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What is Local Government

What is Local Government

Local government is the third sphere of government is Australia. It is often described as the sphere of government closest to the community. 

Local government provides a range of services, infrastructure and facilities for residents and visitors within distinct geographical areas. It is responsible for implementing many diverse programs, policies and local laws. Councils must respond and plan for local community needs. 

Put simply, local government councils look after matters close to our homes including local roads, street signage, lighting, footpaths, parking, cycle ways, parks and playgrounds, sporting fields and swimming pools, pet control, land and coast care programs, libraries, waste management, and community programs such as child and aged care – and in some places, act as Centrelink and Australia Post.

Section 21 of the NT Local Government Act 2019 (the Act) states that the principal role of a council is:

  1. to act as a representative, informed and responsible decision-maker in the interests of its constituency; and
  2. to develop a strong and cohesive social life for its residents and allocate resources in a fair, socially inclusive, and sustainable way; and
  3. to provide and coordinate public facilities and services; and
  4. to encourage and develop initiatives for improving quality of life; and
  5. to represent the interests of its area to the wider community; and
  6. to exercise and carry out the powers and functions of local government assigned to the council under this Act or another Act.

Section 22 of the Act states that the functions of councils include: 

  1. to plan for the future requirements of its area for local government services; 
  2. to provide services and facilities for the benefit of its area, its residents and visitors; 
  3. to make prudent financial decisions;
  4. to manage the employment of the CEO;
  5. to provide for the interests and well-being of individuals and groups within its area; 
  6. to carry out measures to protect its area from natural and other hazards and to mitigate the effects of such hazards; 
  7. to plan and develop council facilities and services in its area in a sustainable way;
  8. to plan the use of council resources for the benefit of its area;
  9. other functions assigned to the council under this Act or another Act.

The functions of a council may, if the council decides to perform the functions, include the following:

  1. to promote its area as a location for appropriate industries or commerce or as an attractive tourist destination;
  2. to establish or support programs that benefit its area.

Unlike in all other states, local government in the Northern Territory does not have responsibility for the functions of the following:

  • planning (development assessment and land use planning)
  • building regulation
  • environmental health.