All 29 Tasmanian Councils have a responsibility to act in the best interests of their ratepayers.  That sounds like a pretty obvious statement, but unfortunately, it doesn't always happen.

When it comes to the current local government reform process, acting in ratepayers' best interests means assessing all the options.

Representatives from Local Government in New South Wales told LGAT last year the reform process is not just about assessing new models and options, it’s about assessing them against existing arrangements.  It's a really important point.  We need to establish whether the way local government is structured now is the best and most efficient model.

It seems everyone agrees that 29 Councils for 500,000 people is too many. So it stands to reason that the next step is to do the work to establish what the optimum model for local government is.

That’s why the decision by various Councils not to engage with the current reform process is – under the assumption they are attempting some form of sound decision-making – inexplicable.

The State Government is offering to co-fund studies that assess options for merging Councils, adjusting boundaries or even just resource sharing. A number of Councils have simply said ‘no way’.

While Kingborough made the decision to engage with all its neighbours so that it can assess all its options, Huon Valley Council is one of those Councils which has sadly seems to have decided not to take part in the process at all.

In fact, the Deputy Mayor of Huon Valley Council was reported to say "...we are not interested in amalgamating”.

You can read my assessment of Huon Valley’s decision from last year here.

This is a bad decision for the residents of the Huon Valley, but also for the residents of Kingborough.

It’s a bad decision because without doing the analysis, no one can really know what the best model for local government is.

Kingborough wants to know what the best model is, but unless Huon Valley takes part, we’ll only be assessing options put forward by the Greater Hobart (Clarence, Glenorchy, Hobart and Kingborough) review against the status quo.

What we really need to do is analyse those options against modelling of alternative local government models within the Huon-Channel region.

It’s difficult to imagine that existing arbitrary boundaries between Hobart, Kingborough and the Huon Valley are the best and most efficient governance model. 

Huon Valley residents already pay more rates for less services than their neighbours in Kingborough, so why don’t their elected representatives want to take part in the process?  Surely its in the best interests of their constituency?

At next Monday’s Council meeting I’ll be moving a motion at Kingborough Council asking Local Government Minister Peter Gutwein to get involved and bring Huon Valley Council back to the table. Huon Valley Council is already under review, and by not taking part in the local government reform process, it’s not hard to see why.