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There are three levels of Government in Australia:
The State Government makes laws that govern the powers of Local Government. Most of these powers are outlined in the Local Government Act which contains information on how councils are established, elections, how and when councils should meet, how rates are to be charged, how councils can spend money, and what things councils can do.
The City of Holdfast Bay has responsibilities under various legislation including but not limited to the Planning, Development, and Infrastructure Act, South Australian Public Health Act and Dog and Cat Management Act, etc. The council also has the power to make its own by-laws.
Local Government exists to provide a representative, informed, and responsible decision-making in the interests of developing the community and its resources in a socially just and environmentally sustainable way. It also ensures a responsive and effective provider and coordinator of public services and facilities at a local level and represents the interests of a local community to the wider community.
The functions of a council are outlined in section 7 of the Local Government Act:
- Plan at the local and regional level for the development and future requirements of its area;
- Provide services and facilities that benefit its area, its ratepayers, and residents and visitors to its area;
- Determine the appropriate financial contribution to be made by ratepayers to the resources of the council;
- Provide for the welfare, well-being, and interest of individuals and groups within its community;
- Take measures to protect its area from natural and other hazards and to mitigate the effects of such hazards;
- Manage, develop, protect, restore, enhance, and conserve the environment in an ecologically sustainable manner, and to improve amenities;
- Provide infrastructure for its community and for development within its area;
- Promote its area and provide an attractive climate and locations for the development of business, commerce, industry, and tourism;
- Establish or support organisations or programs that benefit people in its area or local government generally;
- Manage, and develop, public areas vested in, or occupied by, the council;
- Manage, improve, and develop resources available to the council;
- Undertake other functions and activities conferred by or under the Act.
Mayor, Councillors and Administration staff
The City of Holdfast Bay has a Mayor who is elected by the city’s residents as head of the council. There are also 12 councilors (Elected Members), three for each of the four wards in the council area (a ward is a smaller segment of the council area). The council makes decisions on matters which affect the Holdfast Bay community.
Council Administration Staff
The council also has administrative staff. The role of staff is to carry out the decisions of the Elected Members. The Chief Executive Officer is the senior member of the staff and is responsible for seeing that the policies of the council are implemented.
The councillor's role
The councillor's primary role is the decision-maker as the Elected Members form the council's policy-making body. They set objectives and determine the rates and other directions that are necessary to achieve those objectives.
They must attend council meetings which are held twice a month. Failure to attend three consecutive ordinary meetings without sufficient cause can result in a Councillor's office being declared vacant. Councillors may also be members of committees. A committee receives reports and makes recommendations to council meetings on the matters with which it has dealt.
Because Local Government is community government, it needs community participation. As the whole community cannot participate directly, 13 people (the Mayor and 12 councillors) are elected to represent the Holdfast Bay community. The community selects its representatives by voting in an election for those candidates it believes will best represent its interests. Elections are held every four years on the second Saturday in November when the entire council is up for election.
Anyone over the age of 18 who is an Australian citizen (or held in office as a member of a council at anytime between 5 May 1997 and 1 January 2000) who is enrolled on the council's voters roll (a combined list of House of Assembly electors and council records detailing natural persons, bodies corporate and groups who made an application for enrolment) and is an elector for the Holdfast Bay area can become a councillor unless they are a council employee, a criminal or bankrupt. As long as they meet these requirements, anyone can stand for election regardless of qualification, religion, gender or employment.
It is important that anyone interested in becoming a councillor fully understands the role and responsibility of an Elected Member. They must become aware of the needs of the community, represent the electors and be prepared to initiate new council policies and activities. A considerable time commitment is expected as a Councillor must also attend a variety of meetings and assist electors in their dealings with Council and council staff.