While it is critical that there is accountability and transparency within Local Government recent changes in the Local Government Act have had the unintended result of potentially restricting councillor involvement within community organisations.
The Maroondah Leader has reported on these changes and their repercussions.
Cr Alex Makin said he resigned from the Croydon Conservation Society committee after five years so that he could continue to vote on council environmental policy.
The changes to the Local Government Act now mean that a Councillor is stated to have a conflict of interest if they are a committee member of an organisation that makes a formal submission or request to Council.
He said he would otherwise have been excluded from debating or voting on motions where the society had made a submission.
Previously Councillors were still able to partake in discussing these items, even if they were precluded from voting due to a potential conflict of interest.
As a result this often means that the Councillor who is most aware of the issues brought forward is now eliminated from being able to formally discuss these matters within council.
This meant I had to resign as Treasurer of the Croydon Conservation Society so I could continue to debate and represent environmental concerns within Council unhindered by this legislation.
While I can certainly appreciate the State Government’s intent with the Legislation changes and I genuinely applaud measures that increase the transparency of local government, these changes have had unintended consequences.
Cr Alex Makin called on the State Government to review the laws and distinguish between commercial interests and community organisations. He proposed instead a public register of community groups councillors represented.
The community rightfully expects Councillors to take an interest in the community and work towards towards a better municipality. Likewise many community organisations welcome the involvement of a Councillor to assist them in achieving their aims.
Unfortunately these legislative changes make it difficult for councillors to remain involved within these organisations. A public register would improve transparency while ensuring that councillors can remain involved within the community.