13 Apr 2012

National Carbon Price Forum for local government confirmed


A strong response from councils to last week’s ALGA News article about a potential national forum to inform local governments of their responsibilities under the Clean Energy Act has reinforced the need for accurate and timely information to support local government authorities in taking positive action to reduce carbon emissions.

ALGA, in partnership with the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, is pleased to confirm that the Carbon Price and Council Landfill National Forum will be conducted at the National Convention Centre in Canberra from 23-24 April, 2012.  The Forum is designed to help councils understand the potential obligations and opportunities associated with the Carbon Price Mechanism (CPM).

Key note addresses will be provided by Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency Mark Dreyfus and Chloe Munro, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Clean Energy Regulator.  The Clean Energy Regulator is part of the Climate Change portfolio and administers the carbon pricing mechanism; the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (NGER) scheme; the Carbon Farming Initiative; and the Renewable Energy Target.

Concurrent sessions will provide participants with the opportunity to talk to Ross Carter, First Assistance Secretary at the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, and staff of the Australian Clean Energy Regulator, about emissions measurement and the National Greenhouse Energy Reporting Scheme (NGERS).  Representatives from financial services organisation Ernst and Young and legal firm Norton Rose will also be available to discuss the management of carbon liabilities and legal issues.

Program details are available at the ALGA website.  To register, click here.

Cutting landfill pollution proposed as opportunity for council income


Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, Mark Dreyfus is urging the Australian public not to be “misled by a scare campaign about the impact of the carbon price on landfill sites”.

“The vast majority of landfill sites will not be subject to the carbon price. Those that are can generate significant income through the reduction of methane pollution in particular,” Mr Dreyfus said.

“Landfill operators and councils will be able to earn and sell carbon credits by destroying methane or converting it into electricity.  Operators can then choose how to use this extra revenue when negotiating contracts with customers, including not-for-profit organisations such as the Salvation Army.

“It is important that commercial landfill operators do not mislead councils and other customers about the impact of the carbon price on their operations.  For example, reports that operators are suggesting to customers a carbon price of $40 per tonne of waste are deeply concerning.  

“The Government has given the competition regulator, the ACCC, additional funding to prevent price gouging and to ensure that customers are not misled about the impact of the carbon price.

“The Government and the Clean Energy Regulator have been working with local councils and landfill operators to help them understand how the carbon price will apply to landfill sites depending on size and the composition of the waste.”

Mr Dreyfus also said that landfill customers should be aware that:

  • There is no carbon price liability for emissions from waste deposited before 1 July 2012 (legacy waste);
  • The majority of landfill sites are not liable as the carbon price only applies to those emitting over 25,000 tonnes of carbon pollution per year;
  • The carbon price relates to methane created from the decay of organic waste not inorganic waste;
  • Waste diverted from landfill will not attract the carbon price;
  • A large number of landfills already capture methane and flare it to avoid or reduce emissions;
  • Landfills may be eligible for Carbon Farming Initiative carbon credits for the destruction of methane, which can be used to offset the carbon price or sold for a profit;
  • Landfills that create electricity from captured methane are also eligible for tradeable Renewable Energy Certificates which can also generate income under the Renewable Energy Target which mandates that 20% of Australia’s electricity is sourced from renewable energy by 2020.

“All of these factors, and competition between landfill operators in a very profitable industry, need to be taken into account when considering the impact of the carbon price on landfill costs, savings and contracts with customers.” Mr Dreyfus said.

Further information is available from the Government’s website and from the Regulator’s website.

ALGA attends Senate Committee Inquiry into Mobile Phone Towers Bill


ALGA this week appeared before the Senate Environment and Communications Legislation Committee Inquiry into Senator Bob Brown’s Private Senator’s Bill, which proposes a number of changes in relation to mobile phone towers. 

Mobile phone towers have been the subject of much community debate over many years and remain controversial.  The issue of the specification of a range of facilities as “low impact” and being granted immunity from state and local planning laws has been as issue of concern for councils since its inception.  Senator Brown’s Bill proposes to remove the low-impact exemptions from planning laws and to increase consultation on the telecommunications installations. Local government supports the intention of the Bill to enhance the level of community consultation in the decision-making process for the installation of all telecommunications infrastructure and provide greater emphasis on addressing health and safety concerns.  However, ALGA seeks to ensure that there are no unintended consequences which might arise from the legislation.

The Bill, in removing the Low Impact Facilities Determination (LIFD), would require all telecommunications installations, including minor installations such as satellite dishes and aerials, maintenance and upgrades to have development approval and require carriers to give 30 days notice to all residents within a 500 metre radius.   ALGA has raised the need to ensure that changes do not impose administrative burdens on councils.

ALGA’s submission draws attention to the issue of restoration of services after a natural disaster and provision of assistance to emergency services organisations, which is provided under the LIFD.  Communities in these instances want services restored in minimum time, and to require an individual development application for each approval would delay the restoration effort.  ALGA has suggested the need to consider an exemption in such situations.

ALGA’s submission also stresses the need for further clarity and a better mechanism for communities to understand developments, their impacts and consequences, and the need for a fair and reasonable process of appeal.

A recent parliamentary report highlighted the lack of clarity around the processes and community confusion about the roles and responsibilities of the various levels of government in the regulation of telecommunications.  The report of the House of Representatives Committee on Infrastructure and Communications on Andrew Wilkie Private Member’s Bill to enhance community consultation in relation to telecommunications towers and infrastructure found that clear, unbiased and targeted information, as well as a proactive approach to community engagement would be beneficial to both the industry and the community. 

ALGA believes that a clearer, more consultative process would greatly improve the current situation and reduce community frustration.  ALGA’s comments are outlined in more detail in its submission.  All submissions lodged to the Inquiry can be found here.

President’s Column

ALGA President

Driving to visit friends and family over the recent Easter break again reminded me of the importance of safe and reliable roads and the need for continued federal funding through the Roads to Recovery (R2R) Program.  Under the national R2R Program, each council is guaranteed a share of the total available funding, with money paid directly from the Australian Government to each council with spending decisions being made locally.  Councils have so far used the money to repair and upgrade approximately 34,000 road sites.  As I have mentioned on numerous occasions, the Program is not currently funded beyond June 2014, which is a major concern for local government.

The funding provided under R2R is not intended to replace council spending on roads or State and Territory Government assistance to councils for local road construction or maintenance.   From 2009-10 to 2013-14, $1.75 billion ($350 million in 2011-12) is to be distributed to Australia's local councils, state and territory Governments responsible for local roads in the unincorporated areas (where there are no councils) and the Indian Ocean Territories.  Details of the life of the program allocation to each council, along with their 2011-12 allocations can be found here.

In 2010, ALGA released a study into local road funding highlighting that expenditure on local roads has been less than the life cycle cost for the past five years and that the shortfall in funding to simply maintain rather than improve Australia’s local roads in the period from 2010 to 2025 is estimated to be around $1.2 billion annually.  This is an untenable position for Australia. 

Local government is committed to improving its asset management practices in line with the National Asset Management Frameworks agreed by the Local Government and Planning Ministers’ Council in 2009.  However, without a commitment to the Roads to Recovery Program beyond 2014 and without an increase in the funding available under that Program, the efforts of local government to maintain and upgrade the local road network will be severely undermined. 

As councils develop asset management plans for their local road network, the enormity of the task confronting them, particularly in terms of the funding shortfall, is becoming increasingly apparent.  

ALGA is commissioning work that will support efforts required to ensure the continuation of funding under the Roads to Recovery Program.  This work will expand on the 2010 study in terms of both the distributional elements of the funding required by local government to address shortcomings with the condition of the local road network as well the level of urgency with which that funding is required.

The work will focus on community service level reporting in terms of the condition and quality of the local road network, its functionality and its capacity or level of utilisation.  The initial phase of the work, based on a sample of councils, will be completed by late October with a report to be provided to the Local Roads and Transport Congress in Hobart in November 2012.   Subsequent phases of the project will expand the collection until a State of the Local Road Assets Report based on all councils can be produced in 2014.  Further information about this project will be included in future editions. 

The outcomes of the project are expected to place the campaign for the continuation of the Roads to Recovery Program on a strong technical footing.   At a time when councils are demonstrating their commitment to improving their asset planning and management practices, the need for certainty of funding is paramount.  This need for certainty highlights the importance of constitutional recognition for local government. 

Recent High Court cases (such as Pape) have cast doubt over the legal power of the Commonwealth to provide funding directly to local government creating a high level of uncertainty.  While constitutional recognition will not guarantee Roads to Recovery Program funding beyond June 2014, it will ensure that there are no obstacles to the Commonwealth being able to provide direct funding to councils.  

Mayor Genia McCaffery
ALGA President

What the NBN Co rollout means for councils

NBN Co recently announced its long-awaited three-year rollout plan, with work underway or planned to commence by mid-2015 in 1500 communities to connect about 3.5 million premises.  But what does this really mean for councils?

Councils can check when work will commence in their municipalities through the NBN Co website which lists all communities affected by the rollout.  By typing either the location or postcode into the interactive NBN rollout map, councils can ascertain whether they are part of the initial rollout and when work is likely to commence. Once work starts, NBN Co estimates it will take about 12 months for households to be connected to the NBN through their telephone or internet service provider.

Last year, ALGA and NBN Co produced a Guide, designed to assist councils in preparing for and managing their interaction with NBN Co when it comes to their area.  The Guide is based on the learnings of the first release trial sites, which stressed the importance of the need for preparation prior to NBN Co’s arrival.

NBN Co has a dedicated section on its website to assist local government to understand the engagement and planning process, with a range of information, forms, checklists and Frequently asked Questions to assist councils through the NBN rollout process.  The Commonwealth Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy website also has a range of information on the NBN.

The Broadband Today Alliance, an affiliation of about 150 local governments, RDAs and Affiliate Organisations, was formed to collaborate and share knowledge about the NBN and to enhance the capabilities of local government areas in advance of the NBN arriving.  Its website contains information about how to access and use broadband in your business, community or residence.

The NBN Co also has a Solutions Centre to answer general queries regarding the National Broadband Network.  The Solutions Centre can be contacted on 1800 881 816. 

Next week we hope to bring you more detail from NBN Co about what the rollout will mean for councils that are part of the there-year plan, and more importantly, what will it mean for councils that are not part of the three-year rollout.

Regional councils press need for continued road funding

A management plan adopted by the Junee Council in western New South Wales this week shows that about 200 kilometres of road in the Junee Shire do not meet current service levels.

Engineering Services Director Colin McAuley says the council currently spends just more than $3 million a year on its road network.

He says it would need at least an additional $700, 000 every year, over the next 30 years to rectify the problem.

"Sure, in a perfect world we'd be setting forth to rebuild those roads and increase their standards but at the same time you've got to be realistic and I think every council in the state would those roads they'd like to be better," he said.

Mr McAuley has used the report to highlight the need for constitutional recognition of local government.

"Our rates income here at Junee is a little over $2 million to $2.5 million and we spend on our road network over $3 million," he said.

"The federal assistance grants are fairly locked in and we're fairly confident they'll stay around.

"But Roads to Recovery finishes in 2014 and there are no assurances that will continue.

"It's one of the reasons why local government wants to get constitutionally recognised so they can get more direct funding from the government."

Major airports continue to show increased profits

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has now submitted its report on the performance of the five major Australian airports for 2010-11 to the Federal Government.  Major airports are based in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. 

The ACCC provides information on: 

  • prices for services provided to airlines (aeronautical services such as runways and some check-in facilities) and to consumers (including car parking);
  • financial performance; and
  • quality of service based on ratings given by airlines, passengers and border agencies as well as quantitative measures of the size and availability of facilities.

The key results for 2010-11 were:

  • All of the monitored airports increased passenger throughput and total aeronautical revenue.  Aeronautical revenue on a per passenger basis (as a proxy for average prices) also increased at all of the airports, except for Adelaide Airport.
  • As a result of revenues increasing by more than operating expenses, aeronautical operating margins on a per passenger basis increased at all of the monitored airports, except for Melbourne Airport.  Further, the airports’ returns on aeronautical assets were higher compared to the previous year, except for Melbourne Airport.
  • Quality of service ratings encompassing the views of airlines, passengers, border agencies and objective indicators increased at all of the monitored airports, except for Melbourne Airport.  Notably, airlines’ ratings of Melbourne Airport declined in the most recent period.  Meanwhile, airlines’ ratings of Sydney Airport, which have been cause for concern in previous years, improved in the most recent period.
  • Total car parking revenue increased for all of the monitored airports. For Adelaide and Sydney airports, these increases were wholly attributable to an increase in demand for car parking services. For Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth airports, these increases in revenue were attributable to increases in both demand and prices.
  • As a result of revenues increasing by more than costs, operating margins for car parking increased at all of the monitored airports, except for Brisbane Airport. However, operating margins per car park space increased only at Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney airports.
  • Revenues from landside access charges applied by the airports on operators of alternatives to airport car parking increased at all of the monitored airports.

A copy of the ACCC report can be found here.

Funding available to improve safety at suicide ‘hotspots’

Councils are being encouraged to apply for funding under the Improving safety at ‘hotspots’ measure which will allow them to undertake capital works to reduce the risk of suicide at hotspot locations.

Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, said certain places provide greater access to means or opportunities for suicide and can attract people attempting to take their own lives.

“Things can be done to deter people from attempting suicide at these locations. That’s why the Government is seeking proposals from organisations for capital works that restrict physical access to known hotspots,” Mr Butler said.

“Funding can go towards improvements such as fencing barriers, night lighting, and closed circuit television monitors at known hotspots.”

The Government has also released two new government funded resources aimed at preventing and managing suicide, prepared under the auspices of the Australian Suicide Prevention Advisory Council and developed by the University of Melbourne:

  • Preventing suicide at suicide hotspots, which provides guidance to agencies involved in the management of suicide hotspots or the development of infrastructure to prevent a location becoming a suicide hotspot.
  • Developing a community plan for preventing and responding to suicide clusters, which assists Australian communities to manage or contain an actual or potential suicide cluster.

These resources are available here.

Report confirms housing affordability pressures

Seventy per cent of under-35-year-olds in Sydney will be excluded from the housing market, according to a UK housing expert.

The figure makes up part of a new report, Homes for All, which has found that Sydney's housing market is in crisis, with only half of the supply needed to meet demand.

Co-author Dr Tim Williams says governments need to reconsider tax incentives and policies that encourage investors to push house prices higher.

"Seventy per cent of 35-year-olds and younger cannot afford to buy any kind of home at this point in time, on average," Dr Williams said.

The Homes for All report is an action plan released by the McKell Institute, a new independent body that aims to develop policy ideas and encourage public debate.

It recommends that negative gearing and untaxed capital gains be reconsidered by the government in an effort to drive down house pricing for first-time buyers.

Mr Williams said Australians were building 14,000 to 15,000 homes a year when the figure should be more like 40,000.

He said that about 30 years ago it took three times the median salary to buy a house in Sydney, whereas it now took nine times.

The report also cited "knock-on consequences", claiming rents in Sydney are rising four times faster than inflation.

To read the report in full, click here.

AGIC officially launches Sustainable Infrastructure Rating Scheme

After four years of exhaustive development work, the Australian Green Infrastructure Council's (AGIC's) Sustainable Infrastructure Rating Scheme was officially launched by the Federal Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Anthony Albanese in Canberra last month.

The Scheme is the only comprehensive rating system available for the evaluation of design, construction and operation of infrastructure in Australia and has received considerable support from industry and government for the sustainability gains it promises across the infrastructure development sector.

The Scheme will provide ratings for the entire lifecycle of infrastructure projects, from planning and design, to construction and operation, through to refurbishment and decomissioning. The self-assessment scheme will be supported by independent, trained verifiers who will review assessments against strict criteria.  Successful projects will then be awarded a rating, based on compliance with a range of Themes and Categories defined by the Scheme's Development Panel, made up of infrastructure professionals from industry, government and consultancies involved in the Civil Engineering and Infrastructure sectors.

For more information on the Infrastructure Sustainability Rating Scheme, click here to visit the AGIC website.

Northern NSW community to vote on coal-seam gas proposal

The Lismore City Council will conduct a poll on residents' thoughts about the coal-seam gas industry in conjunction with September's local government election.

Councillors voted 6-5 in favour of the move.

The Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell says the optional poll is likely to cost ratepayers about 10-thousand dollars.

She hopes it will give the council a clear message about community views on the issue.

"It's very easy for supporters of coal seam gas to say that we're only listening to loud, vocal people in our community and that there's not that level of strong opposition to coal seam gas," Cr Dowell said.

"So, by having a poll, we can measure how supportive or rejecting our community is.  It's a big issue, so we need some hard, cold data.”

"We know that our region's going to be considered under the regional land use strategy for the State Government, probably in 12 to 18 months.”

"When that strategy is drafted for this area, if we have the figures about the community's attitude, that will be a very important part of any submission a future council might make," she said.

Volunteering Australia releases 2011 survey of volunteering

The 2011 National Survey of Volunteering Issues, a survey which is conducted annually, has reaffirmed that contribution volunteering makes to social inclusion.  The survey has found that more volunteers are getting involved, but more are needed by organisations.  New ways of doing things, including greater flexibility in the way volunteering opportunities are offered, are becoming more significant in the changing landscape of volunteering.  Some of the key findings include:

  • nine out of 10 volunteers find their experience satisfying.
  • the three most important factors in people choosing to continue volunteering  are location; work that matches their interests/skills; and the values of the organisation.
  • the importance of access to training and education for further skills development.
  • training for volunteers and managers of volunteers was one of the top three priorities for urgent action.

The full report can be found here.

Cairns to be UN role model

A United Nations-led program has selected Cairns as the first city in the Pacific region to become a role model for disaster resilience.

The Cairns Regional Council says the construction of the Disaster Coordination Centre at Woree, flood mitigation works in the CBD and the collaboration between key agencies, contributed to the international recognition.

Council CEO Lyn Russell says its disaster information will be now displayed on the UN's 'Making Cities Resilient' website.

She says local initiatives, including the storm tide evacuation strategy, will help set a standard against which other cities can monitor their progress in becoming disaster resilient.

Built Environment Meets Parliament (BEMP) Summit scheduled for June

The 2012 BEMP summit, taking place on Wednesday, 27 June, at Parliament House in Canberra, will focus on opportunities within the built environment profession to utilise new digital technology in innovative and exciting ways.  Summit sessions will focus on the COAG Reform Council report on Strategic Planning of Capital Cities; innovative approaches to community consultation and engagement; the use of new digital technologies such as BIM and 4D modelling; and will ask what’s the next big revolution in building cities?

The Australia Award for Urban Design will be held the night prior, on Tuesday, 26 June, at the National Portrait Gallery Canberra.

For more information, visit



Complimentary Breakfast Event
Airservices: Developing Talent, Teams and Leaders

 Hosted by Team Management Systems (TMS)

Hear first-hand how Airservices is using the Team Management Profile to develop top talent and high-performing teams.

Airservices has applied the Team Management Profile (TMP) in a variety of ways to improve individual and team performance. In this special event, Jo Livingstone, Coaching and Performance Manager at Airservices, will describe the tactical approaches in using the TMP to build team effectiveness and improve individual performance. Jo has used the TMP across a wide range of business groups at Airservices and will use this experience to discuss the different contexts in which the TMP was used, the outcomes of the workshops and the critical success factors.

Julie Pigdon, Business Development Manager at Team Management Systems will also provide an introduction to the TMS approach – a language and process to help motivate team members, manage conflict, assign tasks and create positive, lasting change.

 Event details

Location: Canberra
Date: Wednesday, 2 May 2012
Time: 7.00am – 9.00am
Register Book online or email

Registrations close Thursday, 26 April 2012. For further information, please contact Team Management Systems on 07 3368 2333.


5th International Parks Management and Leadership Conference:
Parks Beyond Boundaries

National Wine Centre, Adelaide, Australia 22 – 24 May 2012

Local government, protected area agencies, indigenous land management groups, NGO’s  and others are increasingly looking beyond their own boundaries to think about future partners in sustainability of parks and the environment. 

‘Parks Beyond Boundaries’ provides an opportunity for leaders in the parks sector and allied sectors to share expertise and ideas, discussing the future of parks  and the role they play in environmental, social and community health as well as cultural and economic development. 

If we are to tackle the emerging environmental challenges we face, the involvement of a wider range of stakeholders is critical. We invite senior managers and leaders in the business of environmental, social, tourism and human health sectors, who have an eye to the future, to join us in Adelaide in May.  Expect to be challenged and inspired by a compelling conference program and fabulous networking opportunities.

To register, visit  and complete the registration form.

 For further conference information:

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