Local government provides services and maintains facilities for residents and visitors in the Northern Territory within geographical areas where they exercise responsibility as governments under the NT Local Government Act (‘the Act’).
Section 11 of the Act states that the principal role of a council is:
- to act as a representative, informed and responsible decision-maker in the interests of its constituency; and
- to develop a strong and cohesive social life for its residents and allocate resources in a fair, socially inclusive, and sustainable way; and
- to provide and coordinate public facilities and services; and
- to encourage and develop initiatives for improving quality of life; and
- to represent the interests of its area to the wider community; and
- to exercise and carry out the powers and functions of local government assigned to the council under this Act and other Acts.
People in the Northern Territory benefit when local government operates effectively and efficiently to the extent that:
- their interests are represented in government at the local level
- local government’s performance will impact on the ‘quality of life’ and amenity of the area where they reside or are visiting.
The System of Local Government
Section 7 of the Act states that local governments are established by that Act and that as part of the system of local government in Australia:
- the Territory is divided into local government areas having regard to:
- geography and natural configuration; and
- the nature and density of population; and
- the viability and appropriateness, of each area as a separate unit of local government administration; and
- a council is constituted for each area to be responsible for the government and management of the area at the local level.
The system of local government in the Northern Territory is made up of all of the following three local government organisations:
- 16 local government councils
- the Local Government Association of the Northern Territory (LGANT)
- the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA).
Together these organisations manage the affairs of local government at the local, Territory and national levels.
Furthermore, body corporates, knows as council subsidiaries are able to be established under Section 29 of the Act. One such subsidiary, CouncilBIZ, was established on 10 June 2008 to facilitate the efficient provision of administration, information technology and financial services to its 8 member regional councils.
Local Government Managers Australia, established to promote the cause of local government management in Australia, operates a branch for council employees in the Northern Territory.
Some Characteristics of Local Government in the Northern Territory
Some of the main characteristics of local government in the Northern Territory are:
- Despite local government’s relatively short history, Darwin City Council preceded self-government (1978) in the Northern Territory by 21 years when it was constituted in 1957
- Local government reforms commenced on 1 July 2008 when the number of councils in the Northern Territory reduced under structural reforms from 59 to 16 and the number of elected members reduced from 560 to 153
- As at October 2008,
- 61% of elected Councillors are male
- 39% are female
- 46% are non-Indigenous and 54% are Indigenous.
- Local government boundaries cover about 95% of the land mass in the Northern Territory.
- Local government in the Northern Territory is responsible for a wide range of functions and this is because of enabling legislation (it provides for general competence) and it can do more functions if they are provided with appropriate resources, particularly financial resources.
- Unlike local government in all other states, local government in the Northern Territory does not have responsibility for the functions of the following as the Territory Government is responsible for these functions:
- planning (development assessment and land use planning)
- building regulation
- environmental health.
- Local government makes a significant contribution to the Territory economy as collectively councils employ about 1400 Territorians, manage and control assets valued at over $900 million, and receive and expend over $220 million in the Northern Territory annually.