Why is Council considering a boundary reform?
For many years community representatives have spoken about having the Barossa geographical area under The Barossa Council. Council have not commenced the formal process, but recognise there will be many views of boundary reform.
Recent changes to the Local Government Act have facilitated an alternative way to undertake boundary reform and this has reignited interest in the matter.
Council have identified four key strategic reasons to consider:
- A boundary that empowers The Barossa Council to support and oversee the majority of the area known as the Barossa GI;
- Bring together the communities of interest that sit within the GI so that the cultural, identity, place, social, economic and environmental interests reside together under the banner of one Council;
- A view to maximise the opportunities and better coordinate the land use policy, economic development, tourism integration and service delivery across those communities of interest; and
- Consider potential efficiencies in service delivery provision as a result of the realignment.
What is the policy position of The Barossa Council?
In July 2019 the Elected Body adopted a position as part of its Strategic Policy and Reform Paper outlining 10 key points of this Council four year platform. One of those policy positions being that Council supports “having the conversation about boundary reform”.
In having this conversation there are many steps to undertake, the most important of which will be community, industry and engagement by Council with those who are affected. We have not yet reached this stage.
What needs to happen first?
The proposal for boundary reform is likely to be classified as a ‘general’ proposal. A general proposal must be submitted to the South Australian Government Grants Commission (sitting as the Local Government Boundaries Commission), in Stage One, as an informal, initial proposal. This allows the Commission to assess the proposal against the relevant legislation and guidelines, and provide initial feedback on whether the proposal has merit.
If the Commission assesses the Stage One proposal as having merit, the next step would then include extensive analysis and community engagement. Depending on the work to be done, resourcing and cost, Council would then need to officially determine if it will proceed with a Stage Two formal proposal submission to the Commission.
Will I be provided information and opportunity to make comment?
If the initial high level proposal that Council submits, is approved as a Stage One submission to the Commission and thereafter Council agrees to proceed based on the Commissions views there will be extensive opportunity for community consultation, which will enable individuals/groups to be involved in the process and make comment.
Who makes the decision on a proposal?
The decision to alter boundaries cannot be made by Council – Council merely submits a proposal for boundary reform.
The Commission, who receives the proposal, will conduct inquiries and make a recommendation on the proposal to the Minister for Local Government. It is the Minister who makes the determination on whether or not the proposal proceeds, and forwards his recommendation to the Governor for proclamation.
How long is the process likely to take from start to finish?
The new laws under the Local Government Act came into effect in January 2019 and have not been fully tested at this time. It is therefore unknown what timeframe is involved.
There are other significant reforms currently being discussed in Local Government t and with the complexity of Council’s reform proposal it is anticipated it could take at least 12-24 months, or possibly longer, to reach an outcome if Stage One is supported by the Commission.
What is the likely cost?
Exact costs are unknown at this time, however there could be significant short term costs for investigation, analysis and engagement. The Commission can recover reasonable costs from Council where Council is the applicant of the proposal. Costs may depend on a range of factors, but the Commission will consult with Council on expected costs.
As much of the work as possible will be undertaken with existing resources.
The Commission also has its own powers of inquiry and may undertake significant work to inform itself on many matters as required by the Local Government Act, the cost of which may also be recovered from Council.
Can the proposal be changed or abandoned if it is too costly generally not support or other factors arise?
How can I get further information on the process and Councils current position?
There are extensive resources available through the following:
The Local Government Act (particularly Chapter 3 – Part 2 – Division 3 - from sections 26 to 32C)
SA Local Government Boundary Commission (Guidelines 1 to 9)
Also provided are:
1. Presentation to Council on the reform process at its workshop of 4 September 2019.
2. Council's Boundary Reform report, attachments and minutes of the ordinary meeting of Council dated 17 September 2019.
3. Terms of Reference for the Council established Working Group to assist in boundary reform work