The Act is designed to streamline and support the operations of local governments for the purposes of responding to the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19.
The Act inserts a new Part 10 in the Local Government Act 1995 which is specific to the COVID-19 emergency response. The two key amendments are outlined below.
Modification and suspension of provisions
The amendment gives the Minister the power to issue an order to modify or suspend provisions in the Act and regulations. The order can only be made while the COVID-19 emergency is in force and the Minister must consider it necessary to deal with consequences
of the pandemic.
The order can have effect immediately but cannot be for a period any longer than three months after the emergency declaration is revoked or ceases to have effect.
Matters that may be dealt with under this power include:
- deferring any election or modifying provisions relating to in-person elections
- suspending the need for public meetings
- making provisions regarding access to information for members of the public when council offices are closed, and
- amending, extending or removing time periods specified in the Act.
These orders will be published in the Gazette, coming into effect the next day or at a later specified date.
Orders made under this provision will be treated as Regulations for the purposes of the Interpretation Act 1984 which requires them to be tabled in Parliament, making them subject to disallowance.
Changes have also been made to allow local governments to suspend, by absolute majority, a local law or parts of a local law during a state of emergency. This will enable local governments to temporarily remove local restrictions which may be beneficial
to the district, or part of a district.
Local governments must consider that the suspension is necessary to deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Following a resolution, it must be published in a prominent location on the local government’s website. A copy must also be
provided to the Minister. A list of all local laws suspended will be published on the Department’s website.
The suspension takes effect from the day after publication or such later date as specified in the notice. It cannot apply for a period longer than six months after the state of emergency ceases. The six-month period at the end of the State of Emergency
will give local governments time to fully consult with the community to determine whether ongoing variation to the local law is appropriate. This allows time to amend the local law according to the process set out in section 3.12 of the Act.
These provisions will enable local governments to make changes to local laws covering such areas as parking restrictions, activities on footpaths, restrictions on businesses’ operations, cemeteries and health to reduce red tape and to quickly respond
to the emergency.
For further information, you can contact the department at LGresponse@dlgsc.wa.gov.au