Gaining perspective


Many Queensland councils remain without consistently reliable power, phone coverage and water supply. More than half run deficit budgets, struggle to cover costs and are taking to the streets to address youth crime.

These are some of the challenges heard at the Local Government of Queensland (LGAQ) Conference in Gladstone, where 77 councils met last week.

Noosa’s issues of affordable housing shortages and impacts of short term accommodation on residential neighbourhoods are shared. The conference voted for the State to investigate solutions to the spread and impacts of STA.

Noosa was the first in the QLD and one of three in Australia to create a Local Law to curb STA impacts. Noosa also moved to limit the spread of STA in residential through changes introduced in the 2020 Noosa Planning Scheme.

The conference heard alarming cases from councils shut down for extended periods by ransomware cyber-attacks. Moving to cloud-based servers are among the solutions.

During de-amalgamation, Noosa was among the first to adopt cloud-based technology which also saved ratepayers millions in hardware set-up costs.

According to IT staff, Noosa council repels between 500 and 1500 cyber-attacks a day, believed to be launched mainly from China and Russia.

The under-reported cyber-war involves daily hostile attempts on all levels of government and major businesses.

OIA complaints abuse

Serial vexatious complainants to the Office of the Independent Assessor (OIA) who have had at least three complaints dismissed may be named and ignored under planned reforms.

OIA changes were recommended after the councillor complaints process became clogged with trivial complaints used in attempts to cause personal or political harm.

In future, complaints will need to be lodged within six months of the alleged offence and panels will include assessors with some local government experience.

The OIA will have also power to dismiss trivial or vexatious matters and deal with complaints by alternate means, such as warnings and training and not be limited to handing down misconduct findings.

The reforms aim to allow the OIA to focus on matters of genuine public interest and help ensure complaints are not “weaponised” in the lead up to the 2024 election.

These changes are among those overseen by the Parliamentary Committee into the OIA which held a hearing in Gladstone during the LGAQ conference last week.

Stronger together?

Noosa Council’s motion that the State Government respect and acknowledge the population growth planned for by each Local Government was carried by a narrow majority.

Debate on the position that councils are best placed to set responsible growth targets revealed others would prefer to have the State set the numbers for them.

There still appears to be some resentment for Noosa having successfully negotiated modest growth targets and surprise that councils can negotiate with State planners.

The extra 19,100 people proposed for Noosa in the draft regional plan is the second lowest growth figure in South East Queensland at less than 1 per cent of total new SEQ residents.

However, this represents over a 20 per cent change in Noosa’s population and the second highest proportional increase in the region.

Noosa’s submission against unrealistic growth targets and the proposal to allow three-stories of unit development on each low-density residential lot are with the State.

Noosa’s motion requesting adequate infrastructure funding should the State impose population growth targets greater than councils had planned for was roundly supported.

Equal partners?

Conference attendees Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Opposition Leader David Crisafulli both described their relationship with Local Governments as a partnership between equals.

Local Governments operate under an act of State Parliament.

A motion progressing the long-fought for goal of having Local Governments recognised in the Constitution was withdrawn following the recent referendum.

“The Commonwealth has the money, the States have the power and the Councils have the problem,” was said more than once during the event.