Thursday, 13 January 2011

Queensland floods : #reconstruction : local govt #qldfloods #localgovt


Map from here

Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland has announced that Queensland's post-flood reconstruction will be of post-war proportions.

In the Australian context, I am reminded of the Department of Post-War Reconstruction which was established during World War II and which undergirded post-war prosperity and innovation.  This led me to consider that such widespread and diverse reconstruction demands a sound organisational basis.  In short, from the base at the bottom to the highest levels of command and leadership people have to be able to act and administer in an organised and straightforward way.

where you will be able to adjust resolution

And what is the very basis of community organisation in Australia? Local Government.  

I have worked in local government in each of the three eastern states and have worked close to local government in the Northern Territory.  I consider local government to be at its strongest in Queensland.  This has been the case for a long, long time.  However, a few years ago the then Premier of Queensland, Peter Beattie, controversially decided to amalgamate local councils.  Such changes are rarely achieved smoothly and caused a great deal of angst locally. I believe that Queensland is about to see the benefit of these amalgamations.

When one sees Queensland mayors speaking for their cities and regions, these mayors are speaking for large areas.

Most significant of these, of course, is the Brisbane City Council. It is unlike no other local authority in Australia.  When I was growing up, Brisbane was the largest city in the world - because of its system of governance.  I watch Can Do Campbell speaking for Brisbane and I wonder who would speak for all of Sydney or all of Melbourne in such circumstances.  The mayors of Sydney and Melbourne speak for the central parts of the greater areas of what is known as Sydney and Melbourne.  Outside these central parts are all sorts of tiny councils.  Some of these councils have themselves come about through amalgamations of even smaller councils - but amalgamations have not occurred in the metropolitan areas in any ways that match what Brisbane did long ago in 1925.  

In fact, my view is that local government in New South Wales and Victoria is markedly weaker than Queensland. State Governments can sack local councils but, at times, it seems like NSW and Victoria keep their councils on a roller blind. I believe the reason for stronger local government in Queensland is the example of local government and its operation in Brisbane.  

Mayors are directly elected in Queensland and the Northern Territory - compared to Victoria where councillors are elected for one year terms by other councillors which, in those local councils of which I have experience, means that councillors tend to "take turns" at being mayor.  My suspicion is that this is a device that suits the powers-that-be in Spring Street because it makes it difficult for a capable mayor with power and community respect in his or her own right to become established and thus any political threat in the suburbs is diminished.

In the weeks ahead, I think it will be easier for Queensland to organise its reconstruction than it otherwise might have been prior to local government amalgamations. Peter Beattie's controversial amalgamation could well prove to be a prophetic move.
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