Local government in Australia

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Local government in Australia is the third tier of government in Australia administered by the states and territories, which in turn are beneath the federal tier. [1] Local government is not mentioned in the Constitution of Australia and two referenda in the 1970s and 1980s to alter the Constitution relating to local government were unsuccessful. [2] Every state government recognises local government in their respective constitutions. [3] Unlike Canada or the United States, there is only one level of local government in each state, with no distinction such as cities and counties.

Contents

The local governing body is generally referred to as a council, and the territories governed are collectively referred to as "local government areas"; however, terms such as "city" or "shire" also have a geographic interpretation. In August 2016 there were 547 local councils in Australia. [4]

Despite the single level of local government in Australia, there are a number of extensive areas with relatively low populations which are not a part of any local government area. Powers of local governments in these areas may be exercised by special purpose bodies established outside the general legislation, as with Victoria's alpine resorts, or directly by state governments. The area covered by local councils in Australia ranges from as small as 1.5 km2 (0.58 sq mi) for the Shire of Peppermint Grove in metropolitan Perth, to the Shire of East Pilbara in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, which covers 380,000 km2 (150,000 sq mi), an area larger than Germany or Japan.

State/territory controlled

Local government in Australia is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the states or territories. The functions and practices of local government councils are similar throughout Australia, but may vary to some degree between jurisdictions.

The Australian Capital Territory is not divided into local government areas.

State departments oversee local government councils and may intervene in their affairs, subject to relevant legislation. [5]

Local governments by type and state

Local government areas in Australia Australian local government areas.png
Local government areas in Australia
Offices of the City of Sydney council, a local government area within Sydney SydneyTownHall gobeirne.jpg
Offices of the City of Sydney council, a local government area within Sydney
Melbourne Town Hall, the offices of the City of Melbourne council Melbourne Town Hall-Collins Street.JPG
Melbourne Town Hall, the offices of the City of Melbourne council

As of January 2017, the following table provides a summary of local government areas by states and territories by local government area types:

Local government area types NSW Vic Qld WA SA Tas NT Total
Boroughs 11
Cities28337292162126
Councils 281543
District councils 2525
Municipalities623332
Regional councils8412
Rural cities617
Shires 5839271043231
Towns 18211
Aboriginal councils55
Aboriginal shires1212
Region31940
Sub-total1287978141732917545
Unincorporated 2101518
Total1308978141742922563

Classification

The Australian Classification of Local Governments (ACLG) categorises Australian local governing authorities using the population, the population density and the proportion of the population that is classified as urban for the council. [6] The classification, at the two-digit level, is:

History

There is no mention of local government in the Constitution of Australia, though it is mentioned several times in the Annotated Constitution of Australia [7] [8] namely where "Municipal institutions and local government" appears in Annotation 447, "Power of the Parliament of a Colony" under "Residuary Legislative Powers" on pages 935 and 936.

The first official local government in Australia was the Perth Town Trust, established in 1838, only three years after British settlement. [2] The Adelaide Corporation followed, created by the province of South Australia in October 1840. The City of Melbourne and the Sydney Corporation followed, both in 1842. [2] [9] All of these early forms failed; it was not until the 1860s and 1870s that the various colonies established widespread stable forms of local government, mainly for the purpose of raising money to build roads in rural and outer-urban regions. Council representatives attended conventions before Federation, however local government was unquestionably regarded as outside the Constitutional realm. [2]

In the 1970s, the Whitlam Government expanded the level of funding to local governments in Australia beyond grants for road construction. General purpose grants become available for the first time. [10]

Reforms

Significant reforms took place in the 1980s and 1990s in which state governments used metrics and efficiency analysis developed within the private sector in the local government arena. Each state conducted an inquiry into the benefits of council amalgamations during the 1990s. [11] In the early 1990s, Victoria saw the number of local councils reduced from 210 to 78. [11] South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland saw some reductions in the number of local governments while Western Australia and New South Wales rejected compulsory mergers. New South Wales eventually forced the merging of some councils. The main purpose of amalgamating councils was for greater efficiency and to improve operations, but forced amalgamation of councils is sometimes seen as a dilution of representative democracy. [11]

An increase in the range of services offered by councils, but only minor cost savings of less than 10% have been noted by academics as outcomes after mergers. The council mergers have resulted in widespread job losses and lingering resentment from some whose roles have experienced a larger workload. [11]

The growth of the Regional Organisations of Councils has also been a factor in local government reform in Australia. [11] In 1995, there were 50 such agreements across the country. A 2002 study identified 55 ROCs with the largest involving 18 councils. [11]

Types of local government

Offices of the Berrigan Shire Council in Berrigan, New South Wales BerriganShireOffice.JPG
Offices of the Berrigan Shire Council in Berrigan, New South Wales

Local governments are subdivisions of the states and the Northern Territory. The Australian Capital Territory has no separate local governments; and functions in Canberra and the surrounding area normally performed by state and local governments are performed there by the territorial government of the Australian Capital Territory.

Although they are all essentially identical in function, Australian local governments have a variety of names. The term "local government area" is used to refer collectively to all local governments regardless of status, whilst the local governing body itself is generally known as a council. Today, the styles "borough", "city", "district", "municipality", "region", "shire", "town", "community government", "Aboriginal shire" and "Island" are used in addition to areas/councils without a specific style.

In general, an urban or suburban LGA is called a city, as in the City of Canada Bay or City of Bunbury, and is governed by a City Council. A rural LGA covering a larger rural area is usually called a shire, as in Shire of Mornington Peninsula or Lachlan Shire, and is governed by a Shire Council.

Sometimes words other than "City" or "Shire" will be used in the names of LGAs. The word "Municipality" occurs in some states: in New South Wales, it is typically used for older urban areas and the word is also used for several rural towns in South Australia. Some rural areas in South Australia are known as "District Councils", while larger rural towns and small metropolitan centres in Queensland and Western Australia simply use the term "Town". New South Wales and Queensland have introduced a new term, "Region", for LGAs formed by the amalgamation of smaller shires and rural cities. Historically, the word "Borough" was common for small towns and metropolitan areas in Victoria, but only the Borough of Queenscliffe remains. In New South Wales, where the Local Government Act does not require a designation, some local governments are legally known simply as "Councils", such as Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, Inner West Council, or Federation Council. All the LGAs in Tasmania that were previously 'Municipalities' have been renamed 'Councils.'

Almost all local councils have the same administrative functions and similar political structures, regardless of their naming, and retain a particular designation ("Shire", "Borough", "Town", "City") for historical reasons only. They will typically have an elected council and usually a mayor or shire president responsible for chairing meetings of the council. In some councils, the mayor is a directly elected figure, but in most cases the mayor is elected by their fellow councillors from among their own number. The powers of mayors vary as well; for example, mayors in Queensland have broad executive functions, whereas mayors in New South Wales are essentially ceremonial figureheads who can only exercise power at the discretion of the council.

Most of the capital city LGAs administer only the central business districts and nearby central suburbs. A notable exception is the City of Brisbane, the most populous LGA in the country, which administers a significant part of the Brisbane metropolitan area. In most cases, when a city's population statistics are used, it is the statistical division population rather than the local government area.

Constitutional position of local government

Local government powers are determined by state governments, and states have primary responsibility for funding and exclusive responsibility for supervision of local councils.

Local government is mentioned in the annotated Australian constitution, as a department of the State Governments, and they are mentioned in the constitutions of each of the six states. A 1988 referendum sought to explicitly insert mention of local government in the federal constitution but this was comprehensively defeated. A further referendum was proposed in 2013, but was cancelled due to the change in the election date.

Federal government interaction with local councils happens regularly through the provision of federal grants to help fund local government managed projects.

Powers and functions

Offices of the Caboolture Shire Council in Caboolture, Queensland Caboolture Shire Council.JPG
Offices of the Caboolture Shire Council in Caboolture, Queensland

All local governments are approximately equal in their theoretical powers, although LGAs that encompass large cities such as Brisbane and the Gold Coast command more resources due to their larger population base. Unlike local governments in many other countries, services such as police, fire protection and schools are provided by state or territory government rather than by local councils.

The councils' chief responsibility in the first half of the 20th century was the provision of physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges and sewerage. [12] From the 1970s the emphasis changed to community facilities such as libraries and parks, maintenance of local roads, town planning and development approvals, and local services such as waste disposal. Child care, tourism and urban renewal were also beginning to be part of local governments' role. These are financed by collection of local land taxes known as "rates," and grants from the state and Commonwealth governments. They are caricatured as being concerned only with the "three Rs": Rates, Roads and Rubbish.

However, the roles of local government areas in Australia have recently expanded as higher levels of government have devolved activities to the third tier. Examples include the provision of community health services, regional airports and pollution control [12] as well as community safety and accessible transport. [5] The changes in services has been described as a shift from 'services to property' towards 'services to people'. [5] Community expectations of local government in Australia has risen in the 21st century partly as a result of wider participation in decision making and transparent management practices. [12]

Recent years have seen some State governments devolving additional powers onto LGAs. In Queensland and Western Australia LGAs have been granted the power to independently enact their own local subsidiary legislation, in contrast to the previous system of by-laws. Councils also have organised their own representative structures such as Local Government Associations and Regional Organisations of Councils.

Doctrines of new public management have shaped state government legislation towards increased freedoms aiming to allow greater flexibility on the part of local governments. [5]

Unincorporated areas

Unlike many other countries, Australia has only one level of local government immediately beneath state and territorial governments. Aside from very sparsely populated areas and a few other special cases, almost all of Australia is part of a local government area. Unincorporated areas are often in remote locations, cover vast areas or have very small populations.

Australian Capital Territory

The Australian Capital Territory has no municipalities and is in some sense an unincorporated area. The ACT government is directly responsible for matters normally carried out by a local government.

Many ACT districts have community organisations called "community councils", but these are not part of the government (though they generally receive government funding). They do not have the power to change laws or policies, and their role is limited to advising government. They are effectively residents' associations. [13]

New South Wales

New South Wales has 2 unincorporated areas:

Northern Territory

In the Northern Territory, 1.45% of the total area and 4.0% of the population are in unincorporated areas, including Unincorporated Top End Region (Finniss-Mary, the largest), areas covered by the Darwin Rates ActNhulunbuy, Alyangula on Groote Eylandt in the northern region, and Yulara in the southern region. [14]

South Australia

In South Australia, 60% of the state's area is unincorporated and communities located within receive municipal services provided by a state agency, the Outback Communities Authority. [15]

Victoria

Victoria has 10 unincorporated areas, which are either ski resorts or small islands: [14]

Western Australia

Western Australia has 3 unincorporated areas:

See also

Related Research Articles

A shire is a traditional term for a division of land, found in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and some other English-speaking countries. It was first used in Wessex from the beginning of Anglo-Saxon settlement, and spread to most of the rest of England in the tenth century. In some rural parts of Australia, a shire is a local government area; however, in Australia it is not synonymous with a "county", which is a lands administrative division.

Local government areas of Victoria Wikimedia list article

This is a list of local government areas (LGAs) in Victoria, sorted by region. Also referred to as municipalities, the 79 Victorian LGAs are classified as cities (34), shires (38), rural cities (6) and boroughs (1). In general, an urban or suburban LGA is called a city and is governed by a City Council, while a rural LGA covering a larger rural area is usually called a shire and is governed by a Shire Council. Local councils have the same administrative functions and similar political structures, regardless of their classification. The sorting of LGAs into regions is for presentation purposes only, and has no legal or administrative significance.

Local government areas of Western Australia Wikimedia list article

The local government areas of Western Australia (LGAs) are those areas, towns and districts in Western Australia that manage their own affairs to the extent permitted by the Local Government Act 1995. The Local Government Act 1995 also makes provision for regional local governments, established by two or more local governments for a particular purpose.

Local government areas of the Northern Territory Wikimedia list article

The Northern Territory is a federal Australian territory in the central and central northern regions of Australia. It is the third largest Australian federal division with an area of 1,348,094.3 square kilometres (520,502 sq mi) but the least populous with 247,327 inhabitants as at June 2018. The Northern Territory is divided administratively into 17 Local government areas (LGAs) generally known as Councils who are responsible for providing local government services.

Unincorporated area Region of land not governed by own local government

In law, an unincorporated area is a region of land that is not governed by a local municipal corporation; similarly an unincorporated community is a settlement that is not governed by its own local municipal corporation, but rather is administered as part of larger administrative divisions, such as a township, parish, borough, county, city, canton, state, province or country. Occasionally, municipalities dissolve or disincorporate, which may happen if they become fiscally insolvent, and services become the responsibility of a higher administration. Widespread unincorporated communities and areas are a distinguishing feature of the United States and Canada. In most other countries of the world, there are either no unincorporated areas at all, or these are very rare; typically remote, outlying, sparsely populated or uninhabited areas.

Rural City of Mildura Local government area in Victoria, Australia

The Rural City of Mildura is a local government area in Victoria, Australia, located in the north-western part of the state. It covers an area of 22,083 square kilometres (8,526 sq mi) being the largest LGA in the state. In June 2018 the area had a population of 55,515. It includes the city of Mildura and the towns of Merbein, Red Cliffs, Irymple, Ouyen, Werrimull, Murrayville, Walpeup and Hattah. It was formed in 1995 from the amalgamation of the City of Mildura, Shire of Mildura and Shire of Walpeup.

Shire of Mansfield Local government area in Victoria, Australia

The Shire of Mansfield is a local government area in the Hume region of Victoria, Australia, located in the north-east part of the state. It covers an area of 3,844 square kilometres (1,484 sq mi) and in June 2018, had a population of 8,979.

Parliaments of the Australian states and territories Subnational legislature in Australia 🇦🇺

The Parliaments of the Australian states and territories are legislative bodies within the federal framework of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Yeppoon Town in Queensland, Australia

Yeppoon is a coastal town and locality in the Shire of Livingstone, Queensland, Australia. Yeppoon is renowned for its beaches, tropical climate, and the islands out on the bay. Twenty-five minutes from the city of Rockhampton, Yeppoon is the principal town on the Capricorn Coast, a string of seaside communities stretching more than 150 kilometres (93 mi) from north to south. The beaches and shallow coves provide a destination both for tourists and retirees settling down in Central Queensland. Offshore, there are 27 islands including Great Keppel Island which is 20 kilometres (12 mi) from Yeppoon.

A local government area (LGA) is an administrative division of a country that a local government is responsible for. The size of an LGA varies by country but it is generally a subdivision of a state, province, division, or territory.

City of Townsville Local government area in Queensland, Australia

The City of Townsville is an Australian local government area (LGA) located in North Queensland, Australia. It encompasses the city of Townsville, together with the surrounding rural areas, to the south are the communities of Alligator Creek, Woodstock and Reid River, and to the north are Northern Beaches and Paluma, and also included is Magnetic Island. In June 2018 the area had a population of 194,072, and is the 28th-largest LGA in Australia. Townsville is considered to be the capital of North Queensland.

Outback Communities Authority Local government area in South Australia

The Outback Communities Authority (OCA) is a statutory authority in South Australia (SA) created under the Outback Communities Act 2009. It has been established to "manage the provision of public services and facilities to outback communities" which are widely dispersed across the Pastoral Unincorporated Area which covers almost 60% of South Australia's land area. The authority has its seat at both Port Augusta which is located outside the unincorporated area and at Andamooka. The authority serves an area of 624,339 square kilometres, slightly smaller than France. The area has a population of 3,750, of whom 639 are Indigenous Australians, and includes several large pastoral leases and mining operations.

City of Ipswich Local government area in Queensland, Australia

The City of Ipswich is a local government area in Queensland, Australia, located in the southwest of the Brisbane metropolitan area, including the urban area surrounding the city of Ipswich and surrounding rural areas.

Roper Gulf Region Local government area in the Northern Territory, Australia

Roper Gulf Regional Council is a local government area of the Northern Territory, Australia. The region covers an area of 185,210 square kilometres (71,510 sq mi) and had a population of 7,397 in June 2018.

MacDonnell Region Local government area in the Northern Territory, Australia

The MacDonnell Regional Council is a local government area of the Northern Territory, Australia. The region covers an area of 268,329 square kilometres and had an estimated population of 6,863 people in June 2018.

Local government in Queensland

Local government in the Australian state of Queensland describes the institutions and processes by which towns and districts can manage their own affairs to the extent permitted by the Local Government Act 1993–2007. Queensland is divided into 77 local government areas which may be called Cities, Towns, Shires or Regions. Each area has a council which is responsible for providing a range of public services and utilities, and derives its income from both rates and charges on resident ratepayers, and grants and subsidies from the State and Commonwealth governments.

Local government in Victoria third-tier of government in Victoria, Australia

Local government in the Australian state of Victoria consist of 79 local government areas (LGAs). Also referred to as municipalities, Victorian LGAs are classified as cities (34), shires (38), rural cities (6) and boroughs (1). In general, an urban or suburban LGA is called a city and is governed by a City Council, while a rural LGA covering a larger rural area is usually called a shire and is governed by a Shire Council. Local councils have the same administrative functions and similar political structures, regardless of their classification. They will typically have an elected council and usually a mayor or shire president responsible for chairing meetings of the council. The City of Melbourne has a Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor, who are directly elected, and in the other councils a mayor and deputy mayor are elected by fellow Councillors from among their own number. Since 2017, the mayor of the City of Greater Geelong has not been directly elected. In addition, there are also 10 unincorporated areas, consisting of small islands or ski resorts, which are administered either by the state government or management boards.

Hume (region) Region in Victoria, Australia

The Hume is an economic rural region located in the north-eastern part of Victoria, Australia. Comprising an area in excess of 40,000 square kilometres (15,000 sq mi) with a population that ranges from 263,000 to 300,000, the Hume region includes the local government areas of Alpine Shire, Rural City of Benalla, City of Wodonga, City of Greater Shepparton, Shire of Indigo, Shire of Mansfield, Shire of Strathbogie, Shire of Towong and the Rural City of Wangaratta, and also includes five unincorporated areas encompassing the alpine ski resorts in the region.

In South Australia, one of the states of Australia, there are many areas which are commonly known by regional names. Regions are areas that share similar characteristics. These characteristics may be natural such as the Murray River, the coastline, desert or mountains. Alternatively, the characteristics may be cultural, such as common land use. South Australia is divided by numerous sets of regional boundaries, based on different characteristics. In many cases boundaries defined by different agencies are coterminous.

References

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  3. "Appendix G Local government in State constitutions". Expert Panel on Constitutional Recognition of Local Government. Australian Government. December 2011. Archived from the original on 10 May 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
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  13. "ACT community councils". Access Canberra. Archived from the original on 3 February 2016. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  14. 1 2 "Local Government Areas and Statistical Local Areas - Alphabetic". Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), Jul 2008. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 26 September 2008. Archived from the original on 10 March 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
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  16. Department of Planning and Community Development, Government of Victoria, Australia (19 April 2013). "French Island and Sandstone Island Planning Scheme Home Page and user's guide". Planningschemes.dpcd.vic.gov.au. Archived from the original on 10 April 2013. Retrieved 25 April 2013.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)