Friday, February 23, 2024

Third set of WA LG regulation amendments introduced

The WA Government has brought in the next set of local government regulation amendments, with the Local Government Regulation Amendment Regulations (No. 3) 2023 yesterday.

The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries says the regulation amendments continue the most significant reform of the Local Government Act 1995 in 25 years, with comprehensive reforms to owner and occupier enrolment coming into effect from 1 January 2024, livestreaming and recording requirements for all council meetings required by 1 January 2025, and changes to enable professional development and training opportunities for council members.

These regulation amendments will provide greater transparency and accountability, with the changes to owner and occupier enrolment preventing the use of ‘sham leases’ to enrol in local government elections while ensuring legitimate business are represented, the Department said in a statement.

The Local Government Regulations Amendment Regulations (No. 3) 2023 make a series of amendments to local government regulations:

  • a small number of technical amendments, including requiring the copy of the results of the distribution of preferences to be published on a local governments website, rather than by local public notice;
  • amendments to introduce livestreaming and recording requirements for council meetings from 1 January 2025;
  • amendments to the owner and occupier enrolment requirements for non-resident occupiers for local government elections from 1 January 2024.

Part 2A of the amendment regulations prescribes matters related to the broadcasting (livestreaming) and recording of council meetings and applies to council meetings from 1 January 2025 onwards.

Although this commencement date provides local governments with time to implement the changes, many local governments already livestream meetings online and may continue to do so.

The regulations broadly deal with the matters set out under section 5.23A(2) of the Local Government Act 1995, including:

  • electronic broadcasting of council meetings (livestreaming);
  • recordings of council meetings;
  • public access requirements to broadcasts and recordings.

Livestreaming and recording of council meetings gives community members increased access to decision making at their local council, the Government said.

Under the new requirements, class 1 and 2 local governments will be required to broadcast audio and video of their council meetings and maintain a copy of the recording for a period of 5 years.

Class 3 and 4 local governments will be required to broadcast audio of council meetings (at a minimum) and maintain a copy of the recording for a period of 5 years.

The below provides a summary of the requirements for livestreaming and recording of council meetings in relation to the class of local government.

Class 1 and 2 local governments:

  • Video and audio livestreaming of council meetings (open proceedings);
  • Not permitted to livestream closed proceedings;
  • Video and audio recordings of council meetings (open proceedings);
  • Audio recordings of closed proceedings;
  • Livestreaming and recording technology installed at the council’s usual meeting place;
  • Portable technology for meetings held outside of the usual meeting place or in the event of technical issues.

Class 3 and 4 local governments:

  • Not required to livestream open proceedings;
  • Not permitted to livestream closed proceedings;
  • Audio recordings of council meetings (open proceedings);
  • Audio recordings of closed proceedings;
  • Recording technology installed at the council’s usual meeting place;
  • Portable technology for meetings held outside of the usual meeting place or in the event of technical issues.

It is noted that these are the minimum requirements for livestreaming and recording council meetings. For example, a class 3 or 4 local government may choose to livestream open proceedings of a council meeting.

The previous set of local government regulation amendments, the Local Government Regulations Amendment Regulations (No. 2) 2023, prescribed the different classes of local governments.

list of these local government classes can be found on the WA Government’s website.

Changes relating to non-resident occupier enrolment

From 1 January 2024, these regulation amendments implement a series of new requirements relating to enrolment as a non-resident occupier of rateable property.

These will require all future non-resident occupier enrolments to:

  • have continuously occupied property in that local government under a lease or other legal instrument for at least 12 months prior to the claim — to reduce the number of last minute leases being used to claim enrolment prior to an election
  • not be able to claim eligibility based upon occupying a place of residence — to address findings from the Inquiry into the City of Perth relating to potential misuse of the existing provisions to create sham enrolments based upon renting studies or bedrooms
  • exclusively occupy at least 10m2 of eligible space — to avoid instances of inappropriate claims for areas such as cleaning closets, bathrooms, parking spaces and billboards
  • pay at least the minimum amount of rent prescribed for that local government area — to ensure that leases are genuine (note: registered charities will be exempt from this requirement)
  • be able to secure that property from intruders (such as a room with a lockable door) — to clarify that “hotdesking” in an open space or other inappropriate leasing arrangements are ineligible
  • genuinely use that property for their business — to avoid instances where a person uses a lease to obtain enrolment but never carries out a business from their property.

The owner and occupier enrolment reforms also:

  • clarify in relation to corporate nominees — that the nomination must come from a director of the board (or equivalent), the CEO (or equivalent) or the company secretary (or equivalent)
  • include requirements relating to the forms of enrolment claims with template forms to be determined by the Director General of the DLGSC.

Further guidance materials, including new enrolment forms for the owners and occupiers roll, will be released by DLGSC later in the year ahead of the 1 January 2024 commencement date.

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