Ms WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for PLANNING and LOCAL GOVERNMENT, Mr GUTWEIN
Since you have taken office you have waged a relentless war on councils and have refused to intervene and do your job as umpire in council disputes. The Glenorchy and Huon Valley councils are in a state of dysfunction, but you would rather sit back and watch than step in and use the power that you have to fix the problem. Your key planning advisor, the former head of the Property Council, openly campaigned for years on forced council amalgamations. You read local councils the riot act at the recent LGAT conference and threatened them to keep rates law despite a yawning gap in income that is not of their making. Will you admit you are doing everything you can to force council amalgamations by stealth?
Madam SPEAKER - Order. The minister has the call.
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her question and her interest in this matter. It surprises me, though, that she would raise the matter of the Huon Valley Council in this place when, on the day I made the ministerial statement in regard to what was occurring with the Huon Valley Council, she supported it.
Ms Woodruff - No, I didn't.
Madam SPEAKER - Order.
Mr GUTWEIN - In fact, yes -
Ms Woodruff interjecting.
Madam SPEAKER - Order. The member for Franklin will cease yelling across the Chamber or I will eject her.
Mr GUTWEIN - Madam Speaker, I think she protests too much. A quick look back at the Hansard would find that she was quite supportive of what I did that day. She changed her tune very quickly, no doubt after being lobbied locally, as has been the way of the Greens - sniff the wind and change position - on a massive number of issues. That seems to be the way they go about their business.
When it comes to local government, we have had a constructive, mature discussion about a range of things. In regard to voluntary amalgamation and resource-sharing, local government has taken a very sensible and responsible approach to looking at this issue. Across the state we have been able to put in place studies that are looking at voluntary amalgamation in the south. In the south-east corner we have Clarence, Sorell, Tasman and Glamorgan Spring Bay looking at a range of amalgamation options, all voluntarily and with the best interests of their ratepayers at front of mind. Not only are they doing that but they are looking at resource sharing. We then have the councils of Kingborough, Clarence, Hobart and Glenorchy looking at voluntary amalgamation options as well as resource sharing. They are voluntarily looking at that. In the north we have, for the first time, regional resource-sharing models being considered for all of the councils in the north of the state and all of the councils in the north-west of the state -
Opposition members interjecting.
Madam SPEAKER - Order.
Mr GUTWEIN - Councils are looking at whether they could do things better, in a way that would provide benefits for their ratepayers. Councils should be commended for that. They have been mature. They have been responsible and they have worked with me in looking at matters to improve things for their ratepayers. That is a sensible and mature way to go forward.
In regards to local government more broadly, local government manage around $9 billion worth of net assets. Collectively, they receive $750 million worth of revenues and, collectively, they have around $400 million worth of cash and investments in the bank. They are in a good position, but I am very pleased that they have been prepared to have a look at whether they can become more efficient, whether there are other models that might improve benefits to ratepayers and I am prepared to work constructively with councils as they go through that process.