FUNCTIONS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Under the Local Government Act 1989, the function of local government is very broad. Section 1 of the Act and Section 3A of the Act state that local government’s purpose is ‘…the peace, order and good governance…’ of their municipal district.
In practice, this means that individual councils can determine what they need to do to ensure “…the peace, order and good governance…” of their municipalities. Essentially each council makes its own decisions based on its collective beliefs, the advice it receives, various financial considerations, legislative powers and so on.
If a council restricts its activities to ‘roads, rates and rubbish’ and its various statutory obligations, it’s the result of a series of political decisions rather than a legal determination which is based on the Act. And whatever decisions a council makes in this regard are ultimately reflected in the Council Plan and other key strategic documents.
WHAT DOES LOCAL GOVERNMENT DO?
Councils achieve their goals and fulfil their functions in various ways:
Planning & monitoring
Local governments set the overall direction for their municipalities through long-term planning. Examples include council plans, financial plans, municipal strategic statements and other strategic plans. Setting the vision, and then ensuring that it is achieved, is one of the most important roles of local government.
Local government is responsible for managing and delivering a range of quality services to their communities, such as public health and recreational facilities, local road maintenance, and public libraries.
Lawmaking & enforcement
Local governments legislate and make decisions in areas over which they have legislative authority. Local laws are not allowed to replicate or be inconsistent with state and federal laws or the operative planning scheme.
The laws made by local governments are called local laws and cover issues such as the activities permitted on public land, animal management, and use of infrastructure.
Local governments are also responsible for enforcing local laws and other legislation over which they have authority.
The activities of local governments are guided by policies. Developing and implementing these policies are key functions.
Councils often represent their local community on matters of concern to those constituents.
Local governments have a role in advocating on behalf of their constituencies to state and federal levels of government, statutory authorities and other sectors.