After the challenges that came at the end of this financial year, I am pleased to be focusing on what lies ahead for LGAT for 2020-2021.
Of course, we will still be grappling with the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic so significant emphasis will be on community recovery, and we will prioritise supporting Members to begin the recovery process as organisations and as community leaders. We know that all councils and communities will be impacted differently and have different pathways to recovery and they will therefore have to advocate for and deliver programs which are flexible and appropriate to place.
LGAT’s first submission to the Premier’s Economic and Social Recovery Advisory Council (PESRAC) stressed the need for community led recovery. It highlighted that Tasmanian councils have already made significant financial and human resource investment in responding to Covid-19; valued at over $40 million. Councils’ initial focus was on community and staff health and wellbeing and delivery of essential services. We are now seeing financial impacts, through lost revenues, implementation of relief measures, increased cleaning costs and loss of TasWater dividends. Moving into 2020- 21 we will articulate a plan for councils and communities to recover, build resilience and reinvent and engage with Members, PESRAC, the State Government and other industry groups on that plan.
Like our member councils, LGAT too was impacted by Covid-19, particularly in relation to our events and training services. The cancellation of our 2020 LGAT Annual Conference, will affect our 2020-21 budget. However, recognising the financial situation across our sector, there will be no overall increase to subscriptions for Members in 2020- 21. Already we are working to deliver a range of professional development experiences for Members including the 2021 Annual Conference.
With the General Management Committee, we have identified our key priorities (advocacy, services and training) for the year ahead. These include continuing to lead the waste and resource recovery reform agenda. LGAT will continue to advocate for implementation of the recommendations in the feasibility study into State-wide waste arrangements, participate in the development and implementation of the container refund scheme and state-wide waste levy and ensure appropriate implementation of the Waste Action Plan initiatives from a Local Government perspective.
We will be engaging strongly with councils through the next critical stages of Local Government Legislative Reform. We look forward to the findings of our engagement work around 21st Century Councils and to determining the next steps collectively with our Members. We will also support council’s infrastructure planning with asset management training and continue to work with key stakeholders to map deficiencies in the stormwater planning and regulatory environment and advocate for necessary changes.
We will be watching closely, the State Government’s “red tape reduction’’ reform process as well as the ongoing land use planning reform activity and as always seek to increase the focus on meaningful and strategic change that is cognizant of the interests of all stakeholders, the impact on communities and the practical realities of implementation for councils.
The additional funding awarded to LGAT’s Community Health and Wellbeing Project will enable us to further develop skills and tools, ensuring councils can effectively respond to health issues in their communities. We will also be working to address a critical skills shortage in the Environmental Health Officer Workforce.
There will be further expansion of LGAT Procurement and collaboration with the National Procurement Network and Members to develop and implement improved procurement practices. Over 2019-20 LGAT Procurement saved Members over $2.5 million dollars and we anticipate this will be exceeded in 2020-21.
Often it is small incremental advocacy wins that make a difference. Our relationship building with key stakeholders, often over many years, enables our Members voices’ to be heard and acted on. Our strong reputation of delivering quality policy advice, submissions and reports means our input is valued. I am proud that my dedicated team of staff consistently works hard for our Members, and I would like to thank them for this. I would also like to thank our General Management Committee for their ongoing support and especially thank our President, Mayor Christina Holmdahl.
Dr Katrena Stephenson
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER