No Tasmanian councils will be forced to amalgamate as part of the government’s wide-sweeping review of the local government act.
Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein told 220 delegates to the Local Government Association of Tasmania meeting in Hobart that the review of the 25-year old act would be broad but would not consider council amalgamations or changes to municipal boundaries.
“I want to be perfectly clear and state once again that the government does not support forced amalgamations,” Mr Gutwein said.
“You only have to look at the experiences in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria to see why that is not an option we will countenance.”
While ruling out forced amalgamations, Mr Gutwein said modelling showed where efficiencies and cost reductions could be made. The government was keen to work with any council that wanted to take up the challenge of amalgamation.
In stark contrast to last year’s meeting when he was at war with local government over a takeover of TasWater, Mr Gutwein received a warm reception.
“What a difference 12 months can make,” Mr Gutwein laughed.
He said a project team for the review of the act would be appointed by the end of August.
The review would take two years and be in place in 2020.
Mr Gutwein said the act has been amended and updated a number of times in recent years but it had become “highly prescriptive, disjointed and inaccessible.”
“A fresh, contemporary approach is needed,” he said.
Mr Gutwein also announced that the government would begin a project to map the regulatory steps and costs for a typical development to ensure future projects proceeded without delay.
“The mapping exercise will identify the costs and timeframes associated with each regulatory requirement including all fees and charges such as the development assessment process, land titles, water, energy and the EPA,” he said.
“It will also outline the timeframes associated with each regulatory requirement and whether the timeframes are discretionary, regulated and whether they overlap and what duplication occurs.”
Mr Gutwein said the projects to be mapped would be real projects that have been undertaken and completed in Tasmania in the past three years and cover a range of types including residential, small business and commercial development, subdivisions, conversions and extensions.
“Once this mapping has been completed and a timeline with actual costs is available the intention is to engage with the local government sector and the infrastructure providers like Taswater and Tas Networks to consider how we can reduce the time and costs of development in Tasmania whilst still maintaining the integrity of the process,” he said.
LGAT supports the review.