Local governments have a tough job. But there are some inspiring success stories from 2018 that need to be told. Things are changing for the better. It’s important to recognise and celebrate innovation and help the best ideas to spread to more areas.
We’ve put together this (subjective) list of 10 of our highlights from 2018. These initiatives have the potential to help town teams and local communities to thrive.
Here goes, in no particular order of priority (except for #1).
1. The Future of Local Government Declaration
This innovation is fittingly at the top of list because it is so fundamental and important.
Coordinated by the Municipal Association of Victoria and signed by hundreds of Mayors and CEOs from around Australia, the Declaration clearly outlines the governance, environmental and societal challenges ahead and what to do about them.
Some of the highlights include:
- This declaration rests on a belief that the state of the nation and the health of our society depend on community-driven action in the neighbourhood, not just decisions made in parliaments or boardrooms.
- It’s time to explore a new model of governance, one based on a re-energised civil society that draws on the strength and resourcefulness of people working together …
- Commit to collaboration with other councils, State and Federal governments, business and civil society as an essential way of working
- Adopt a decentralised model for their own activities, including place-based planning and service delivery, and devolving decision-making to communities.
2. Wigan Council’s (United Kingdom) ‘The Deal’
The simplicity and clarity of this approach are genius. It’s a call for a partnership between the local government and local community to improve their area. Governments are not just service-providers, but enablers. Highly recommended!
3. Town of Vic Park’s Place-Led Approach
The Town of Vic Park is on a journey to be Perth’s most empowered and engaged community. They are also probably leading the way in Australia with their place-led approach. Led by the Council and visionary CEO, Anthony Vuleta, the Town has values that include:
- We will be PROACTIVE – We will look to cause positive things to happen rather than waiting to respond.
- We will be INNOVATIVE – We will be courageous in introducing new ideas to meet community need and improve our services and projects.
The talk is being matched with action and the organisation is transitioning to a place-led approach.
We’re looking forward to seeing the results in 2019!
4. City of Vincent’s New Street Activations Policy
Closing a road to hold a street party, play street or event is now a simpler online process in the City of Vincent. Congratulations as this is the best placemaking policy going around!
Why It’s So Good!
- Community members can access a range of support from the City, including financial assistance, in-kind support, public liability cover, road closure equipment, traffic management templates and more
- Rangers can assist in setting up the barriers and signs to close off the road, so the community can focus on organising the fun
- There’s a toolkit, online form and community grants simplify street closures for small scale events
Public liability insurance is often a deal-breaker. In fact, it kills placemaking ideas. Vincent is now covering public liability insurance requirements for unincorporated groups. This is a game-changer as it encourages people to do things in public spaces.
The Rae Street Play Street in Leederville has been happening once a month on Sundays for almost three years to allow for a regular afternoon of free play on the street.
Learn more at:
5. Managing Places to Life (not managing them to death)
OK, so the City Renewal Authority in Canberra isn’t technically a local government. But we have squeezed it in to this list because of the importance of this concept to local governments.
Andy Sharp and the team at the CRA observe that most places are “managed to death”. Their success is choked by focussing on minimising maintenance costs, complex processes, over-engineering and a lack of understanding that the real role of governments is to create great places, individuals and communities. It has been a whole lot easier to say “no” rather than helping to make it happen.
The CRA is managing places to life by encouraging activities and events, redesigning spaces, breaking down bureaucratic silos and working closely with local businesses and residents.
“Managing places to life” encapsulates much of what we are about. Bring it on!
6. City of Stirling and City of Perth $20,000 Town Team Grants
The Cities of Stirling and Perth have grant programs in place to support town teams and neighbourhood groups. This makes it so much easier for volunteer organisations and helps them to do more for their community.
Town teams like Inglewood on Beaufort have put this money to very good use to improve their local area. They can make every dollar go alot further – “more bang for buck”!
Money isn’t everything, but it sure helps! Well done Stirling and Perth!
7. City of Subiaco Change of Use Policy (Policy 2.28)
Local planning policies don’t normally tick the innovation policy. But this one does, because it does less.
Normally, a ‘change of land use’, from say an office to a shop, requires an approval. These applications can get bogged down for months or become expensive because of issues like car parking. For example, if you have an old shopfront building, how can more parking be created if you don’t have any physical space to do it?
Subiaco has made it easier for local businesses by getting rid of the requirement for a formal change of use application in the Town Centre. This saves a new or start-up business months, lots of paperwork, stress and money.
If you don’t know what a “change of use” application is, hunt down one of your urban planners and get them to explain. All local governments should have a similar policy for their town centres.
8. Bayswater’s Verge Policy
City of Bayswater residents can grow water-wise, native plants on the verge (nature strip) as well as fruit trees and vegetables thanks to new guidelines approved in 2018.
Whilst this should be a no-brainer, many local governments don’t allow fruit trees or vegetables to be grown on verges. We must be a super-rich country to outlaw local food production! Anyway, read more at:
9. Project Robin Hood
The City of Melville’s Project Robin Hood is a participatory budgeting program that provides a total funding pool of $100,000 ($20,000 per project) for community ideas, projects or events that bring people together and build better neighbourhoods.
The community nominates projects, the community votes on which projects get funded and then the community delivers the projects. The local government plays the role of facilitator, funder and supporter. The results have been amazing and inspiring.
Project Robin Hood is now in its fourth round after beginning in 2014.
10. Town Teams in Regional Areas
Town teams are not just a “city thing”. In fact, we are trying to bottle the country spirit of volunteerism and civic participation and bring it to urban and suburban areas. Town teams are a natural fit for regional areas.
The Shire of Capel is engaging with the community in Dalyellup, W.A. on how to activate and connect people and community groups.
As Town Team Movement grows, we will prioritise spreading the town team model to regional areas.
If you know of any other local government success stories, please let us know, as we’d love to share the good news!