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    Coat of ArmsMedia Release
    JOINT STATEMENT
    Premier and Minister for Trade
    The Honourable Peter Beattie
    Minister for Local Government, Planning and Sport
    The Honourable Andrew Fraser

    LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO UNDERGO HISTORIC REFORM

    JOINT STATEMENT

    Premier and Minister for Trade
    The Honourable Peter Beattie

    Minister for Local Government, Planning and Sport
    The Honourable Andrew Fraser

    Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO UNDERGO HISTORIC REFORM

    Queensland’s 157 councils, with more than 1,100 elected councillors, will undergo their first sweeping reform in more than a century.

    Premier Peter Beattie and Local Government and Planning Minister Andrew Fraser today announced the establishment of a seven-member Queensland Local Government Reform Commission which will spend three months considering new boundaries for the long-term sustainability of local government across the state.

    The Reform Commission will be tasked with providing a recommendation on the amalgamations of neighbouring councils in all areas of Queensland.

    Today’s announcement comes after an assessment of the voluntary Size, Shape and Sustainability Program – a scheme prompted by local government itself – which finds that councils have failed to initiate reform themselves.

    The Premier said an audit of the finances of the majority of those councils involved in the SSS process had shown 43 per cent were either financially weak, very weak or financially distressed.

    “Queensland is the last state in Australia to take on the job of reforming councils.

    “Too many ratepayers across Queensland are living in council areas which are not financially viable, and that has an impact on vital services.

    “Queensland’s population has tripled to 4 million in the past 50 years but our system of local government has not moved with the times,” Mr Beattie said.

    “Of the 157 councils, 88 service populations of 5,000 people or less and in the grand scheme, that’s unsustainable.

    “There are simply too many inefficient councils struggling to serve their communities.

    “Society has changed radically in the past 100 years, yet we operate with a set of boundaries that have been in place for over a century.

    “Many of the present council boundaries were devised when with systems of transport and communication were much slower, for example many of the boundaries were drawn when it took a day to travel between some centres – a trip today that takes just an hour.

    “At the same time Queensland’s population and economy continue to boom, yet our system of local government has never undergone large-scale modernisation.

    “The reform process will be open and transparent and will be subject to a vote by Parliament,” the Premier said.

    The Minister for Local Government and Planning said it was anticipated that the new councils will have a greater ability to place more emphasis on frontline services rather than administration, meaning more people working in jobs which deliver local services and infrastructure to the community.

    “The results of the Financial Sustainability Reviews by the Queensland Treasury Corporation point to a system of local government that is clearly unsustainable,” Mr Fraser said.

    “That is not only clearly disturbing for councils, the government and ratepayers alike, but it clearly indicates there is a need for immediate, broad and across-the-board structural reform.”

    Mr Fraser said it was critical a Commission be established to finish the job started by the SSS process.

    “This is about local government in Queensland reaching a critical juncture,” he said.

    “Today’s Queensland – a modern and prosperous State – is a very different place to the Queensland that existed when our system of local government was largely put in place.

    “The Financial Sustainability Reviews in Queensland align with the recent national report by Price Waterhouse Coopers – undertaken at the instigation of the Australian Local Government Association – which showed councils across the country face major financial sustainability challenges and, without reform, up to 30 per cent might not be sustainable.”

    Mr Fraser said the SSS process had been instigated by local government itself, through the Local Government Association of Queensland.

    “The SSS program was an opportunity for councils to voluntarily assess their long-term viability and consider reforms like amalgamation with neighbouring councils or boundary changes or sharing their resources to cut costs.

    “Despite the best endeavours of many individuals, it’s clear that very little is going to result from the work done through that voluntary process.

    “In fact only two sets of councils – Crows Nest and Rosalie and Goondiwindi and Waggamba Shires – had any prospect of achieving structural reform before the 2008 local government elections.

    “It’s now time for the State Government to step up to the plate to provide the leadership to ensure the necessary reforms are in place by the next local government elections.”

    Mr Fraser said the Commission would be headed by former Electoral Commissioner Bob Longland along with six Commissioners and would report back to the Government by August 1.

    Proposed boundary changes and amalgamations would then be put before the Parliament by September.

    Mr Beattie and Mr Fraser said reform would give Queenslanders more secure and efficient and financially viable councils and was required sooner rather than later.

    Tuesday April 17, 2007

    Media Contact:
    Premier’s Office – 3224 4500 or Minister’s office - Chris Taylor, 3227 8825 or 0419 710 874