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What is Local Government?

Local Government in Tasmania

 There are three spheres of government in Australia: the Australian Government, State Governments and Local Government.

Because Local Government makes decisions about so many things that affect our everyday lives, it is often described as the sphere of government that is closest to the people: the 'grass roots' form of government.

In Tasmania, Local Government is made up of 29 councils each responsible for a municipal area. The principal legislation establishing the powers and functions of councils is the Local Government Act 1993(the Act). Section 20 describes the role of councils:

  • to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the community
  • to represent the interests of the community
  • to provide for the peace, order and good government of the municipal area

A council is a corporate body. It is the council as a whole, not individual elected members, that constitute the legal entity. Council meetings must be held in accordance with the provisions of the Act.

Each council is required to develop a 5 year strategic plan and an annual plan for the municipal area. Councils also prepare an annual report and hold an annual general meeting.

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Elected Members

Councils consist of elected members known as councillors (or aldermen in the five city councils). The number of elected members varies between 7-12.

The community of a whole municipal area elects the mayor, deputy mayor and councillors, as there are no councils in Tasmania that have electoral districts (or wards). Local government elections are conducted by postal ballot, but voting is not compulsory.

The term of office of elected members is four years, with half the council being elected every two years. Elections for mayors and deputy mayors are also held every two years.

For more information about the functions of mayors and deputy mayors, click here.

Council Operations

Councils around Tasmania provide a range of services to their local communities, including:

  • Road construction and maintenance
  • Street lighting
  • Rubbish collection
  • Stormwater drainage
  • Reticulated potable water
  • Some traffic or parking regulations
  • Planning and building services
  • Public health such as inspecting cafes, shops and manufacturing premises to check for hygienic conditions
  • Sporting ovals, parks and public reserves
  • Public swimming pools
  • Community halls
  • Community arts facilities
  • Some community services such as child care, immunisation services, services for young people and seniors and health promotion
  • Community festivals and events
  • Economic development and tourism

Many of the functional responsibilities of councils are provided for in the legislation listed below.

In order to provide such a diverse range of services, councils in Tasmania employ over 4,550 people with a variety of skills such as clerical staff, computer operators and accountants to help with administration. Some councils employ specialist staff such as traffic engineers, horticulturalists and builders to help with designing and managing public areas such as streets, gardens and public buildings. Other councils employ youth and social workers to provide services to meet specific social needs within the local community.

The income to provide these services is derived from taxes on property called rates, fees for services and grants or loans.

The implementation of council decisions and the day to day running of the council is the responsibility of the general manager. The responsibilities of the general manager are set out in the Local Government Act. For more information on the role of the general manager click here.

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 Legislative Framework

As well as the Local Government Act 1993, other pieces of Tasmanian legislation have a significant impact on operation and activities of councils including:

These can also be accessed through the Tasmanian legislation website.

Under the Local Government Act 1993, councils can make by-laws in relation to their functions and powers under any legislation.

There is also Commonwealth legislation which is relevant to Tasmanian councils.

More About Local Government

More about local government can be found here.

Other Useful Links

Tasmanian Roads - Who Owns the Road

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