COVID-19 responses

To support local governments during the current COVID-19 pandemic, a number of legislative changes have been made to the Local Government Act and regulations.

This page will be updated regularly when laws and regulations for local governments are amended in response to COVID-19. It will also contain a list of COVID-19 related local government alerts, circulars, media statements and useful information and resources.

Question and information iconsCoronavirus (COVID-19) information

Latest COVID-19 information, updates and resources.

MARKYT Community Resilience Scorecard

The MARKYT Community Resilience Scorecard was undertaken by CATALYSE with support from LG Professionals WA and funding from the department from the 5 June to 8 July 2020.

The online scorecard was open to all residents aged 18+ across Western Australia, hard copies were also made available by some smaller and regional local governments.

What’s new

Phase 4 easing of restrictions commencing Saturday 27 June 2020

The State Government has announced Phase 4 easing of restrictions commencing Saturday 27 June 2020.

Previous rules and gathering limits for local government facilities and activities have been removed and are now only determined by WA’s reduced 2sqm rule.

The 2sqm rule only includes staff members working in venues that hold more than 500 patrons.

Please remind users of local government facilities or participants in activities, that they have a personal responsibility to practice physical distancing and good personal hygiene.

COVID Safety Guidelines: Further information for local government

Phase 3 commencing 6 June 2020

The State Government has implemented a staged lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and developed guidelines to assist businesses and community activities to reopen, recommence or expand activities.

Re-opening playgrounds, skate parks, outdoor gym equipment, water fountains and barbecues

Phase 3 commencing 6 June 2020

The State Government has implemented a staged lifting of COVID-19 restrictions based on the advice of the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) and the WA Department of Health.

A fact sheet has been developed to supplement the COVID Safety Guidelines and provides advice for the re-opening of playgrounds, skate parks and outdoor gym equipment.

This includes playgrounds, skate parks, outdoor gym equipment, BMX and pump tracks, and public shared amenities such as public toilets, water fountains and barbecues.

Responsible organisations should place signage at prominent locations at playgrounds, outdoor equipment, skate parks and BMX tracks etc, reminding users that they have a personal responsibility to practice physical distancing and personal hygiene.

A fillable PDF sign has been created and is available for download below or if signs are to be created by organisations, similar messages should be included.

COVID Safety Guidelines and COVID Safety Plans

The State Government has implemented a staged lifting of COVID-19 restrictions and developed guidelines to assist businesses and community activities to reopen or recommence.

Safety requirements and accompanying guidance to reopen or recommence are contained in the COVID Safety Guidelines.  

A local government that operates premises and/or delivers activities that were required to close under Directions made under the Emergency Management Act must complete a COVID Safety Plan and display a COVID Safety Certificate before reopening.  

Premises that were not required to close (but may have chosen to) under directions made under the Emergency Management Act are encouraged to voluntarily complete a COVID Safety Plan, and display a COVID Safety Plan Certificate.

Local governments should use the specifically published guidelines (food businesses, sport and recreation) if their premises and/or activities are covered by those, or alternatively the generic COVID Safety Guidelines.

COVID Safety Guidelines and COVID Safety Plans: Additional information for local governments

The department has developed additional information for local governments that outlines further considerations specifically for the reopening of community, cultural and arts activities and should be read in conjunction with the above COVID-19 Safety Guidelines and COVID Safety Plan.

This information will be updated as the restrictions are lifted, and to clarify business, governance and community considerations.

Further information is also provided for local governments in relation to:

  • Local Government Act 1995 and Regulations
  • Conduct of Council meetings.

COVID-19 Easing of restrictions — further information for public libraries

The State Government has announced the easing of restrictions (phase 2) commencing Monday 18 May 2020.
 
The State Library of WA has developed further information to assist public libraries to implement the necessary arrangements for the re-opening.
 
This information is to be read in conjunction with the COVID-19 Safety Guidelines and COVID Safety Plan.

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Timeline

A brief timeline of legislation and regulation amendments.

A women teleconferencing on a computer

Alerts and circulars

LG Alerts, Ministerial and Departmental Circulars relating to COVID-19.

WA State Parliament

Ministerial media statements

Ministerial media statements relating to COVID-19.

A person swimming at a local swimming pool

COVID-19 related news

News for sport and recreation, liquor, and culture and the arts.

Brief timeline of legislation and regulation amendments

  • 25 March 2020: Local Government (Administration) Amendment Regulations 2020 were gazetted allowing local government councils to hold meetings electronically during a public health emergency or a state of emergency. 
  • 9 April 2020: Local Government Regulation Amendment Regulations 2020 were gazetted, amending the Local Government (Financial Management) Regulations 1996; Local Government (Functions and General) Regulations 1996; and the Local Government (Long Service Leave) Regulations 1996.
  • 16 April 2020: Local Government Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020 was approved by Parliament. The Act inserts a new Part 10 in the Act which is specific to the COVID-19 emergency response. 
  • 24 April 2020: Local Government (Parking for People with Disabilities) Amendment Regulations 2020 were gazetted to improve parking compliance and strengthen enforcement.
  • 8 May 2020: Local Government (COVID-19 Response) Order 2020 was gazetted to modify provisions of the Local Government Act to deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

LG Alerts, Ministerial and Departmental Circulars

Resources and publications

Local Government Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020

On 21 April 2020, the Local Government Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020 received Royal Assent. This Act introduced a new Part into the Local Government Act to specifically deal with the pandemic. It allows local governments to suspend a local law, or parts of a local law, to temporarily remove local restrictions which may be beneficial to the district, or parts of the district, during the state of emergency.

The Response Act also provided a power to enable the Minister to modify or suspend provisions of the Local Government Act 1995 and Regulations while a State of Emergency declaration is in force and where the Minister considers that such an order is necessary to deal with the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first Ministerial order was gazetted on 8 May 2020 to deal with issues relating to the requirements to hold public meetings, access to information when council offices are closed and budgetary matters. For detailed information, please refer to the Local Government (COVID-19 response) Order 2020.

Local Government Act 1995

On 16 April 2020, the Local Government Amendment (COVID-19 Response) Act 2020 was approved by Parliament.
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 Act which is specific to the COVID-19 emergency response. The amendments to the Act will allow:

  • The Minister to issue an order that will suspend or modify a provision of the Act 
  • The local government by absolute majority to suspend a local law or part of a local law.

Both powers will only be allowed while a state of emergency declaration is in place and it must be to deal with the consequences of the pandemic.

The Governor is expected to approve these amendments in the coming week.

Local Government Act changes to support COVID-19 response (media statement)

Regulation amendments

On Thursday, 9 April 2020, the Local Government Regulations Amendment Regulations 2020 were gazetted. The regulations amended three sets of regulations as detailed below.

Local Government (Financial Management) Regulations 1996

The purpose of these amendments is to increase the flexibility of the local government sector to access funding in a timelier manner to respond to the State of Emergency Declaration under the Emergency Management Act 2005.

Regulation 18 contains exemptions from the requirement for a local government to give local public notice of a change of ‘use of money’ set aside in a Reserve Account (this currently requires one month’s public notice). During a state of emergency in a local government district or part of a district, a further exemption is being provided to allow the local government to change the ‘use of money’ required to address a need arising from the hazard or from the impact or consequences of the hazard to which the state of emergency declaration relates. This decision, and the reasons for it, must be recorded in the formal minutes of the council.

Regulation 20 contains exemptions from the requirement for a local government to give local public notice of a ‘power to borrow’ under section 6.20 of the Act. An additional exemption from the period for giving local public notice is provided if the decision is made while a state of emergency declaration is in force and the  local government considers that the borrowing is required to address a need arising from the hazard (in this case COVID-19) or from the impact or consequences of the hazard. Once again, this decision, and the reasons for it, must be recorded in the formal council minutes.

Regulation 21 provides further flexibility to a local government to re-purpose money borrowed, but not spent, to address a hazard or the impact or consequences of the hazard. This is tied to the declaration of a state of emergency and has the effect of exempting the local government from providing local public notice before they can access the funds for the new purpose. Once again, this decision, and the reasons for it, must be recorded in the council minutes.

Local Government (Functions and General) Regulations 1996

The primary purpose of these amendments is to increase the flexibility of the local government sector to contract with local suppliers during, and in the aftermath of, the State of Emergency Declaration under the Emergency Management Act 2005.

An amendment is being made to regulation 11(1) to increase the threshold to $250,000 to align with State Government tendering thresholds. This will permit local governments to extend the use of their own purchasing policy and apply local content provisions more readily to goods and services acquired via written quotations.

Local governments should update their purchasing policy to cover the direct purchase of goods and services under $250,000. For purchases over $150,000, local governments should ensure that quotations are requested in writing and offers are received in writing. Regulation 11A covering purchasing policies will be updated in the coming weeks.

Regulation 11(2) contains two further exemptions when tenders do not have to be publicly invited.

The first exemption, in new regulation 11(2)(aa), ensures the formal tender process does not need to be undertaken when sourcing and securing essential goods and services to respond to a state of emergency. As outlined in regulation 11(3), there must be a state of emergency declaration in force for the local government district or part of the district and the goods or services must be required to address needs arising from, or impacts or consequences of, the hazard to which the emergency relates.

The other exemption in regulation 11(2)(ja) gives a local government the discretion to renew or extend a contract that expires when a state of emergency declaration is in force, even though this option is not included in the original contract. This will overcome the practical difficulty of businesses responding to a formal tender process while they are shut down or in the transition period when normal business resumes. Limits on this apply: the original contract must have less than three months left to run, the renewal or extension cannot be for more than twelve months, and there must be a state of emergency declaration applying to the district or part of the district when the renewal or extension is entered into.

A further exemption in regulation 11(2)(h) is being updated to encourage local governments to purchase goods or services supplied by Aboriginal businesses. The exemption will now reflect the fact that the Chamber of Commerce and Industry administers the Aboriginal Business Directory. A new exemption has been added recognising goods or services may also be supplied by Supply Nation.

Local Government (Long Service Leave) Regulations

The purpose of these amendments is to provide greater access to paid leave for local government employees stood down during a state of emergency declaration under the Emergency Management Act 2005.

Regulation 4 governs rules towards entitlements for long service leave. New regulation 4(da) provides that any period of absence from duty connected with an employer’s response to a hazard, or the impact or consequences of the hazard declared under the Emergency Management Act 2005, is deemed as continuous service towards an employee’s next entitlement of long service leave.

Regulation 7 deals with the actual taking of long service leave. Currently, leave may only be granted and taken in one consecutive period or, by agreement, not more than three consecutive periods. This restriction has been lifted to allow employees to take leave by agreement in two or more separate periods.

In addition, regulation 7A(2) establishes a new right for a worker to take advance leave by agreement with their employer if:

  • the worker has completed at least seven years of continuous service of the normal accrual period; and
  • the approval for the advance leave is given when there is a state of emergency declaration applying to the district or part of the district in which they work.

Local Government (Administration) Regulations 1996

On 25 March 2020, the Local Government (Administration) Amendment Regulations 2020 were gazetted. These regulations allow local government councils to hold meetings electronically during a public health emergency or a state of emergency. This can be via teleconference, video conference or other electronic means.

The regulations also provide that individual councillors can participate electronically in face to face meetings should they go ahead.

This will ensure that local governments can continue to hold meetings and make decisions in the best interests of the community. This includes committee meetings, should councils continue to hold them.

The amendments also modify the provisions in the Local Government Act that relate to notice of a meeting and public question time to enable meetings to be held electronically.

If a meeting is held electronically, public question time requirements will be met if council allocates time for raising questions by members of the public and provides a means for questions to be submitted prior to the meeting.

Further information

For further information, please email the department

Page reviewed 06 August 2020