Posted on May 11, 2012 by Lindsay Taylor

Local Government Amendment Act 2012

The Local Government Act 2012 (‘Amendment Act‘) was assented to on 4 April 2012.

The Amendment Act amends the Local Government Act 1993 (‘LGA‘) in relation to the following matters:

  • leases and licences of community land,
  • vacancies in civic office,
  • elections and voting,
  • exercise of a council’s functions before elections, and
  • disclosure of interests

All of the amendments except one relating to disclosures of interests by councillors at council meetings commenced on assent. The remaining amendment will commence on a date to be appointed by proclamation of the Governor.

Some amendments contained in the Bill introduced into Parliament were not passed by Parliament.

Leases and licences of community land

The maximum period in for which a council may grant a lease or licence of community land, including any renewal period, has been increased from 21 to 30 years.

The Minister’s consent is required for a lease or licence of community land for a period exceeding 21 years. The Minister may only grant consent to such a lease or licence if satisfied that there are ‘special circumstances’ justifying the lease or licence exceeding 21 years.

Vacancies in civic office

A vacancy in civic office will not occur if a councillor is absent from 3 consecutive ordinary meetings of the council due to suspension by the Pecuniary Interest and Disciplinary Tribunal  for misbehaviour.

Elections & voting

The previous voting system in a contested election was:

  • optional preferential if 1 or 2 councillors are to be elected,
  • proportional if 3 or more councillors are to be elected.

The voting system in any future contested election will be:

  • optional preferential if 1 councillor is to be elected,
  • proportional if 2 or more councillors are to be elected.

Exercise of functions before elections

Schedule 6(14A) has been inserted to enable regulations to be made in relation to the exercise of a council’s functions during the period of 4 weeks preceding an ordinary election.

Disclosures of interests

Section 448 of the LGA set out interests that do not have to be disclosed by councillors, designated persons, members of council committees and council advisers. Section 448 previously referred to any duties of disclosure under Chapter 14 but has been amended to refer only duties of disclosure under Part 2 of that Chapter.

Section 451 has been amended (although the amendment had not commenced on the date this note was posted) to authorise councillors to be present, take part in a meeting, and vote on a matter in which they have a pecuniary interest if:

  • the matter relates to the making, amendment or alteration of an environmental planning instrument that applies to the whole or a significant part of the Council’s area, and
  • they have made a special disclosure of the pecuniary interest.

The special disclosure of pecuniary interest must be in the form prescribed by the regulations and laid on the table at a meeting of the council as soon a practicable after the disclosure is made.

Amendments that did not pass Parliament

As mentioned, some amendments contained in the Bill introduced into Parliament were not passed by Parliament. These were:

Status of Councils:

An amendment to convert the status of councils and county councils from their existing status of bodies politic of the State to bodies corporate.

Arrangements for Staff Upon Change of Council Areas:

An amendment to reduce from 3 years to 1 year the period for which special arrangements (relating to forced redundancies and appointment to new positions on the staff of a council) exist for non-senior staff that are affected by the constitution, alteration or amalgamation of council areas.