West Arnhem Shire Council rejects call to rollback Shire amalgamations
West Arnhem Shire Council has come out against any proposal to dismantle the current Shire model and return to community based Local Government in the Northern Territory.
The West Arnhem Shire is one of eight new Shire areas located in the Northern Territory of Australia.
The Shire covers an area of 49,698.26 square kilometres and has a population of 6,591.
Council CEO Adam Seiler welcomed debate on possible improvements to Local Government, but considered any move to reverse the amalgamations of 2008 to be a retrograde step.
"The recent publicity around this issue highlights concerns in some communities at the pace of improvements to service delivery and infrastructure during the transition period following the amalgamation of the former community councils," he said.
Adam Seiler believed the debate should instead focus on resolving the underlying systemic issues with the Local Government model that reduced the capabilities of Shires to meet their residents' expectations.
"Instead of devaluing the significant ongoing contributions being made by dedicated Shire Council staff in communities throughout the NT under difficult circumstances, politicians from all parties should be formulating a funding model that allows rural and remote Local Government bodies to function to the same level as metropolitan councils," he said.
"West Arnhem Shire Council enjoys efficiencies of scale simply not possible under the former model that saw five community councils operating within the West Arnhem region alone."
Adam Seiler said Council maintains an office and workforce in all of the communities within West Arnhem Shire.
"However, due to legislative restraints contained in the Local Government Act, we continue to face limitations on the amount of revenue that can be generated through the levying of rates; limitations that restrict our ability to implement the improvements that our communities badly need," he said.
"These limitations are the same factors that saw the old community councils struggle, so any move to an alternate model that does not address those underlying issues will not resolve the fundamental concerns about local government sustainability."
Adam Seiler noted that the Australian Local Government Association called for an end to rate capping in the NT at the tax forum held in Canberra.
"Now is not the time to reverse the major investment of time, effort and money put into the current Shire model," he said.
"Instead, all stakeholders should be working together to resolve the structural issues common to all Shires and progress Local Government in the Northern Territory to a new level."