Local government in Queensland

Local government in Queensland

Local government in the Australian state of Queensland describes the institutions and processes by which towns and districts can manage their own affairs to the extent permitted by the "Local Government Act 1993-2007". Queensland is divided into 73 local government areas which may be called Cities, Towns, Shires or Regions. [" [http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/qld/consol_act/lga1993182/index.html Local Government Act 1993] ", s.34. (Reprint 11E, as in force at 22 November 2007.)] Each area has a council which is responsible for providing a range of public services and utilities, and derives its income from both rates and charges on resident ratepayers, and grants and subsidies from the State and Commonwealth governments. [cite web|url=http://www.localgovernment.qld.gov.au/?id=2668|title=Rates and valuations|author=Department of Local Government, Sport and Recreation (Queensland)|date=26 July 2007|accessdate=2008-04-05]

As bodies which obtain their legitimacy from an Act of the Queensland Parliament, local councils are subordinate rather than sovereign entities [cite book|title=Occasional Paper No. 35: Local Government in Queensland|last=Harris|first=C.P.|publisher=Australian National University|location=Canberra|year=1985|isbn=0867845678|page=2] and can be created, amalgamated, abolished or dismissed by the State at will. In modern practice, however, decisions on such matters are made in response to recommendations by independent Reform Commissions, such as the Electoral and Administrative Reform Commission (1990–1993) and the Local Government Reform Commission (2007). Recent reforms, which took effect on 15 March 2008, resulted in over 70% of Queensland's local government areas being amalgamated into larger entities and generated a considerable degree of controversy, even attracting national interest in the context of a federal election campaign. [cite news|url=http://www.abc.net.au/stateline/qld/content/2006/s2001957.htm|title=Week in parliament|last=Van Vonderen|first=Jessica|work=Stateline (ABC)|date=10 August 2007|accessdate=2008-04-05]

History and development

Early history

The first example of local government in Queensland came into being while Queensland was still part of New South Wales. The "Municipalities Act 1858" [22 Vic No. 13 (Imp), assented 27 October 1858] allowed for the creation of a municipality upon the petition of not less than 50 householders within a defined area. If no counter-petition with more signatures was received, the Governor was able to declare a municipality in the region.cite book|last=Larcombe|first=F.A. (Frederick)|title=The Origin of Local Government in New South Wales 1831-58|publisher=Sydney University Press|year=1973|isbn=0424066106|page=269-270, 273] Two types of municipalities were possible under the Act: boroughs, which had a minimum population of 1,000, a maximum area of convert|9|sqmi|km2|1|lk=on|abbr=on and no two parts being more than convert|6|mi|km|2|lk=on apart; and municipal districts, with a minimum population of 500 and a maximum area of convert|50|sqmi|km2|1|abbr=on. Once a municipality had been proclaimed, ratepayers could elect a council to represent them. [cite book|title=Local government and regionalism in Queensland|last=Harris|first=C.P.|publisher=Australian National University|year=1978|isbn=0708113559|page=13]

The first to be declared was Brisbane, with a population of 5,000 and an area of convert|14.25|km2|sqmi|1. Its first attempt in January 1859 was unsuccessful due to a counter-petition, but its second attempt with 420 signatories was gazetted on 25 May 1859 and proclaimed by the Governor of New South Wales on 7 September 1859. [Larcombe (1973), pp270, 274.] On 16 November, a petition containing 91 signatures was received seeking to have Ipswich, which at the time had 3,000 people, granted municipal town status. On 29 November, the letters patent authorised by Queen Victoria which were to make Queensland a separate colony were published in New South Wales, and the petition was forwarded to the new Queensland governor, Sir George Ferguson Bowen. On 10 December 1859, the same day that the letters patent were published in Queensland, the petition was regazetted. On 3 March 1860 the Town of Ipswich was proclaimed. [cite web|url=http://foundingdocs.gov.au/item.asp?sdID=47|title=Letters Patent erecting Colony of Queensland 6 June 1859 (UK)|author=National Archives of Australia|year=2005|accessdate=2008-03-14] cite web|url=http://www.ipswich.qld.gov.au/about_council/council_history/|title=Council History|author=Ipswich City Council|date=17 October 2007|accessdate=2008-03-14]

Following this, eight other councils obtained municipality status under the Act: Toowoomba (19 November 1860), Rockhampton (13 December 1860), Maryborough (23 March 1861), Warwick (25 May 1861), Drayton (1862), Gladstone (20 February 1863), Bowen (7 August 1863) and Dalby (21 August 1863).

Municipal Institutions Act

In September 1864, the first comprehensive Queensland local government legislation, the "Municipal Institutions Act 1864", was enacted, repealing the previous Act. [28 Vic No. 21 (Imp). Section 1 repealed the previous Act.] The Act allowed municipalities to charge rates, borrow money, enact bylaws, control or regulate public infrastructure and utilities, and provide public amenities such as gardens and hospitals. [cite web|url=http://www.archivessearch.qld.gov.au/Search/AgencyDetails.aspx?AgencyId=10315|title=Agency Details - Brisbane Municipal Council|author=Queensland State Archives|year=2006|accessdate=2008-04-05] cite book|title=(1301.3) Queensland Year Book|year=1977|author=Australian Bureau of Statistics, Queensland Office|id=ISSN search link|0085-5539|pages=89-90]

The system for creating new municipalities was redesigned. Firstly, a signed petition had to be presented to the Governor from a minimum of 100 householders to create a new district or divide an existing one, or a minimum of 50 householders to extend an existing district to cover a neighbouring rural area. Once this had been done, the Governor could proclaim the change, and residents could then elect a council to represent them. Any man over the age of 21 who was a tenant, occupier, landlord or proprietor within the municipality could vote, and they were entitled to between one and three votes depending on the level of rates they paid. Only qualified voters could stand for council elections, which were conducted annually with one-third of the councillors retiring at each election. Once the council was elected, they selected a mayor from among their number. For the first time, municipalities could be divided into wards upon their own request—from two wards for a population under 1,000, to four wards for a population over 5,000.Harris (1978), pp14-15.]

During the 14 years that the Act was in force, the Drayton municipality was abolished in 1875, and nine new municipalities were created: Townsville (15 February 1866), Gayndah (28 November 1866), Clermont (21 January 1867), Roma (21 May 1867), Allora (21 July 1869), Mackay (22 September 1869), Copperfield (10 May 1872), Cooktown (3 April 1876) and Charters Towers (21 June 1877).

The dual system

The Queensland Government passed the "Local Government Act 1878" in August of that year. According to the Act, the function of municipal councils was to maintain "the good rule and government of the municipality", and to provide public services and amenities. Examples of such anticipated by the Act included parks and reserves, libraries, cemeteries, water and sanitation services, roads, bridges, wharves, street lighting, public health, fire prevention, the regulation of building construction and the regulation and issuing of a range of licences for uses of land. [cite web|url=http://www.archivessearch.qld.gov.au/search/AgencyDetails.aspx?AgencyId=11022|title=Agency Details - Townsville Municipal Council|author=Queensland State Archives|year=2006|accessdate=2008-04-07] It made provision for the creation of additional municipalities to be known as Cities, Boroughs or Shires, either upon or without petition. Any man or woman over the age of 21 who was liable to be rated on any property in the district was eligible to vote in elections, which were to be held every February. In most other respects, the "Local Government Act" followed on from the 1864 Act.

The Act was modelled on the Victorian "Local Government Act 1874", but the legislation soon proved unsuitable to Queensland's requirements given its large, sparsely populated areas. The Government's response was the "Divisional Boards Act 1879", which intended to extend local government to those areas of Queensland which could not be included in municipalities. The Act divided all lands in the Colony not already included into municipalities into 74 divisions, each to be governed by a Board of between 3 and 9 members. Elections were to be conducted by postal ballot.Harris (1978), p.17-18.]


External links

* [http://www.localgovernment.qld.gov.au Local Government Queensland]
* [http://www.localgovernment.qld.gov.au/applications/lgdirectory/ Local Government directory]
* [http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/qld/consol_act/lga1993182/index.html Local Government Act 1993] (AustLII)

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