President’s column | 17 January 2020

Image shows President David O'Loughlin smiling in front of a black background

The worst of the bush fires across the country may be over, at least in the short term, but the recovery and reconstruction is just getting started.

Ordinary people from Australia and around the world have donated tens of millions of dollars, there’s an initial $2 billion from the Australian Government, and defence force personnel are helping clear roads and deliver supplies.

At the heart of the recovery and reconstruction effort are local councils, the level of government closest to the community, who know what needs to be done and how to best achieve it.

It’s been great to see the tireless efforts of state local government associations, as they help coordinate responses between affected councils, councils that want to help, and state governments.

I welcome news such as this from the Municipal Association of Victoria after the State Government released $7.3m for the bush-fire hit Alpine, East Gippsland and Towong councils.

In NSW, where 33 local government areas have been affected by the fires, Local Government NSW is part of the newly created NSW Local Government Bushfire Recovery Support Group, whereby councils are providing staff and resources to their fire-affected counterparts.

The Local Government Association of South Australia is playing a major role, too, including being overall coordinator of local government resources, providing staff for the state emergency centre, and being part of the state recovery operations group.

The Australian Local Government Association is extensively involved at the national level, and we welcome the Commonwealth’s recent announcements about assistance for mental health services, for primary producers, and small business.

ALGA is working with the national Drought and Flood Agency’s Coordinator-General Shane Stone – who’s coordinating the recovery of communities hit by the north Queensland floods in 2019 – and also the Coordinator-General of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, Andrew Colvin.

As Mr Stone said recently after meeting Mr Colvin and Natural Disaster Minister, David Littleproud, to ensure the best ideas help those affected, these must be locally led, locally understood, and locally implemented.

ALGA continues to advocate that local message at the national level.

And it’s not just liaising with Commonwealth departments and agencies about what’s required.

ALGA is also at the table with the tourism sector, because it’s essential we continue to holiday in, travel to, or hold events in bushfire-affected areas which are capable of receiving visitors.

The tourism sector is trying to ensure that people who cancelled bookings over the New Year period don’t also cancel their plans for Easter and other major times.

Later this afternoon I’ll join the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in Canberra at a roundtable aimed at achieving maximum effectiveness for the Commonwealth’s ongoing assistance to fire-affected local councils.

I’ll update you next week about those talks.

My best wishes to all councils and communities as they continue to recover.

David O’Loughlin

ALGA President.