and democratic representation, but with a structure for working together on matters that are regional or benefit from greater scale. “The review should look at these arrangements as well because they are working well. “Over the last 10 to 15 years our community has always indicated that they wish to maintain the status quo – the majority are happy with things the way they are and that is what forms the basis of our submission to the board.

“This is likely because we have for a long time been a stable, efficient council.’’ Derwent Valley Mayor Michelle Dracoulis said the council welcomed the review. “While we have not provided a formal submission to the review in the same way Devonport has, elected members have participated in the community workshops and management and myself have had opportunities to put views forward via sessions held by the Local Government Association of Tasmania,’’ Mrs Dracoulis said.

“Some of the issues put forward have been the challenges to recruit staff in areas such as engineering and environmental health. “Financial sustainability is also a key issue, as well as the significant costs for waste management. “The council does not have a formal position on amalgamation,’’ Mrs Dracoulis said. “We are currently involved and have been in the past in resource sharing arrangements with other councils. “Given ongoing skill shortages some of these arrangements will continue.

It is also an efficient way to share costs.’’ Mr Gray said council’s responsibility was to always act in the best interests of their community. “We will always have an open mind, while keeping our community front of mind,’’ Mr Gray said. “If the board indicates that we should merge, have boundary changes or continue the way we are we will enter into discussion about that to ensure that our residents and ratepayers get what they want or at least the best deal we can put in place.’’

“Mergers are not the only answer and as shown in many examples do not lead to immediate cost reductions or better services. “We must remember that parties with vested interests sometimes do not have the best interests of all of the community in mind – they are interested in themselves and themselves alone. “There will always be winners and losers, costs and benefit.’’ Central Highlands Council was approached for comment.