A major shake-up of local government in Tasmania could be on the way, with 51 proposed reforms announced by the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
The reforms are the result of almost two years of consultation, and will be introduced to parliament in the form of two bills when normal government activity resumes.
Changes for councils
A new offence, called maladministration, would be created relevant to councillors and general managers, for systemic failures, or a major consequence resulting from a single act of impropriety, incompetence or neglect.
The director of local government would have the power to appoint: an adviser to enter a council and review its operations, request information from the council administration and Audit Panel, and make recommendations; or a financial supervisor to manage serious, demonstrated financial challenges.
Councils would be required to publish reports on the operations and performance of significant business activities - in Launceston, that includes the aquatic centre and parking revenue. Electronic recording of council meetings would also be mandatory.
The proposed reforms include changes to elector polls. Currently, the general public can trigger a vote on a particular question if they hold a public meeting on the subject, and 10 per cent of eligible voters sign a petition requesting a poll. The results of the poll are not binding for council but must be publicly released. The reform would change the threshold to 20 per cent of electors signing a petition. It would limit polls to "an issue over which local government has decision-making authority." It would also give the state government the power to trigger a statewide poll.
Changes to voting
Only Australian citizens would be able to vote in council elections.
Property-owners who are not residents of a municipality would be able to vote, even if they live interstate or overseas. But individual owners, occupiers or corporations would get only one vote in council elections - closing a loophole where people who were both residents and business-owners were able to vote twice in the same election.
Alternative voting methods such as electronic voting would be enabled, and voters would be able to nominate their top five choices rather than marking every candidate.
And caretaker provisions would be mandated for all councils from the time candidate nominations open, preventing major policy or contractual decisions during an election period, and to limit council resources being used on election campaigns.
Changes for councillors
The Local Government Minister would have the power to dismiss a council or councillor, following an investigation by the director of local government or a Board of Inquiry investigation.
All electoral candidates would be required to declare gifts and donations received during the electoral period.
Candidates would be required to complete a training package prior to nominating. After elected, councillors would be required to complete training on their role as a Planning Authority, and undergo an induction on core competencies overseen by the general manager. However, a stipulation that it would be public knowledge when councillors had completed core competency training has been dropped.
And the title of 'alderman' - already discarded by the City of Launceston - would be gone from Tasmanian councils for good.
What's not in there
Greens MHA Rosalie Woodruff said it was disappointing mandatory voting for council elections was not included in the reforms.
The most controversial element of local government government in Tasmania - the number of councils - has also not been touched by the review.