Northern Midlands

Overview of Local Government

In Australia there are three spheres of Government, federal, state and local. At a local government level in Tasmania, there are 29 councils each responsible for their own municipality.

Introduction

Northern Midlands Council is governed by various pieces of legislation including the Local Government Act 1993 and the Local Government (General) Regulations 2005 (Tasmania).
This Act and accompanying Regulations require local government to be responsible and accountable for its own governance requirements. Section 20 of the Act describes the functions and powers of council:
  • In addition to any functions of a council in this or any other Act, a council has the following functions:
to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the community;
to represent and promote the interests of the community;
to provide for the peace, order and good government of the municipal area.
  • In performing its functions, a council is to consult, involve and be accountable to the community.
  • A council may do anything necessary or convenient to perform its functions either within or outside its municipal area.
  • A council may transfer to a single authority or a joint authority –
any of its assets and liabilities on any condition it determines; or
any of its employees.
  • A council may –
acquire, hold, dispose of and otherwise deal with property; and
sue and be sued in its corporate name.
 
To search for additional legislation and/or by-laws the following link will take you to Tasmanian Legislation Online.

Council by-laws

A by-law is a law made by a Council. By-laws must relate to the functions and powers of Councils as established under the Local Government Act 1993 and can only apply to the municipal area of the Council that has made the by-law.

The power to make by-laws is delegated to Councils by the Tasmanian Parliament, which has prescribed a detailed process for the making of by-laws.

The procedure for making a by-law requires a draft of the by-law and an approved regulatory impact statement to be released for public comment as per the Local Government Act 1993, Sections 145 to 174. Additional information on the making of by-laws can be found on the Local Government Division website below.

The Role of Councillor

Northern Midlands Council has a popularly elected Mayor, Deputy Mayor and 7 other Councillors, from 2014 Councillors will be elected for a term of 4 years.

A Councillor, in the capacity of an individual Councillor, has the following functions:

  • to represent the community;
to act in the best interests of the community;
to facilitate communication by the council with the community;
to participate in the activities of the council;
to undertake duties and responsibilities as authorised by the council.
 
  • The councillors of a council collectively have the following functions;
to develop and monitor the implementation of strategic plans and budgets;
to determine and monitor the application of policies, plans and programs; and
 
the efficient and effective provision of services and facilities; and
the efficient and effective management of assets; and
the fair and equitable treatment of employees of the council;
to facilitate and encourage the planning and development of the municipal area in the best interests of the community;
to appoint and monitor the performance of the general manager;
to determine and review the council's resource allocation and expenditure activities;
to monitor the manner in which services are provided by the council.
 
  • In performing any function under this Act or any other Act, a councillor must not -
direct or attempt to direct an employee of the council in relation to the discharge of the employee's duties; or
perform any function of the mayor without the approval of the mayor.
 
  • A councillor is to represent accurately the policies and decisions of the Council in performing the functions of councillor.

It is important to understand that individual Councillors have no decision making power. This lies with the collective group, which is Northern Midlands Council.

The Role of Mayor

The functions of Mayor are -
  • to act as a leader of the community of the municipal area; and
to act as chairperson of the council; and
to act as the spokesperson of the council; and
 
to liaise with the general manager on the activities of the council and the performance of its functions and exercise of its powers: and
 
to oversee the councillors in the performance of their functions and in the exercise of their powers.
The mayor or deputy mayor is to represent accurately the policies and decisions of the council in performing the functions of mayor or deputy mayor
  • The deputy mayor is to act in the position of mayor and exercise the powers and perform the functions of mayor if -
the mayor is absent; and
the mayor or the council, by notice is writing, appoints  the deputy mayor to act in the position.
  •  The mayor, by notice in writing, may delegate for a specified period -
the function referred to in subsection (1)(b) to the deputy mayor, a councillor or the general manager; and
any other power or function of the mayor, other than the function referred to in subsection (1)(a), to the deputy mayor.

An appointment under subsection (2) remains in force -
(a)  for the period specified in the notice; or
(b)  until sooner revoked.

Additional Resource – Role of Mayor
The Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT) has produced a Mayoral Handbook to provide more comprehensive information regarding the role and responsibilities of the Mayor.

Further Reading – Role of Mayor
The Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government released a discussion paper in September 2012 titled Australian Mayors: What Can and Should They Do

The Responsibilities of the General Manager

The General Manager is appointed by the Council to manage the operations of Northern Midlands Council.

The Local Government Act 1993 identifies that the General Manager has the following functions and powers;

to implement the policies, plans and programs of the council;
to implement the decisions of the council;
to be responsible for the day-to-day operations and affairs of the council;
to provide advice and reports to the council on the exercise and performance of its powers and functions and any other matter requested by the council;
to assist the council in the preparation of the strategic plan, annual plan, annual report and assessment of the council's performance against the plans;
to coordinate proposals for the development of objectives, policies and programs for the consideration of the council;
to liase with the mayor on the affairs of the council and the performance of its functions;
to manage the resources and assets of the council;
to perform any other function the council decides.
 
The general manager may do anything necessary or convenient to perform his or her functions under this or any other Act.

Further Reading – Relationship between Mayor and General Manager
The Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government released a discussion paper in September 2012 titled Political Management in Australian Local Government Exploring Roles and Relationships between Mayors and CEO’s.

Key Partnerships & Stakeholders

Local Government Association of Tasmania

Council and Councillors have access to the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT). The Local Government Association of Tasmania has information to assist Councils, Elected Members and Employees working in Local Government. In addition, the Local Government Association deliver learning opportunities for Councillors, there are also comprehensive resources on the LGAT site to provide Councillors with extensive knowledge relating to their role and responsibilities.
Australian Local Government Association

The Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) is the national voice of Local Government in Australia representing more than 565 Councils across Australia.  The Australian Local Government Association website has numerous resources aimed at assisting Council’s nationwide. Northern Tasmania Development (NTD)

Northern Tasmania Development represents 8 Councils in Northern Tasmania advancing the interests and development of Northern Tasmania by facilitating and co-ordinating worthy economic and community initiatives. Together with this, NTD offers intelligence on developments within the Northern Region, and acts as a springboard to further information for business opportunities.
Local Government Division – Department of Premier and Cabinet

Council also reports to the Local Government Division – Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPAC) who are responsible for managing the relationship between state and local government, monitoring local government performance, as well as providing guidance to local government.

There are a number of useful resources for Councillors on the DPAC website and it is worthwhile browsing the contents of this site to familiarise yourself with the information available to assist you in your role.
Tasmanian State Government - Departments

The Tasmanian Government has various agencies with defined areas of responsibility; these agencies are underpinned by individual government departments.
Parks and Wildlife

Parks and Wildlife are one of the State Government Departments mentioned above, with the responsibility for managing the states natural and cultural heritage.   This also includes the management of National Parks, Reserves and Crown Land.
North/East Tasmania – Local Government Sub Regional Alliance

Northern Midlands Council has established an alliance with 5 other Councils in North Eastern Tasmania to identify efficiencies and explore potential resource sharing opportunities. Members of the Sub Regional Alliance include;
  • Meander Valley Council
  • Break O’Day Council
  • George Town Council
  • Dorset Council
  • Flinders Council
Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development

At a federal level the Australian Government offers assistance and advice to local governments across Australia through the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development.

The Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development website provides information regarding funding and grant opportunities for local government, as well as national reporting on operations and performance at a local government level for each state.
The Australian Centre for Excellence in Local Government

Is a collaboration of universities and professional bodies committed to the advancement of local government. There are a number of resources, programs, discussions and papers available to assist Elected Members and Council employees to continually strive to improve their performance and address common challenges faced in local government.
The Integrity Commission

The Integrity Commission was formed in October 2010 and is independent of government. Its role is to improve the standard of conduct and ethics in Tasmania's public authorities, including local government. The Integrity Commission has the ability to receive and investigate complaints in relation to public office within their jurisdiction.
As an Elected Member there are fact sheets available from The Integrity Commission that provide additional information on the expectations of appropriate conduct while in public office.
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