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Ministerial Circular 5 2020

Subsequently, I made an Order under this legislation to deal with some of the issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the Order specifies that local governments cannot hold Electors’ General Meetings or Electors’ Special Meetings, under sections 5.27 and 5.28 of the Local Government Act 1995, while the State of Emergency declaration is in force.

At the time of making the Order, the holding of such meetings was in breach of the Prohibition on Gatherings Direction and could have resulted in health risks to attendees. While Phase 4 has lifted certain COVID-19 restrictions, all Western Australians need to continue to act with caution and operate in a COVID-19 safe environment. This includes following good hygiene habits and complying with the physical distancing measures. This is the new normal for the foreseeable future. For the positive results to continue in Western Australia, COVID-19 safe measures must become entrenched into how we operate.

Under the Local Government Act 1995, Electors’ General Meetings or Electors’ Special Meetings cannot be held by local governments during a State of Emergency. For local governments to hold these meetings, I would need to revoke or vary the Order. However, in the interest of public health and safety, particularly given the volatile situation in the eastern states, I believe this action is currently premature.

The intent of the Order is to ensure that local governments can continue to do business in a COVID-19 environment and focus on supporting their community. It is not intended to allow local governments to consider proposals or to make decisions without robust and comprehensive community engagement processes.

Local governments are made accountable to the community through many mechanisms, including community consultation processes, contact with individual councillors, meetings, petitions, elections and direct correspondence.

The accountability of a local government does not cease due to the State of Emergency declaration.

It is critical that local governments continue to engage with the community on important issues and projects and endeavour to adopt a creative, flexible and innovative approach to community engagement.

While a local government is not able to hold an Electors’ Special Meeting during the State of Emergency, they are still able to consult with their electors through community workshops, meetings (in-person and electronic) or other appropriate engagement strategies, if they are compliant with the physical distancing restrictions. I encourage local governments to consider live streaming or recording and making available, council meetings. This is one of many tools available to local governments to provide transparency to their community.

There are various community engagement resources available to local governments and some great examples of how local governments are working collaboratively with their communities during this time can be found on the WALGA website.

I encourage all local governments to find innovative ways to engage with their community and listen to their concerns, particularly during this time.

The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries is available to assist local governments with community engagement ideas and resources and can be contacted via the email LGresponse@dlgsc.wa.gov.au.

Hon DAVID TEMPLEMAN MLA
Minister for Local Government;
H
eritage; Culture and the Arts

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Page reviewed 30 July 2019